Monday night I had the privilege of meeting a lovely sister in Christ for the first time, and the Lord used our interaction to encourage and challenge me in a specific way. It was fantastic! As with most of the lessons He has for me, I was not expecting it, making it all the sweeter because it caught me off guard and forced me to pay attention. I love those kinds of lessons!
This sister spent the weekend with one of my girls, planning to drive home Monday morning, but decided to stay an extra day. I received a text from Danielle in the afternoon declaring, "She is staying another day! I invited her to join us for COMMITTED tonight and she said yes! See you tonight!" It is always exciting to have a special guest for our night of fellowship, and the girls are quick to welcome her and drown her in kindness and acceptance. (It is one of my favorite things about them!) It is not easy to walk into a room full of strangers who are already long-time friends who share honestly, deeply, and with vulnerability about the struggles and joys of their hearts. I was not that brave when I was young, so I marvel at their willingness to step into such an intimate setting. After observing the way they are drawn in, encouraged, and appreciated by their peers in such an authentic manner, however, I am a touch envious and wish I had been able to do so!
Every month I send the group an assignment to complete on their own, and then we share the details when we come together. They recently requested we go back to the "personal" studies, as we have been studying books of the Bible for the past year. The biblical applications of God's Word are wonderful since Scripture lays our hearts bare before Him, but there is also something wonderful about doing specific studies that focus on our personal struggles and sin. This was our focus on Monday. Areas of sin we are trying to work out and replace with righteousness, using Scripture to rebuke and support our position. Such a rich time of fellowship this was! And it was during this time that this new sister opened my eyes to two important truths.
First, meeting together as sisters in Christ to study the Scriptures, share each other's joys and sorrows, and pray together before the throne of grace is a privilege that must not be taken for granted, or neglected.
Second, we must be intentional about following up with one another after coming together to share such depth of heart and mind.
Toward the end of our discussion, I looked at our new friend and asked if she wanted to share. She looked at me thoughtfully and said, "You know, I am being so blessed by listening to everyone else that I am happy to be still and take it all in right now." Her response surprised and delighted me, and, of course, I wanted to know more. She revealed that her current profession has her moving every few months which is exciting and challenging, but does not allow her to attend church every week and makes consistent fellowship, specifically depth of fellowship, quite difficult. Even her close, personal friends are not available since they are in different states, causing her to feel a bit isolated at times. How thankful I was that she decided to stay an extra night - and spent it with us! The Lord knew she needed that time of talking and confessing and praying with other believers, and He was faithful to provide it.
And it made me wonder - do I have the same appreciation, desire, and gratefulness for such times? Do I long for fellowship with the body of Christ, intentionally creating opportunities to spend time with my brothers and sisters? And when I am with them, do I sit back and soak in all of the blessings that surround me like my sister did that night? Lord, if I have taken the body for granted, forgive me, I pray and make me more aware of the need for them and beauty of them so I may find great delight in times of fellowship and leave with a grateful heart.
During our time of discussion, we all agreed that each of us needs accountability in a specific area and tossed some ideas around for how we could provide accountability for a group of six people. We go to church together and interact throughout the week, so there are a plethora of ways for us to accomplish this goal. There is no absolutely no reason we should fail each other in this way. But my heart ached a bit for my blonde sister who would be driving away from us the next morning, possibly never to be with us again. Who will encourage her? Who will pursue her? Who will know when she is filled with sorrow and needs a kind word? Who will rejoice with her? We may not be traveling with her from city to city, but there is no reason we cannot stir her up to love and good deeds from afar! A text here, an e-mail there, and a hand-written card waiting in her mailbox will do wonders for her soul. Especially if each one is written in response to a prompting from the Lord, arriving just when she needs it most.
We have been meeting together for five years, our COMMITTED group, but it was last Monday night that the Lord revealed our theme verse! 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. Hebrews 10:24, 25
Lord, I pray You will make us faithful to this calling. We have walked through great seasons of rejoicing and deep valleys of sorrow, together, with Your mercy, grace, and kindness guiding us through each one. It is because of You that we are united, committed, and loyal to one another, and I praise You for such a gift! None of us knew what the future looked like when we met in my living room five years ago, but You knew! You draw each young woman here month after month, year after year, knowing exactly who she is and what she needs. And every time, You are here with us. Thank You, Lord. Increase our commitment, intensify our unity, and instill in us a desire to love one another more. This group is Yours, Father. Do with it what You will.