We throw that expression around quite frequently in the church. Join a LifeGroup, so you can Do Life Together.
I refused to join a LifeGroup for almost two years after we started attending our church. Mainly because I’m not great at doing life with anyone other than my husband, kids, mom, mom-in-law, some relatives, and a few friends. I’m not competent in relationships where so much action is required.
Five years ago, we joined one. Not because the Lord told us to do it. Not because our Pastor was often asking people to join. Not from some video that spoke to us.
We joined because a guy I had attended college with asked us four times. Four. Dave and I figured that if he could keep asking us, knowing we were going to hem and haw our way out of the conversation, then we could at least humor him and show up. One time.
That’s all Dave and I committed to one another. We will try it once. And if I hate it, we never go back. I had never been to a Sunday School class. I was nervous and worried and fearful I would say something stupid.
And I did. I said several stupid things that first day. I had slept two hours a night for several nights leading up to that Sunday morning. It was bad. Embarrassingly bad. I don’t think a coherent sentence came out of my mouth.
So I told Dave I wasn’t going back. And Dave said he thought we should try one more time. I told him he was a liar, because our agreement was one and done…if that’s what I wanted.
The second week was better. I was less awkward. I said fewer dumb things. I thought, “Okay. We can do this a third week.”
Several weeks went by, and we decided that we were going to stay. Try “Doing Life” with these people.
Then the pediatrician said, “Adelaide needs an MRI to rule out brain issues, since she’s not meeting milestones.”
I sobbed. Our LifeGoup prayed. A lot.
Then the pediatrician called. “They found a posterior fossa cyst in her brain. She needs to see a neurologist. They will probably do neurosurgery.”
I felt like all the air in our house had been poisoned. It was one of the hardest days of my life.
I bawled. Our LifeGroup loved on us. A lot. We had known these people less than 3 months. People offered to bring meals. People offered to pay our gas to drive across the state. People offered to watch Graham. We didn’t take them up on any of it. Dave and I are pretty autonomous. And we were beginning to feel like a drain on the group. And we hated that feeling of being the needy ones.
They barely knew us. We hadn’t gone to the extra things. The breakfasts. The dinners. The stuff families do. We showed up on Sunday morning and that was the extent of our participation.
We weren’t harboring any ill feelings toward them. We avoided the extra stuff because I felt like I was constantly putting my foot in my mouth. And I was running on no sleep. And Graham was so incredibly strong-willed. Just a really tough toddler.
But it didn’t seem to matter to them.
They didn’t have a scale, with weights on one side and the Ballews’ contributions on the other. It didn’t matter to them that we were the newest members, yet the neediest ones. They just kept pouring into us.
Over the years, we still haven’t done enough. I know they aren’t keeping track, but I do. We made meals for members who had babies. They brought us meals for two living babies and two dead ones. We helped a person move. They offered to help my mom, who they had never met, move. We offered to help members during emergencies. They took our kids while we were at the ER. Fed them, changed diapers, texted updates. We gave money when offerings were taken up. We were given more money than we’ll ever contribute. Ever.
Even though it’s been a blessing, I still feel like I have no idea what Doing Life means. Unless it means that others treat you better than you treat them. And they don’t even blink when you need them.
I feel like the last five years have almost been their own lifetime. Dave and I actually use the expressions “Before Adelaide’s MRI” and “After the twins died” and “During the case” and “Before Bob’s tumor” in conversation. Does our LifeGroup regret all they’ve done? All the time they’ve helped us, prayed for us, and included us? Doing Life with the Ballews seems like an exhausting venture.
If they do regret it, you’d never know. And maybe that’s the beauty of this whole LifeGroup experiment: there really aren’t scales. No one is keeping track. And I think if my college friend could go back, knowing how high maintenance we would be, he still would’ve asked four times. And I don’t think he would’ve stopped asking if we hadn’t caved that one time in July and shown up to Room 318. Where I still say dumb things. And we still have a prayer request every week for our baby girl.