When we moved into our current house almost two years ago, we left another home, along with a cul-de-sac dotted with neighbors who had become dear friends.
When we left that address, we also left summers of our kids playing outside with familiar friends all day long. On that street, watching out for each other’s kids and one another had become the norm. We cried in-between driveways in our pajamas, barefoot with morning breath. We processed through big decisions, shared longings and pain, and helped diffuse arguments among our small grove of kids. We fed each other’s pets and plants, took walks, asked for eggs and butter, shared cookies and bandaids and lawn tools, prayed for each other, and sat on each other’s couches while dirty laundry piles sat with us.
We didn’t lose these friendships when we moved, but we lost the details of what that little community had become.
I knew this would happen, but feeling the losses over time is always harder than expected. Like so many other times I’ve had to leave people and places, the grief has glued itself to my insides. When one of my kids says the kids here don’t want to play with him, I remember the sounds of our old street and the way laughter lined it, and I doubt our decision.
In the midst of grieving and doubting, I know it’s okay to feel these feelings and have these questions, but I don’t want my kids to have to experience them. I want to rush and conjure up an immediate solution, but community-building is a slow work that won’t be bullied by my impatience.
What we left at our last address took over a decade to build. We watched that little community come together slowly, and become sturdy over time. What we left was nothing like what it was when we began.
It’s easy to forget the awkward conversations we had at first, or that we had three or four years of those kinds of conversations before we would even begin to call each other friends. Forget how many times I came inside after an interaction and told my husband that I wasn’t sure we’d ever connect deeply with our neighbors.
The community we eventually became did not become by my urgency or grit. I couldn’t just water it more, or use something in my own power to make roots and stems shove their way from seed and soil. Instead, our friendships grew roots in dark days of doubt, through trying and trying again awkwardly, alongside seasons of silence and solitude.
All of it reminds me that bearing the fruit we can see and savor, takes time, care, trial, and error.
This morning I looked in the mirror and thought about how much has changed over the last few years. I’ve grown older and I’ve become more sad than I have been in a while. And yet, I’ve also become more gentle with myself, more tender with my body, mind, and heart. Our community has changed and keeps changing, and the losses continue to feel far-reaching. But instead of chasing a community (or anything else for that matter) and trying to force it into shape, I’m learning to stay open and tender, to let the losses impact me and inform me, and to wait for our Creator’s timing to build: one interaction, conversation, or gathering after another.
God has created each of us to be builders and re-builders of community. Part of that calling is grieving the losses that come, lamenting what isn’t and sometimes what is, surrendering to our own limitations and the limitations of others, and hoping for the holy cultivation of connection that God wants to provide to take root throughout it all.
Are you in a season of loss, loneliness, or rebuilding when it comes to community? I know it can feel impossible some days, but take heart, dear reader, and remember it’s okay if it feels that way. You aren’t alone.
Let’s look outside and pay attention to the trees and flowers that Jesus told His followers to take note of. Notice how they hide and grow, bloom and fade away, moving in and out of seasons, dependent on things much bigger than themselves; let them remind us that we can take our time.
In the end, it isn’t merely the fruit we pick and consume in an hour’s time that we long for. No, it’s so much more than that; it’s the entire process of becoming and realizing that we have been loved and seen throughout.
I look back and see God in the lonely days, in my doubt, and in the long stretch of growth over time.
We’re meant to change and transform, release and receive, to plant and prune and harvest, to leave our little seeds in the dark, to not be able to see what will be, to build and rebuild, and to be surprised by the good things that grow into what they need to become. There are unseen things at work in the relational seasons that feel empty, and it’s not just the fulfillment of community, but our communing with God throughout our longing and loneliness that is building something beautiful too.
I have just moved into a new community this week and am anxious about missing the companionship of friends and neighbors I would see each day. My saving grace is that even though it is a little bit of a drive, I can still attend worship at “my” church. I am now longing for Sunday for another reason. I understand it takes time and I should relish each day as I rebuild in this new community. As we go into the darker, shorted days, I am trying to plan how to deal with this. I appreciate what you have written today. So timely for me.
Hi Madeline, congrats on the new community! I’m so glad you still have connections at other familiar places and I know that anxiety and loss you feel. As you adjust, I hope you can take the time you need to feel the losses and grieve, while also holding fast to hope for all that’s yet to take root and grow. I’m so glad the words here met you when you needed them.
Tasha, how timely for me! I moved about 10 months ago, and it has been a season of loneliness and grief. I have even wanted to remain in this loneliness because it seems to take so much emotional effort to rebuild. Thanks for the reminder that this community process takes time! And God’s timing is good and perfect!
Susan, I know exactly what you mean when you say you’ve wanted to remain in the loneliness because of the emotional effort needed to rebuild. While I believe we are made for community, I also believe seasons of loneliness have treasures to offer us. It’s okay that you feel weary and tired and it’s no wonder – these transitions take a toll and people aren’t replaceable. I hope you will allow yourself the time and rest you need to grieve what was, while also letting that rest and the company of our God who comes near, minister to you and give you fuel, perspective, and readiness for what will bloom with time.
Ariel Krienke says
Thank you for the encouragement. I’m happier every day listening and it helps me get through hard days
Ariel, I am so glad you were encouraged today. We at (in)courage are so happy that listening to the articles bring you joy and helps to sustain you. We’re so glad you are part of this community.
