My mom jokes that as a little girl I would have one friend leaving by the back door while the next was coming in the front. For those who know me, this isn’t a surprise. I haven’t met a stranger: I love talking to people in line at the grocery store, in the racks while shopping and especially a deep dive over a cup of coffee or on a walk. When we received the word Fellowship, I immediate knew I wanted to share about the amazing friends in my life and about those being built in my pre-teen daughter’s Bible study.
Did you know that from the first days on earth, God didn’t want us to be alone (“it’s not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him”. Genesis 2:18)? And He desires to spend time with us (Genesis 3:8 talks of God walks in the garden looking for Adam and Eve)!
We can learn a lot about friendship from reading Proverbs:
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” Proverbs 17:17
“The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.” Proverbs 12:26
“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:14
I met one of my best friends while seven months pregnant. I had traveled to Chicago for a family reunion, and spent the day walking the streets, laughing and catching up with the anticipation of cheering my cousin Mollie on the next morning in the marathon. I woke during the night to my placenta bleeding. On the drive downtown, as my sister rushed me to the ER, we clutched each other’s hands and prayed rote Our Fathers and Hail Marys in fear of losing my first baby. During my overnight stay, I stayed up watching the fetal monitor of our unborn child slowly opening and closing her fingers in her first wave. I fell completely and utterly in love. That night, not only had God saved my baby, He gave me the gifts of unconditional love and the ability to surrender myself to Him. In that glorious wave, I knew God was reclaiming me; It was the beginning of life change. I wasn’t in control. I couldn’t do it alone, I needed a Protector.
By being rooted in Him, to receive His unconditional love and grace, our friendships become fellowship. And with fellowship, we change our way and we change our heart:
“God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord”. 1 Corinthians 1:9
“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, … let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:22-25 (emphasis mine – God wants us in face-to-face relationships).
“This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” 1 John 3:19-20 (emphasis mine – God wants us to have a clear conscience).
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” John 15:13 (emphasis mine – God wants us put other’s needs, arguments, feelings, before our own).
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates”. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (emphasis mine – God wants us thinking of Him, His commandments and scripture all day and to teach generations to come).
I’m fortunate that some of my friends in fellowship want to run at 6am. My running buddies bring Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (above) to life, as we often discuss what we are learning from scripture. It’s during these runs that I am able to share my hopes and fears, while gaining their spiritual wisdom (1 Peter 5:9 – share in suffering). It hasn’t always been like this. Three and a half years ago we would have only talked about more superficial topics. What happened 3 ½ years ago?
A declaration in a Pool House half way around the world!
After spending a week on mission in Cape Town, I understood that though I may never see them again, the South African children and women are my Sisters in Christ and that I will spend eternity with them. I boldly prayed aloud that night for my amazing friends across America that haven’t been saved. I desire eternity to be spent together, and for them to experience the joy of God every single day. After being in a tight-knit Bible study group in a neighboring town for 4+ years, I understood that God had prepared me to leave, and start witnessing and rescuing families in my own community.
What started as discomfort in starting a Bible study for women in my community, has blossomed into Fellowships of families looking out for each other, caring for our sick, loving on our orphans and widows, serving those without, building into marriages and men striving to be spiritual leaders. Amazing!
Yet even with all the momentum, last Fall I allowed my voice to be silenced and my hand to not be raised. As fortunate as I felt for all that God had blessed in my life, I felt hesitant to pioneer a pre-teen girl Bible study.
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20 (emphasis mine – God tells us we are never alone).
Fortunately, my silence has grown into a bold voice. The ten 7th grade girls are learning who their Heavenly Daddy is and who He says they are. They are learning how to handle conflict and tough times. Don’t you wish you learned these blessings at age 12 and 13? In them I see confidence and strength. True friendships are growing, and like my South African family, they will be united as sisters in eternity. Truly Amazing!
I’d be remiss if I didn’t share the best reason for Fellowship. Regardless of amazing friends and incredible parties, there are times we will feel Lonely and Alone. I had these feelings a few Sundays ago. Following a full weekend of celebrations, I was struck with a deep, empty feeling in my soul. It wasn’t the feeling of being left out or forgotten, but something was off. I walked into my office and my eyes landed on a stack of notes my daughter wrote me earlier this spring for my birthday (the same child I met on the monitor in Chicago). The stack included six notes to open when I felt: unaccomplished, upset, abandoned, halted and useless. I opened the envelope marked Lonely and read, then wept.
Here are some of her words: “I have realized how important God is in my life as I go through Middle School. I have learned from you how vital it is to trust the Lord. If we have faith, He will bring upon miracles. …God will never forget us. He is always there, ready to help. If you ever need Him for anything, just take a second and pray. It works! You just have to believe in God and He will help you. He loves you so much. He won’t forget about His daughter.”
What a gift from my daughter AND from our Lord. My “off” feeling was from not being in sync in Fellowship with my Big Daddy in Heaven. I encourage you to spend a few minutes in prayer asking God to reveal who He desires you to be in fellowship with, and how you can carve out more time for Him. I also suggest you repeat these lyrics over and over until they are truth on your heart.
“I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like, But I’ve heard the tender whispers of love in the dead of night, And you tell me that you’re pleased, And that I’m never alone…” click to listen: Good Good Father by Chris Tomlin
P.S. Readers, you probably don’t realize that Jen, Julie and I haven’t met yet. In fact, Jen and I hadn’t been in direct conversation with Erin for years, …then her fateful Facebook post popped up in December 2017, uniting the four of us in Sisterhood and launched Good Word Project. Keep your eyes open for our meeting Oct 4-7th at the Declare Christian Conference in Dallas!