I remember the first year of being a dad. The late nights, the diaper changing, the shift in habits and time management, the sheer cost of children—it was both exciting and overwhelming. I heard about all of this stuff and been warned, so although it was craziness, it was not particularly surprising. Something did surprise me, though. Loneliness. When I first became a dad, I felt lonely in the role. I felt like all the stuff my wife and I were dealing with as new parents, all the emotions that come with parenting, all the uncertainty with every new stage, were unique to us and certainly everybody else had it all together.
Fortunately, we had made a commitment long before we had kids to an idea that shouldn’t be all that strange to Christians. We committed as a couple to be regularly involved in a smaller group community where we could share our life, challenge and be challenged, and ultimately grow together in a way that only the Holy Spirit can do through his presence in relationships. If it weren’t for this commitment, parenting would have eaten me alive. Now, as a parent of three kids, going on four, I can’t imagine my life as a dad without that small group community.
Small groups help keep small things small. In isolation, problems that aren’t a big deal can become a big deal quickly. I can’t remember how many times Lauren and I would be struggling with something one of our kids was doing, whether it was some behavior issue or some weird quirk, and think we were doomed. We thought that surely something terrible was happening in our family. In that small group community, we were able to share those things and be told by the families around us that it’s really not that big of a deal. All kids pee in the bath; six year olds can still be selfish; it’s okay that our four year old isn’t interested in reading. The list could go on and on. But that’s what is so great about one of these communities. Without it, we would be worried about every little thing and struggle to have perspective. But instead, small things remain small.
Growing is done better with friends. There is something powerful about multiple voices speaking into the same issue. Having gone through a number of different parenting studies, my favorite part is always talking about the things we’re learning and being challenged by with one another. There are always things we miss on our own, perspectives that we can’t see, and insights that others bring out. There’s a reason God calls Christians into community. It’s because it takes multiple people, working through relationships, to work through the wisdom of God.
Parenting is hard, but it’s harder alone. I had no idea how hard parenting would be. I was shocked. The physical and emotional toll it takes on me and my wife is crazy. But we’re not alone in it, and that has ultimately helped put it in its place and helped us maintain the deep joy that comes from parenting. We can laugh with our friends about the weird things our kids do. We can come to our small group when we’re feeling inadequate and overwhelmed. We can process hard choices that no one ever prepared you to make with everyone and make wiser decisions. I can’t imagine how much harder it would be to do this alone.
If you’re in a small group, good for you! It is a wise investment of your time. If you’re not in a small group, I want to encourage you to seek out some other friends, neighbors and parents and start to do life together.