I have been in a 6 year season of loneliness after leaving a city for the country. Never connected with anyone and it was very lonely. I’ve moved again, and the loneliness can be unbearable at times. This gave me so much encouragement. Thank you
Tricia, 6 years is a long time, and you not only left one place for another–it sounds like you left a different culture and lifestyle more than once. I’m glad the words here gave you courage today, and I’m so sorry you’ve felt the weight of loneliness as long as you have. It can be such a heavy weight.
God who comes near, knows every hair on our head, and isn’t afraid of our biggest and weightiest feelings, be near to your beloved daughter, Tricia: as close as skin and bone. Deepen her intimacy with you and let her feel and know you in new, tangible, needed ways in this time. Provide for her in your mercy and abundant grace–nourish her relationally. Sustain her and help her on the days when the loneliness feels too thick to wade through. Please let her know she isn’t alone in ways she can feel and see. Amen.
Ruth Mills says
Tasha, this is SO GOOD! Thanks for the perspective & encouragement today. Blessings!
HI Ruth! I’m glad you felt that way and happy you are here.
Bettye King says
Absolutely wonderful! Thank you.
You are so welcome, Bettye. We’re glad you are part of the community here.
Thank you for this, Tasha! I haven’t moved for close to 40 years! But most of my neighbors have moved and been replaced many times in that time period. There are a few that have been here for the duration. I try to reach out to those, and the new ones several times each year, hoping to find a “bosom friend”. No luck so far. But I will keep delivering cookies and flowers. And someday…
Irene, I can still hear Megan Follow’s voice as Anne Shirley saying “bosom friend.” So many of us are wandering through life longing for that same thing as Anne, aren’t we? What a stable, steady person you must be to the neighborhood and place where you live. I can imagine that you have stories to tell about so many seasons and comings and goings where you are. Thank you for being that steady, stable place — it might not seem like much, but I know it has to minister to many and make so many others feel safe – like an oak tree reassuring and sheltering all the new growth around it (and delivering cookies and flowers too). I’m glad you are here in this online community and there, were you offer safe community to others. May God give you a bosom friend like you long for.
I am grieving over what seems to be a lost friendship. I am not quite sure what is going on. I have asked for opportunities to talk. It has been a very sad time for me. A lot of uncertainty in life right now and I want to share this with that person. Thank you for this timely piece. I have prayed over it through many tears and finally have to keep giving it and this person over to God. They text me and tell me not to ever feel that we are not friends but we are not talking nor doing things together. Sigh. Thank you again.
Heidi, I’m so sorry for this loss or shift. The loss of a friend is so painful. I hope God will bring clarity between you and your friend and mending where things can mend. I’m glad the words here encouraged you and I pray you will be able to be gentle with yourself and your friend as you look for reconnection and grieve what’s changed. We are glad you are here, Heidi.
Thank you so much for this article. My husband are retired and just moved away from a community we had been active in for most of our lives. We moved to be closer to family. I am feeling so lost and sad. I miss the familiarity of my old community. I realize it will take time to rebuild what we left. It will just look different. I am praying for strength each day to be able to make the effort to “put myself out there” and make new friends and find more opportunities to get involved. Your writing helped to put things into perspective. Thank you.
Thank you, I needed this insight from heaven today!
You are so welcome!
Janet Williams says
Thank you Tasha. Your words today touched my heart AND memories. The tears were good too
We moved 2 yrs ago from a place we never thought we’d ever move from…but God had other plans! We are in transition and though I’m blessed, I’d really rather be in a house instead of an apartment. I guess I’m rather ungrateful for God’s roof….lol
This I must remember….
“There are unseen things at work in the relational seasons that feel empty”
Janet, I’m so glad the words resonated with you – knowing that they met others helps me not feel as alone too! Yes, I am also clinging to those unseen things at work and a God who calls beloved and longs to give us everything good and right. I hope you will give yourself grace and be gentle with your feelings as you move through transition and unmet longings and that God will surprise you with nearness and provision in the most unexpected ways. May God also sustain you through the darker, seemingly empty days. Thanks for sharing a bit with us and being here today.
Thank you for writing this. It hit hard as we left a neighborhood that we lived in for 17 years. We built a great community and I miss it. We’ve been in our current home (and state) for 3 months with very little interaction (despite hosting a low-key gathering).
Beth Williams says
I have built a small community with my current church of 18+ years. While the drive is super long I never seemed to mind it much. Really grown to love the pastor & his wife. Earlier this year the pastor announced his retirement in December. I will miss them much. My job has changed & the drive to church is becoming way to much. I knew I needed to find a new/different church. God in His wisdom knew this was coming. When Covid hit our church shut down for a while. I attended my husband’s childhood church much closer to home. I grew to love the people & got involved a little. Now come January I will be attending that church. Sure I will miss the people & will try to stay in touch with some. It is time to move on & build new relationships.
Kristen Strong says
Tasha, I can’t tell you how much this blessed me. I experienced the truths you share many times as a military wife, and I’m experiencing it now as a woman who in some ways is having to rebuild her community, even though we haven’t moved. You remind me that while it may feel rather dark right now, good things grow in the dark. I can let time do its good work, and Jesus will see me through.
Grateful for you, Tasha, and love you so.