In It Together

us-and-them-by-jeff-macnellySometimes I look at other Christians and think, “you guys have got it together; but I’m a mess. Your problems are fix-able; mine are too much!”

This is not the truth and it’s not the shape of gospel community.  In real community, we carry one another and we share our mutual struggles.   You’re not the fixer and I’m not a project. You’re not “fine” and I’m not “a mess.” We have different struggles and at different points we might need extra support; but there’s no “them and us.” Because if we do think like this, then community breaks down.  I think you’re judging; you’re scared of my issues and we tiptoe around each other with platitudes instead of fellowship.

Here’s the fallout of “them” and “us”…

1. I’m broken; but you don’t see it

If I break my leg, people will gather round.  They’ll ask how it happened, reassure me that it’ll heal, cook me meals and offer to help with childcare. They know what’s wrong, they know how I’ll get better and they know how they can help.  There’s a start and an end time.  No-one says I brought it on myself. They sign my cast and talk about how the same thing happened to them.

But if I’m anxious or depressed, it’s not so obvious.  There’s no start time and no finish.  Maybe I cry for no reason.  Maybe I refuse to meet your eyes or suddenly make for the exit.  You’re scared of saying the wrong thing.  And you don’t know how to help.

2. I’m broken; but I don’t see it

Maybe I’ve got a habit I want to protect.  I binge-eat or I self-harm.  I drink too much or I watch online porn.  It’s clear to those outside that these are problems.  But for me, they’re not. They’re my “solution.” I’m lonely.  I’m scared of relationship. There are things in my past that I can’t deal with.  These behaviours are unhealthy – but they do something for me.  They make me feel safe.  They offer me comfort or release or a sense of control. Before you threaten to take them away; I need you to see why I need them.  I need you to offer me something better to take their place.

3. I’m frightened by things you take for granted.

Meeting new people.  Sitting in a different seat. Being looked at. Large or small spaces. Loud noises. Letting people down.  Saying the wrong thing. Leaving the house.

I’m on medication.  Sometimes it makes me feel tired.  I can’t always get to the events you suggest – but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be included.

4. You think my illness is a spiritual issue.

It might be; and it will certainly have a spiritual dimension.  But I’m not struggling because there’s something about the Bible I just haven’t “got.” I don’t need a list of verses on why I’m wrong. And whatever I face, it’s not about just trying harder.  (This is the opposite of the gospel).

5. You think I’m just a case for professionals.

I may well need professional care – and you can help act as my advocate.  But that’s not all. I need you.  Not your expertise or your solutions.  Your friendship.  Your support.  Your faith.

6. We’re scared of each other.

I think you think I’m totally messed-up.

You think I think you’re judging me.

Neither of us know what to say. So we don’t.

We’re different – and we don’t know what to do with it.

7. Neither of us see Jesus. 

The gospel is not about good people getting better.  It’s about broken people going to a Saviour who helps and heals.  So neither you nor I, are “weird” or “normal.” We’re not “too broken to fix” OR “fine by ourselves.”

Instead of being “them and us,” Christianity is about “Him for us.” This means we carry one another; and He carries us both.



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9 thoughts on “In It Together

  1. Really feeling the truth of this surrounded by a wonderful church in what has been a really wobbly week. I’m so glad God puts us into community…

  2. This is really helpful, Emma. You have really put your finger on something here: “You’re not the fixer and I’m not a project. You’re not “fine” and I’m not “a mess.” We have different struggles and at different points we might need extra support; but there’s no “them and us.” Because if we do think like this, then community breaks down.”

    I have an obvious physical disability which can lead to a different set of issues but it’s the way that “them and us” breaks down community that is at the root of them. I think what happens is that people approach me on the basis of my disability, as they are not disabled then that makes me a ‘them’. People will offer to pray for me in a way they wouldn’t do if I wasn’t disabled, ask me who’s with me in a way that implies they don’t think I should be allowed out on my own, ask how I am and refuse to believe a positive answer etc. So perhaps I could add a bullet point to your list – it would maybe fit after your #2

    3. I’m broken; but not the way you think.

    I use a wheelchair. You think that means I’m broken, that I’m ‘them’ and you’re ‘us’. Being kind to me on that basis doesn’t feel kind. It feels like you are casting me out in order to be kind to the outcasts. That makes me wish I could thump you or at least think of some really withering put down and THAT is what shows how broken I really am!!!


  3. Thanks Elizabeth: that’s a great point. If you’d like to write a guest post on your experience I’d love to read it and maybe feature it?

  4. So get #2. People see my behaviours as being bad but I am aware that they are my coping mechanism. Yes they come with added guilt. And the lies which come when I don’t think I can answer questions about the behaviour truthfully due to lack of misunderstanding or fear of judgement.
    At the moment having recently had a memorial/confessional service for the child I terminated twenty years ago it has given me some peace. Though I do feel under pressure that I should now have everything else sorted and no need to escape.

  5. Karen, I’m glad you’re experiencing more peace and I’ll pray that this will grow. None of us have everything sorted; and we all have escape plans. But Jesus nails our past and our shame to the cross; and this is our hope.

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