I read a lot. I usually have several books on the go at one time. I also have several devotionals that are emailed to me daily.
One book that I’m reading (for the second or third time) is The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Last night’s reading was about fellowship – creating community within the church. This morning I read a devotional by Chuck Swindoll on the very same thing. They share opinions on the matter and I share them as well, or rather, I desire to see them personified. Pastor Warren purports that God intended for us to experience life together. He uses Colossians 3:15 in the Contemporary English Version to support this in the book, but I prefer Romans 12:5 (and I always use the New American Standard Bible – I like a literal translation) which says, “so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”
Pastor Warren’s book explains that what it means to experience life together includes what he (and Chuck Swindoll) call the “‘one another’ commandments” that are found in the New Testament. Pastor Swindoll points out his favorite of these commandments as being found in Galatians 6:2 – “Bear one another’s burdens.”
In days 18 & 19 of A Purpose Driven Life, Pastor Warren lists nine characteristics of biblical fellowship and encourages small groups to make a covenant that includes them all. They are:
- authenticity (sharing true feelings)
- mutuality (encouraging each other)
- sympathy (supporting each other),
- mercy (forgiving each other)
- honesty (speaking the truth in love)
- humility (admitting our weaknesses)
- courtesy (respecting differences)
- confidentiality (not gossiping)
- frequency (making the group a priority)
I think these are absolutely wonderful and absolutely necessary and absolutely something I would want to be a part of.
I’m used to being on the outside of things. Yes, I am the one that puts myself there, but my life experience has taught me not to trust, and trust is the one issue that I am having the most troubles with. (It would help if my trust wasn’t broken time and time again). I don’t, or maybe can’t, see authenticity or honesty in people. I know what others could do to help me learn to trust them, but telling them to do these things kind of negates the authenticity of their doing it. And only since I don’t expect anyone to actually read my blogs, I’ll say what it is. I guess what I need is an invitation. I need someone to say, “I want to experience life with you and you with me. I want us to share everything that’s going on in our lives so we can carry each others burdens and build each other up.” But no one ever says anything like this. And I am unable to extend this type of invitation to others because it’s been my experience, too often, that I am rejected.
I’m in small group for the second time at my church. The first small group was okay, but no one seemed to make it a priority. Or rather, it seemed like it was something that the members of the group just slipped into their busy schedules as something to do that evening. We only met every other week, and you need to meet more often than that to develop relationships (2 hours every 14 days isn’t much) and they all talked about a wrap up dinner together, but it never happened. I can’t say I made any lasting friendships from it – one or two of them talk to me once in a while (only at church), but otherwise it’s an occasional facebook post.
The small group I’m in now, there’s only been two meetings (three, actually, but I was the only who showed up to the first one), so it’s hard to say. So far, though, I’m not really sure. It’s hard for me to feel that anyone else considers it a priority because no one shows up on time. Brad & I are always early to everything, but everyone else gets there right at 7 or sometime after and then time is spent chit-chatting and by the time we get down to it there’s maybe an hour left. We don’t even get through all the questions the leader has, much less sharing anything. Now, I’m not saying that I have tons that I need to share at every meeting. But I want to be a part of others’ lives (there’s nothing that means more to me than being there for someone) and I do need people to be a part of mine.
I don’t mean to be or sound critical of the small groups I’ve been in. But it disturbs me when I see people being part of something that should be intimate and meaningful, but they’ve attended it in what appears to be a spirit of apathy – like they’d just as soon be at home watching TV.
I tried to get some interest up for a small group for the many stay at home moms that there are at my church. Just a mid week get together once or twice a month – just to hang out with the girls and leave the men and children at home. Not a peep from anybody. I guess I could have tried harder in bringing it up to people, but I never claimed to be a very secure person. I am pretty sure, though, that if one of the more popular women at my church had brought this up, others would have jumped at it. Actually, for all I know, a lot of them probably do meet on a pretty regular basis for coffee or whatever. Church communitys are cliques more often than not. I’ve attended a lot of churches and they are all the same in that way. I’m hoping that this church will be different, but I’m not overly hopeful.
Being the insecure, self-destroyer that I am, I know I don’t make it easy. I can come on a bit strong. I wish, sometimes, that someone would see through that. Inside I’m a tiny little spec surrounded by thick walls of protection.
Will one person ever be interested enough in getting to know me to break through all my walls? I’ve chipped them down myself as much as I can…I need someone else to help me demolish the rest.