My family always seems to be going through change. Some changes are bigger than others – from moving to a different neighborhood, to having children, to potty training, to homeschool, I feel we are always on the move. It doesn’t really matter whether that change is small or large, I have always valued my “village”. Through the years, I have also learned that there is a difference between my village and the fields just outside my village.
There are some people who are a part of your fields, but not necessarily your village: parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, in laws (hope you picked good ones!), and so forth. In a way, these people are in our lives by default. I have learned that just because they are in your fields, does not necessarily mean they get to be a part of your village. Vice versa, just because they are in your life by default, doesn’t meant they are not a part of your village!
If you think about it rationally, you wouldn’t just let anyone come into your house. Sure, if the doorbell rings and someone needs to use the bathroom, you might feel comfortable letting them in to use the toilet and then they would go on their way. It’s unlikely that you would adopt that person into your home, clear a room for them and invite them to your summer family reunion. If you would, then we need to have a different conversation about healthy boundaries. We need to be wise and discerning about who we let into our village. No idiots please. Otherwise, without careful consideration, before you know it, you don’t just have one village idiot…you are overrun by them! Yet, as mothers, it is fair to say that our village is crucial to our journey.
If you think about your teen years, the group of friends you had, then you think about your early adult/university years, early wedded bliss years, later wedded bliss (hopefully) years, and then your parenting years, you can probably distinctly envision different groups of people. You may find that the friends that have journeyed through all phases with you, are the ones that probably chose similar paths – you probably married around the same ages, had kids within a few years apart of each other and have similar life interests (whether that be faith, hobbies and/or careers). Otherwise, you probably find that your “besties” back in the day, may not necessarily be your “besties” now. And if they are, it is likely there was a gap where you may not have been so close for a few years as you each experienced different life changes (maybe you had kids and they didn’t yet, or they were single well into their 30s and you married in your early 20s and started a family right away).
Now, why is this? Is this because we are terrible people who can’t faithfully build and hang onto important relationships? Absolutely not. We are wired for relationship. I believe that God has called us to community because He knows how valuable that is; He knows that without our own unique villages, we would likely go crazy, shave all our hair off, wear sack cloths, throw ashes over our heads and rock in a little corner…in the dark…with no shoes on.
We should always be changing. It’s called growth. I do not believe anyone has ever “arrived”…except for Chris Hemsworth in “Thor”…he has arrived. But everyone else, we have not. As we are ever changing, growing, and building community, we need a village to make that happen.
A friend will ask you how your day was and laugh with you over a coffee. You might see them once a month or two, and it’s always nice to catch up. It’s awesome to have friends. They’re fun. But villagers, they are something more. Villagers get to have access to your heart…your life. They see the rawness of who you are and what you are going through. Not every friend gets to be a villager. It’s important to have a strict selection process. Otherwise, before you know it, your village is full of idiots. Okay, not so much idiots, as people who are draining, exhausting, and become a chore. These people wreak havoc in your village, start fires, and are probably doing something unproductive like running through town square naked, while you are trying to put out the fire they started, and restore order in your village. No one wants the naked crazy in their village. No one.
What makes a village healthy? A village is compiled of various people. These people are there to support you, to cheer you on in your endeavors (unless they’re stupid endeavors…in which chase they should slap that donut out of your hand and drop kick you out a moving vehicle at the doorstep of a gym), understand what your weaknesses are and help you overcome and grow them into strengths, celebrate your victories with you because they know how hard you fought for them, cry with you when your heart is hurting, lovingly tell you to put your big girl panties on when you’re spiraling into a pit of self-pity, and most importantly, for me anyways, it’s important to me that my villagers pray for me, speak truth to me and counsel me in wisdom and love. We still have fun together! However, when it’s time to get to work, and do the more weighty things of life, they understand. They are not offended at everything you do. Villagers support, love and encourage – they are not easily put off and sensitive when you haven’t called in a couple weeks. In fact, villagers will reach out to you and ask if everything is okay and if there is anything they can do to help.
It has taken me years to put up healthy boundaries with family, friends, commitments, and scheduling. While I am still learning and growing in this area, I am grasping a key concept: capacity.
I am an extrovert and have the redemptive gift of being an exhorter by nature. This means that I’m outgoing, love people, relationships are important to me, and I pretty much want to be everyone’s friend! My husband is the complete opposite and finds my energy exhausting. He would rather stay home, do our taxes twice (seriously, he did this once as a fun evening activity) and have a glass of wine by himself, in the dark, in the linen closet (he’s never had wine in the linen closet though). He often watches me crash and burn emotionally and mentally as I over commit to things and people. After a decade of being together, we finally sat down a couple years back and decided to have a productive conversation of what is healthy and what is not healthy. We talked about relationships in our lives and which ones we could invest in, as it was just impossible to have 39 best friends. This was such a hard conversation to have, because I loved EVERYONE! Eventually, my inability to have healthy relational boundaries became a stress and it distracted me from focusing on being a good mom to my boys and a present and attentive wife to my husband. I came to realize that he was right. In our heart to heart conversation, I realized that we were talking about villages and fields. We just can’t do it all and be everything to everyone. Otherwise, we burn out and we are no good to anyone, least of all ourselves.
I want to do a better job of modeling this to my children. I want to teach them, even at this young age, to choose wisely. I want to teach them the dangers of choosing a Lot in their life, like Abraham did. Instead, I would rather them have a Jonathan, as David had. In teaching them the importance of having healthy and considered relationships, I hope it will also challenge them to look at their own lives, to learn who they are as individuals and to know what their values, morals, and character are, so that they know who to let into their own villages. In doing so, I not only hope they don’t fill their village with idiots, but I also hope they aren’t the idiots in anyone else’s villages either.
“He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harms”
– Proverbs 13:20
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