Friday, January 21, 2011

Fellowship in the Spirit

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  ~Philippians 2:1-2

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  ~Romans 12:15

I'm not really certain why it is, but I don't form deep relationships easily.  Never have I felt this void so keenly as in my relationships with the body of Christ, & that only recently.  Growing up, I of course had loving relationships with people that I worshipped with, but they were all basically surface relationships.  I didn't live life with these people, even though there was a mutual love & affection between us.  Oddly though, I never felt as though something were missing from my life.  Don't ask me why; I don't really understand it myself.  Perhaps it was my age or my focus on my job or maybe I just didn't realize how important it is to foster & nurture those intimate relationships.  Whatever the reason, looking back I wish now that it had been different.

My first real taste of what fellowship among believers could be like was when Michael & I married & began attending church.  Just as before, I developed a deep love & affection for these brothers & sisters, but this time, to an extent, I lived life with them.  I say "to an extent" because we live an hour away from the rest of the congregation.  Even so, we were able to get together a few times, & even now we are able to encourage & exhort each other via email & phone calls.  Having a slight taste of fellowship with other believers whet my appetite for truly living out my life with them.  For 3 1/2 years, Michael & I have prayed that this could become a reality for us.  We both crave to be surrounded by godly men & women, & our desire for this has only grown with time & the absense of such fellowship.

As I've said before, we were floored from our very first visit to the local church that we've been attending.  The genuine welcome & acceptance took my breath away.  Truly, I can be tempted to leave it at passing greetings & hugs or even to just share fun stories like how Michael & I met or what my niece's reaction to me getting married was.  It feels safer that way.  It can be a scary thing to expose my heart, my past hurts, my struggles with sin with people that I see often.  But, I'm determined not to do that this time.  We truly believe that God has led us to this church, & I'm not going to waste this opportunity to form real-life relationships with my brothers & sisters in Christ.

From the very beginning, we've thrown ourselves into the body of this church.  One of my favorite events of each week is the Thursday morning ladies' Bible study.  I have absolutely loved studying the Bible with these women led by the pastor's wife, whom everyone calls "Sweet T".  And let me tell you, she's appropriately named!  Of course, as we study the Scriptures, life experiences are shared & tears are shed.  Last week we looked at finding our satisfaction in God alone; this week, peace.  Needless to say, my loss of Ginger came to mind repeatedly, & I cried more than a few tears.  And felt completely safe doing so.  I know that these women love me, & I feel perfectly safe sharing my heart even when it's not pretty.  It's incredibly comforting & freeing.  Not only that, but one of the women - Angie - cried with me.  I was talking about sobbing over a picture of Ginger, which of course made me cry then, too.  I have a hard time looking at people when I cry, but out of the corner of my eye I saw her brush away tears.  She mourned with me as I mourned.  The thankfulness & love that I feel toward her for that is immense.  These women aren't just people that I go to church with; they are my sisters, my family.  It's beautiful.

In mentioning my sisters in Christ, I would be remiss if I didn't mention again my sweet new friend, Sommer.  She called me yesterday just to tell me that she knew that it was one month since I lost Ginger & that she was thinking about me & praying for me.  She's the only person who did so, & I will never be able to say what her display of love towards me means, nor will I ever forget it.  A lot of people probably feel like Ginger was "just" a dog & it's time for me to get over it.  But not Sommer.  She demonstrated such compassion & sympathy for me & lifted my spirit.

Each of these sweet women has such an overflowing love for Christ that - just like the water of a fountain bubbles over from tier to tier - it has spilled over & drenched me.  I'm so thankful for them, grateful to them, & I love them & praise God for bringing them into my life.  And I pray that I may follow their model as they follow Christ's.  Fellowship in the Spirit with my fellow believers is so beautiful - & is something I'll not take for granted again.


Kim said...

True fellowship with the body of Christ is one of the best gifts God gives us. I am glad you are finding that in your church. My "sisters & brothers" are God's hands/feet to me on many days.