Thursday, June 2, 2011

What You Can't Learn on an Island

The saying “no man is an island” is cliché and overused, but the gist of it is true. God made us to be relational beings. He didn’t create us to be autonomous, self-sufficient, loners. He created us for fellowship, and togetherness. And to use another cliché, he created us for community. Not so we can tout how community focused we are, or even that we are authentic, real people. These are good things to strive for, in fact they are crucial to living life as Christians. But community and authenticity don’t exist simply to make us cool and relevant to a watching world. It’s not a program we can implement in our church hoping it will catch on and motivate our church members to want to suddenly “do life” together while they sip lattes at Starbucks. I think there is something much deeper going on here.

Titus 2:3-5 is a mantra for passing on godly womanhood to the next generation and with each passing season of my life I am reminded of why I need it so much. After going through the list of ways the older woman is supposed to train the younger, Paul ends verse 5 by saying “so the word of God may not be reviled.” That is the motivation for our discipleship. That is why we live in community with one another. The world around us wants nothing to do with Christ and his call on our lives. We are bombarded on multiple fronts with false gospels and lies about how we are supposed to live. God has provided a way for us to fight the battle within our own souls through his very word. And one of the ways his word takes root in our lives, apart from the preached word of God, is through consistent fellowship with other believers.

So if we need it so much, what does it really look like?

For a long time I thought it meant having an official mentor, someone who would meet with me regularly, teach me the Bible, and show me how to be a godly woman. I thought it was a program. And sometimes it is. But often it’s not.

Passing on the legacy of biblical womanhood takes various forms and can be applied to multiple contexts. By God’s grace he has opened my eyes to the wealth of knowledge around me in the friends I have who are even just a few years ahead of me. Sometimes discipleship looks like the spiritual mother type who invites you over to share your heart and study Proverbs 31 over coffee. But sometimes, and most of the time, it is in the little things, like visiting a godly older friend in the middle of a busy day with three little ones.

For a long time I would get really discouraged that I didn’t have a “mentor” and would search frantically to find the perfect, older woman to meet with me. Instead what I needed to understand is that I don’t need a program as much as I need to see life lived. I needed, and still need, to see godly women living what it means to love their husbands, walk through suffering, wipe snotty noses, clean again and again and again, and do it all with little fanfare or recognition—at least on this side of eternity. I need to see godly women hoping in God when everything else around them seems hopeless. I need to see stories of God’s faithfulness in the lives of my friends. And that’s why I need community. Not for community’s sake, but because I desperately need to see someone farther ahead than me show me through their life that God is not finished with me yet, and he is still working for my good. This past year has taught me that I need the body of Christ more than I ever realized. And not just in women’s programs on Saturday mornings, but in the daily realities that this Christian life is hard and we need to hold each other’s arms up in this fight of faith.

We really aren’t meant to be lone rangers, and if we stopped and thought about it we wouldn’t want that life anyway. God created us for relationships and community with each other, and ultimately with him. We need to live life with other people because God in his kindness has ordained that people are one of the ways we are more conformed into his image—in the end we are drawn closer to him.

I’m so thankful that God has placed women in my life that will walk this Christian road with me. I honestly don’t know where I would be without their persistent, gracious, care for me through the dark, and even happy, times. I’m glad I’ve been able to see the fruit born out of circumstances very similar to my own. It gives me hope. It teaches me how to pray and lean hard into the Lord. More than anything else, it shows me that Jesus is the best thing I could ever hope for. And these are things I could never learn on a lonely island.

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