A Prelude to the Graces.
Before considering three specific graces found in friends, my mind goes to community. Biblical community. What is it? How does it look? Do I have it?
The reason this is so important when thinking on and looking for graces found in friends is because biblical community should be the backbone of my friendships.
First some verses to consider:
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
“The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life”
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve The Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”
I consider biblical community to be more than a “fill me up so i can be satisfied” kind of thing. It is much deeper. Considering the aforementioned texts. We are to be sacrificially building one another up, meeting with one another so that we actually know what’s going on in each other’s lives, and loving – much entailed in that. We know each other’s needs when biblical community is present and real. We joyfully meet those and spur one another on with the aim of God being glorified. We attempt to keep our minds set on eternal things, considering the return of Lord and how it is quickly approaching.
It looks like lives rubbing against each other, intertwining for the glory of God. Holiness is the pursuit. Sin is the problem. Gospel-centeredness is the way by which we will be sanctified with one another. Knowing and loving God more through the gospel of His Son. Reminding one another of our source of life. Breathing scripture. Being transparent. That’s what I consider biblical community.
Do I have it? Yes. An emphatic yes. I think instantly to our dear friends Collin and Nellie. Josh and Amy. The list goes on. But when I consider these two couples, I look at how we interact through all of life’s affairs and I compare it with the scripture mentioned above. Is love present? By all means! Are we outdoing one another in honor? Yes. Generosity through meals and gifts and simply their words are experienced often.
I love how Matt Chandler puts it: “what is ultimately unacceptable biblically is for you to come here week after week, drink in, suck up and have no intention of ever doing life.” Whoa. That definitely confronts any of my feelings of being reserved towards those God has given me in my church and believers outside of my local church. I still have quite a ways to go on it. It’s not consumerism.
Yes I believe I have biblical community. But that is something God has graced Josh and I with and reminds us daily that it is a fight to maintain when we can so often revert back to being introverts with our personal lives and problems. That just isn’t what we have been called to as believers in Christ, chosen and placed into a covenant community with intentions to flourish in gospel centrality.
From a phone call with my sister to a game of Cranium to cracking up over a meal, laughter is grace I find in friends. Left to myself, I’m usually not laughing over the things I am doing or thinking. That’s just not my personality (is it anyones? maybe so). Dont get me wrong, Norah is by far the cutest and funniest little girl in my life, but I’m looking at Melissa during nap time or before my little darling wakes up or after she goes to sleep at night. If I’m alone, I’m not really laughing. But with friends, God provides the lightheartedness I need to keep on keeping on. The worries I can allow to accumulate in my mind often dissipate when with friends. They begin to seem a lot less dire and terminal as I file them to be in my mind. I need to giggle, and thank God I get that through my friends.
My husband is the funniest man alive to me. Every day I get with him is filled with laughter, even as we deal with the hard stuff. I’m reminded today how much I need his humor and lightheartedness. I take it for granted far too often as I’m furrowing my brow in troubles.
I cannot think of an occassion where biblical discussions don’t arise when I’m with my closest friends. And it is those discussions that really make me consider what God says in his word about various things from birth control to church governing to child-rearing. I have always had the tendency to make absolutes about matters in life. If I don’t think it’s right then obviously it’s because it isn’t. You can see where problems can come from this way of thinking. That’s where this grace comes in. Talking with friends and taking a position as the hearer rather than the speaker at times can be humbling, exactly what God was intending. It’s beautiful how God works through those closes in our lives to transform us more and more into the image of His Son.
I met with a dear friend this past week over coffee and a chatty toddler about her experience thus far overseas. I was incredibly challenged by her obedience to God. I asked about how she liked returning to the States and speaking at various churches about what God is doing in the country she is serving and she responded that she is terrified before each speaking event. But she keeps doing it. And that’s what her push is when discussing this at churches. Obviously everyone filling the churches out there are not going to head overseas, God hasn’t intended for that. She challenged them to obedience to God where they are at now. Wow. Very encouraged to hear that. I long to be overseas with my family, but does that mean that I’m not living out my calling here and now? By no means! The wonderful thing about the gospel is that it is literally the need EVERYWHERE. Within my home. Within my town, state, this nation, and all around the world. There is a desperate and urgent need for it. This is just one example of how a friend has graced me by a biblical discussion. By her love for God she has laid aside even her insecurities to be uncomfortable for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
God has given Josh and I comfort through our friends. I can recall times of unsettleness in my spirit, greiving, sadness due to sin, and now in motherhood that friends have comforted me. From a sweet text to visits to letters, they have served as rays of sunlight shining through the seemingly darkest clouds.
I recall a time when Josh and I first joined a small group. We were just married and suffering loss and I went into a room of girls while he stay with the guys as the small group was separating to discuss gender-sensitive issues. They asked how they could pray for me. I burst into tears, totally embarrassed and feeling exposed because I hardly knew any of them and then something happened: they began to gather around me and pray over me. They comforted me in praying to God on my behalf, concerned already for an individual they didn’t know. Many of these women are still close friends.
The love of God should be experienced among his people. Comfort being something we are eager to offer and receive when we are down and out. There is just no reason for self-pity when this is present. We then can see that God has purposed it for our good and his glory because it is inevitable that our friends will encounter heartache or spiritual discontentment at some point as well – it’s the ebb and flow present in sanctification.