[This post originally appeared recently on the Missio Alliance blog]
It was only a simple salad; hard boiled eggs, bacon, ice berg lettuce and tomatoes were a few of the ingredients that filled the bowl. Understanding I was on a health kick, she had taken the time to consider that little detail before I arrived at her house. Sitting on a tall stool across from her, her beautiful granite top island between us, the dreary February sun peered through the frozen windowpane illuminating the kitchen. My friend took the time that morning to boil some eggs, heat up some bacon, rinse and dry the lettuce, and mix a salad. Not only that, but when I walked in the door with my boys for this play date, I found she made grilled cheese and sliced carrots for my two toddler boys.
It was only a simple salad, but it was as good as a gourmet meal.
You see, it was only months before that a gnawing ache for authentic fellowship hit me like a train.
It was the second week of December and it was the first time I had a moment to take a breather after an intense year of teaching, preaching, studying, writing, parenting, cooking, cleaning, and responding to mountains of emails. It was one of those weird weeks that I didn’t have a test to study for, a paper to write, a sermon to compose, or a person to meet with. So Jeff and I decided to take not one week off of work, but two weeks. When we weren’t playing with the boys or having quality family time, we went on a binge-watching spree through a couple of seasons of Friends. And night after night I watched Friends, utterly fascinated by the display of friendship and community. I saw them celebrate with one another and I saw them ache with one another; and episode after episode, one thing consumed my thoughts…
I want what they have.
Yes, I know. No one actually lives like that. However, I will say this, what I saw displayed on Friends looked a lot more like the Acts 2 community than what I was experiencing. Episode after episode, I yearned for a sense of community, a sense of belonging, a people to celebrate with and to mourn with.
It’s not that I don’t believe in living life in community. I do. I passionately preached at least half dozen messages that very year on community. The call for community in scripture isn’t hard to find, it is at the core of what it means to be a Christian. Our very identity as Christians is that we have been included to belong in this great family of God.
But for the previous 7 months I had been living hypocritically. I taught community, but I wasn’t living in it.
In the midst of transitioning to a new church, balancing motherhood, studies, and ministry, I had withdrawn from the very people I needed the most. I was living as one of those who attended church and attended church only; and in the process I was becoming less human. Consumed with my to-do list, I wasn’t slowing down enough to give generously and embrace hospitality. I wasn’t slowing down enough to enjoy a simple bowl of salad with a sister in Christ.
I know I’m not the only one who runs to seclusion and merely attends church. I see you, brothers and sisters in Christ, walking into church Sunday after Sunday as though the worship experience were just another check-off-the-box. You are out of those doors as fast as you were in. You keep your eyes to the floor, only looking up fast enough to receive a bulletin and find your seat. Sadly, this is a common phenomenon in the North American church.
So may I be so bold as to say this:
I need you.
You need me.
We need you.
You need us.
I need you to pull me in when I am running as fast as I can into seclusion. I need you to come alongside of me to walk this truly human life together.
And you need me to walk alongside of you, to encourage you, to pray for you, and to rub shoulders with you. And we need you. You see, we need you to not hold back; rather, we need you to use your gifts as the Apostle Paul commanded in Romans 12. We need you to teach, preach, serve, give generously, lead, prophecy, encourage, and heal. And don’t ever forget, you need us. You and I, my friend, have a special bond that cannot be broken – we are bonded by the love of the Father, the faithfulness of King Jesus, and the empowering presence of the Spirit. Our shared experience isn’t to be a stagnant, secluded, individualized life. Our Christian walk together is a special fellowship that is to be lived out pointed towards one another in a radical, generous, truly human life.
It’s tempting to believe that this Christian walk is a solo climb, as if we should be concerned only with our own individual walk. But in the truly human life, the people of God submit to one another and give themselves up for one another. The truly human life is seen not only in the weekly fellowship, but in the ways that the people of God care for the marginalized, sick, widowed, and orphaned; it is seen in the way they walk with one another in times of grief; it is seen in the way they pray for one another; it is seen in the way they share one another’s possessions. It is in this submitting and turning towards one another in love that the people of God begin to reflect the image of the Triune God; it is the truly human life.
And lest you think you are beyond any of this, allow me to remind you of the Apostle Paul’s very poignant words in Galatians 6:2-3:
Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.
When the people of God live the truly human life, the community is desperately pointed towards one another – we are generous, we are compassionate, we are loving, and we are in close proximity.
I need your bowls of salad; I need to break bread with you. I need your conversation and you need mine. I need you in my life and you need me in yours. I need a seat at the table and you need one, too. You don’t have to this alone. You can’t. Not if you are becoming truly human in Christ.
Friends, I need you, you need me, we need you, and you need us.
It was just a simple bowl of salad. But little did she know that it was exactly what I needed. We sat there for hours talking about everything from our fears of parenting, friendships, marriage, life, death, and all through the lens of our Christian walk. It was just a simple bowl of salad, yes, but the simple act of hospitality and conversation allowed me to see what it means to become truly human.
May I leave you with these powerful words to live by from the Apostle Paul:
May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. (1 Thessalonians 3:12-14)