You know those friends that encourage you, speak life into your weariness, and just by their presence usher in fresh winds that revive your spirit. Oh, I love those friends. They are far from perfect but full of joy and share it with everyone they encounter. This weekend we got to experience this once again. Our sweet friends who have lived life with us for over 10 years stopped by for a few days.
We had great plans including hiking, biking, and lots of walks. But it rained, a lot. And, did I mention it was cold, too? So we stayed indoors where laughter was heard in every corner and words of affirmation were spoken. Tears were shed as we shared the different paths God has called us to walk over the last two years. Encouragement and blessings were poured out and we were refreshed.
When the rains finally cleared, we headed to the park. Twelve people chasing each other around the playground, playing together, enjoying one another, making memories to last until we meet again.
This friendship is beautiful, but it didn’t just happen. Living life together is messy. Sometimes we hurt one another. Forgiveness and humility play a huge role in our relationships. Misunderstandings, jealousy, envy, anger, pride, selfishness are all destroyers. It takes time, and often unpleasant circumstances, to grow friendships to maturity, to build trust, to build community.
And really, isn’t that what we as the Body of Christ are to build? A community that functions together, to encourage one another. A community known not for it’s piousness but rather for its humility and forgiveness when one stumbles. A community known not for it’s mistakes but for how it rebuilds afterwards. Using the various strengths of individuals to uplift those who are weak and hurting. A community that seeks to serve one another and bring others into this sweet fellowship. Not an exclusive club, but a community that openly invites others to join.
No person, no friendship, no community is perfect. Bumps, bruises, scrapes, and scars happen in this life. Sometimes the pain is so great that we want to bandage it and avoid all possibility of future pain. We cut ourselves off, live in fear, become frustrated at others, self-reliant. Never letting people know the real us.
As I reflect on our special weekend with friends, I am reminded that God has not called me to walk in this world alone. He has placed me in a body, a community of believers, where I can grow and learn. This amazing body has the tools to encourage and uplift one another in love. His Spirit has been poured out on us so that we are able to walk together in spite of our sinful nature, which likes to show it’s ugly head much too often. He has taught us how to love one another, how to forgive.
Over and over again, the writers of the New Testament challenge the body of Christ to be of one mind, to work together, serving one another and loving one another. Here is some instruction I gleaned as I studied one such passage.
“And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved (…that is all of us who claim the name of Christ…), put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (…something we choose to do…); bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. (…Forgiveness is our responsibility, regardless of whether another seeks it or apologizes…) And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity (…holding grudges, withholding love, breaks our unity…). And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body (…peace in the body, I like that idea…); and be thankful (…A thankful heart is good medicine…). Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you (…personal and corporate learning of the Word of God, protects the body and helps us do the following…), with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (…which means we spend time together…), singing with thankfulness (…there is that thankfulness again…guess it really is important to God…) in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:12-16
My prayer is that I can be that refreshing wind to others just as our friends were for us. I want to set aside my own desires and seek to meet the needs of those around me. And during those moments when I fail, when I feel alone, when I’m tired, I pray God would send one of you to encourage, uplift, and just speak words of Life into my heart once again.
And just because I want all of you to know what a great weekend we shared…here are a few pictures.
(Etter/Stirling reunioun…minus 3 kids)
A year before we moved to China, our kids started praying that God would give them special friends in our new home. Little did we know that the Stirling family had kids who were praying the same prayer. My kids first memories of China include this family. And yes, prayers for friendships were answered in abundance.
Hanissa kept asking, “Why can’t they just move next door?” Living out God’s call on our life is beautiful, but it isn’t without pain and sorrow. But, joy and peace found in obedience far out weigh any sadness we may experience.