Written By Mikaila Bisson, USA
I’m sitting in a golf cart on a quiet golf course about to tee up, minding my own business, when I see my phone light up with an incoming facetime call from one of my best friends. I’ve known her since preschool, and while we’re very close, we don’t usually facetime each other unannounced.
I do the math.
Her and her boyfriend have been dating for about a year and a half. She’s said they’ve discussed rings before. In private conversations, her boyfriend has told me that he’s asked her parents’ permission and is planning on asking her soon. This must be it.
Sure enough, it is. When I answer the call, she’s holding up her left hand with a beautiful diamond on her ring finger. And I jump for joy! As I’ve been trained to do . . . because it is exciting—that my favorite person has found her favorite person.
But to be honest, as I’m making a scene on the golf course exclaiming that I’m so happy for my friend, a small piece of myself wilts as I think “another one bites the dust.” Because this is not the first of my friends to get engaged (or married, or pregnant), and this is not the first time I’ve felt these conflicting emotions of elation and despair.
Yes, let’s use the word “despair” and paint that picture of extremes because I think what I felt (and do feel in these situations) elicited more than just sadness. It was a despair that made me feel not just single, but like the last person on earth. And not just left out, but like I was the only human left in a world full of zombies during the apocalypse. Unseen, unnoticed, and suddenly very lonely.
To be clear, I’m not dissatisfied with where I am. I have a great job, am financially responsible and working towards the goal of paying off my student loans, and I’m investing in my faith and my future. I have no doubt that God has big, interesting plans for my life. I do not need, or necessarily even want, a significant other in my life right now (much less a baby).
So why do I feel this way? Am I a bitter, lonely singleton who tears happy couples down when they’re happy just to make myself feel better? Maybe sometimes, but most of the time I’m not.
I think it’s because I know there’s more to celebrate than just the generic milestones—engagement, marriage, birth—that we see on our Instagram feeds. And because what I do need, is a Christ-like community that can celebrate and walk with me—whether the season I’m in is Instagram-worthy or not.
Ultimately, I think it’s because I long to be seen, known, and yes—even celebrated. And I believe God created each of us with that longing. It’s a longing that is ultimately fulfilled by Jesus’ perfect love and care, but also can be lived out in community with one another.
Paul, as he writes in 1 Corinthians to a community that was tearing itself apart because of a lack of love and unity, offers us a glimpse of what a healthy, diverse, functioning Christian community looks like. He writes,
. . .that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together (1 Corinthians 12:25-26 ESV).
As I reflect on these verses, I think that is it. That’s really what I want—a community that suffers together and rejoices together. And somehow, that moment on the golf course reminded me that my experience with the church body has been that we’re systemically disjointed. We can do better to have “the same care for one another.” Yes, even me, especially me—the person advocating for unity—can do better.
I can start by telling others when I have something to celebrate, and by inviting others to care for me by sharing when I’m struggling. Closing myself off isn’t going to bring the result I want.
In turn, the biggest thing I can offer to others is listening to them and engaging in the fullness of their lives—really seeing them. This way, yes, I’ll know what to celebrate with them and when, but also what a person’s struggles are so I can come alongside them in support. Acknowledging both the good and the bad allows me to love, and love well within my community. That’s something Jesus clearly emulated and called for in His life and ministry, too (John 15:12).
So, to the friend that just started graduate school? Tell me about your orientation, I know you’ve been working so hard for this!
And the friend that just got a job after months and months of unemployment? Let’s go to dinner—my treat!
The friend that just left a relationship that was abusive? Let me tell you how proud I am of you and let’s talk about how Jesus sees you!
The friend that bought a house, or paid off student loans, or quit drinking, or any other number of things that deserve acknowledgement? Each is an opportunity to love, support, and make those in our community feel seen.
A good example of this is when, a few years ago, I finally got a job after a long and grueling stretch of unemployment. A family member sent me five dollars to treat myself to coffee simply because the search was over, and though it was a small act of kindness, it brought me to tears because I felt like my struggle was known and seen, and my joy was celebrated.
Back on the golf course, while part of me wilted, the majority of me truly was elated because of the opportunity I had to love and celebrate my friend and her huge milestone.
Even though we have a ways to go in building up the body of Christ, I hope that we can start knowing and seeing the joys of others (as well as the struggles) so that we can come alongside our loved ones, and live fulfilled in in community with one another.
Try keeping open eyes this week for an opportunity to engage with someone’s joy or struggle by showing care for them in a simple but tangible way. Comment below to tell us about it!