This post is part of a blog series on a topic that is weighing heavy on my heart. As I look around I’m seeing busy people all around me, and fewer meaningful, mutually edifying relationships. I’ve personally been hurt by our culture’s lack of community, and I know from what I see that I’m not the only one. I’m on a mission to create community in my life and to encourage you to do the same.
Building community often begins with reaching out and offering an open heart (and schedule) to someone else. Today I’m thinking about that tired Mom who sits near you in church.
I was that tired mom for over three years. It’s much too long of a story to tell it here, but suffice it to say that the first 3 ½ years after my son was born were extremely difficult. We were tired, we were lonely, and we were nearly hopeless.
There were so many times when I needed help and yet what I got more of was advice, and usually not even useful advice. I wonder now what could have been different had someone offered a helping hand and a listening ear.
Is there a tired mom (or dad) in your church or social circle? Maybe you want to help in some way but you’re not sure what you could do. You don’t even know her very well, you can’t just walk up and say “Hey, you look tired, how can I help?” (Actually, you can, if that’s what it takes, but we’ll look at some other options.
Having been that tired mom, here are a few things that I’ve learned about how you can help:
First: You have to notice.
I know life is busy, you’ve got your own stuff to deal with, your own kids to corral at church, and your own close friends to support. But I challenge you today to look up. Look up from your life and see someone who needs you. She’s not going to come to you. She’s tired, she’s lonely, and she’s using everything she has to get through the day.
She probably doesn’t need your advice.
But even if she does, she’s a lot more likely to listen after you’ve given her your ear. Spend some time with her. Listen to her without trying to figure out what is causing her problems and how you think she should fix them.
Find out what she needs. Is she desperate for someone who has walked the path she’s walking to just spend time with her? Not to dole out sage advice and then be gone, but to be there, sharing life as it comes along? Maybe she just needs to be reminded that it gets easier. Or maybe a dinner at your house would be nice.
Offer specific help.
Do not say “let me know if there’s anything I can do for you”. She won’t.
Instead, say “I’d love to bring you dinner, what night this week would bless you the most?
Or “We miss having little ones around. How about you bring them to me this Thursday at about 10:00. I’ll keep them until around 2:00 and you go do whatever you need to do (like go home and take a long nap).”
Telling her to let you know if there is anything you can do is way too vague. She needs to know precisely what you are able and willing to offer.
Three Magic words
There are a number of ways you could help. Remember to be specific. But something else you can do is to make sure she knows you mean it. My husband pointed out to me the three little words that almost always help a person to drop their defenses and to accept help.
I have time.
Stop and imagine yourself in the situation of needing some kind of help. Someone says to you “Let me know if you need anything.” You’re thinking of a million ways someone could be a blessing to you but you don’t ask for any of them. Why? Because you’re not sure what they’re offering (see above point) and you know they’re busy.
Now, imagine instead, that someone comes to you and says that they’ve noticed you’ve had a lot going on lately and that you must be tired. They offer a few different ways they’d like to help and then they say “I have time.”
You’re immediately relaxed and feel like you’ve been given permission to accept their help.
So don’t forget, when offering a helping hand, say these three magic words; “I have time”.
Of course pray for her.
If you know her at all, ask if you can pray with her.
Let’s not undervalue the power of prayer. Sometimes there really isn’t much we can do to offer tangible help. But we can bring her name before the Lord. I wrote about that in greater detail here, because I want us to remember that prayer is not just what we offer when we have nothing “real” to offer.
But be careful here. A prayer without a hand can sometimes be a bitter-sweet offering. If there is something tangible you can do, do it.
Get your husband to talk to her husband.
Have your husband offer his hand in service to the tired dad. (Yes, he’s probably tired too.) Of course men are different from women, he’ll have to be a little more careful with his wording.
If there is any kind of relationship between her husband and yours, yours can graciously encourage hers to find out how he can best serve his wife. Does he need to do a little more around the house? Take the kids out for an evening (not 30 minutes) so mom can get some housework done or just have some quiet time? Give him ideas on how he can bless his wife. Sometimes men just don’t notice, or if they do, they don’t really know how to help. A little bit of practical advise can go a long way.
An evening off
Inviting the family over for dinner can be a big blessing. It offers the mom a night off from worrying about dinner. Perhaps even more than that though, it offers friendship. Friendship often takes a back seat when a family is busy with young children. An evening to relax and just enjoy your company might be just what the doctor ordered! (And you might be surprised how refreshing it is for you too!)
I’m so thankful for the people in my life who have, at different times, offered their time and energy to help me when I was in need. I know you’re equally thankful for those people in your life. Let’s offer that same helping hand to those around us and use it as a first step to building God-centered community right where we are.
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