Discouragement and isolation. Those are two of the tools I’ve seen used against us most often while serving overseas. Or serving anywhere for that matter.
Battling discouragement on your own can be a bit easier than warring with isolation by yourself. You can meditate on passages in the scripture that lift your spirits. You can take a walk through nature to remind you of the might of your creator. You can sip some coffee or tea in a quiet place and hear the gentle whispers from the Spirit giving you the rejuvenation you need. But isolation? There is only one way to deal with that — connecting with other brothers and sisters.
I was a bit of a social butterfly through my school years, which led me to believe that having people around me meant that I was connecting with others. Then I came to China where the concept of having people ‘around’ you takes on a whole new meaning! I quickly realized that I could still face issues of isolation even if people were touching me on every side in the crowded subway.
During my years in China, I have learned about true community and real connection with others. Connect means to unite or fasten together. That is a deep experience that binds you together. I’ve discovered a few ways in which this kind of connecting has had a powerful impact on the work I am called to be a part of.
First, I’ve seen that I grow the most when I’m connecting with others. Certainly this happens through the hard days when you feel like your community is a pumice stone scraping off the dead parts of you. But I’m talking about the Acts 2 kind of connecting where you share your fears, joys, laughter, and failures with each other and come out the other side of it encouraged and built up. Connecting with another mom who can give you advice about your active three year old. Connecting with a younger single woman you can encourage in her loneliness. Some of the most important spiritual and personal growth comes out of connecting with other women.
Second, I’ve seen how normalizing it makes life when you connect with other women. There are several powerful phrases I’ve been told and said to others that have a huge impact. “I feel the same way.” “That has totally happened to me.” “That’s normal.” “You are okay.” Sometimes hearing that is all it takes to refocus my perspective and defeat the lies being fed to me from the enemy. If I say any of those phrases to myself, it falls on deaf ears. Only the sisters around me can leave an impact with those truths. This is one of the things that has helped me fight isolation the most.
The third big thing I’ve learned about connecting with other women is that it often isn’t easy but it is always worth it. Maybe you live in an isolated place where you don’t even know where to find someone to connect with. Maybe it seems impossible to find the time to get away from your kids and home in order to connect with someone. I often think to myself that it’s just too hard or I’m too tired and it’d be better if I just stay home and do something else. But I’m always wrong. It has always been worth it to connect with women locally, put myself out there to start a new friendship or make an effort to consistently connect with someone who doesn’t live nearby.
One of the quickest ways to reach burnout and discouragement is to give in to isolation. Sometimes you have to be creative with how you connect with other women. Hopefully you have found encouragement just through connecting through Velvet Ashes and hearing stories of fellow laborers. As transient as our life is, most of my deep friendships these days are kept up over Skype rather than face-to-face time together. Regardless of the method, connecting with others is a huge part of bringing the kingdom to earth.
What are some of the things that keep you from really connecting with other women?
How can you be creative within your circumstances to make connecting with other women a priority in your life?
What are some of the fruits you have seen as you’ve connected with other women overseas? Have you signed up for a Connection Group yet? Click here for more information.