There’s a wonderful discussion going on the Lifestream Journeys list about finding fellowship with others. I thought others of you might enjoy it as well. The question was first asked by Nancy:
I’m wondering what any of you might say about the concept of “fellowship”. People in (my old fellowship) ask me about that often, as in “are you getting any?” Obviously the wording makes me smile. But what I’m wondering is this: I’ve asked Father about it numerous times, asked him to please put people in my life for connection/fellowship etc.
So far in the past couple years I haven’t noticed any big change. ??There are lots of people in my life. I do not live in a cave—my family near and extended, my work colleagues, my various friends—but I would not say that any of these is truly “like-minded”. Of course what I’d like is a group with whom I can identify and agree together and pat each other on the back. Like (my old fellowship had). That is pretty comfortable. ??
But where Father has me at this point is precisely not there. I am depending on him for most of my warm fuzzies. I keep telling Him I really want somebody/ies with skin on, and it just ain’t happenin’. Which must be ok. I am wanting to be content with whatever he gives, yet often feel guilty because I am not content. ?
Sophie from Indiana, another lady on the list responded with a wonderful story of what God is doing in her and her family:
I have walked through the valley you’re in, and can understand where you’re coming from. I waited and waited for “like-minded” people too. And I can’t say exactly how long it took, but through that time of “just Jesus and me” I began to see God (or the image of God) in everyone, including those who’re not “like minded,” or even knew Him at all.
I began by accepting the people in my life as “the fellowship” that God has provided for me. It’s funny how Jesus has answered my heart’s desire to be more like Him. I thought in order to achieve this goal, I needed to be around people who are more like Him (in my own judgment, of course), but instead He brought me to be with people who weren’t at all what I had in mind and taught me to see them as He does. Obviously, I’m not all the way like Jesus, but certainly I now can relate to other people more like Jesus does. I’d always wondered how He is “a friend of all,” and now I know, or have a better idea than I did before. I now can be comfortable and “fellowship” with anyone.
And just when I finally got to the point where I could say, “OK, I don’t need to be with people who see spiritual things like I do” God started bringing “like-minded” people into my life. I enjoy time with “like-minded” people, but I no longer have a dependency on them like I used to when I was in the IC. I now see this whole concept of needing to be with people of like mind as another one of those IC concepts I needed to be freed from. And I think this freedom was what God had in mind for me when He took me into that lonely valley.
The great fear people have in religious settings is that people will prefer isolation to fellowship. They think people have to be obligated to their responsibility to be part of the community of believers, otherwise it is so boring that folks won’t participate. But I find everyone who knows God as Father has a deep desire to connect with other brothers and sisters. Real community is not an obligation it is irresistible. The key is letting God bring that about in his time, and not just looking for “like-minded” people.
Yes, he knows how important it is for us to have others with whom we can share our journeys, and there are many ways to do that. An important thread in some of this discussion is to let God control that as we just remain open and responsive to him. Guilt about not finding it yet, doesn’t help. Keep your hunger before God, love those he has put around you and see how he will bring people into your life. Yes, there are things we can do to connect on-line, and with others locally that might share our passion for a relationally journey. But if that isn’t happening at the moment, enjoy the people he has placed in your life. You never know what might come from it.
And as if to illustrate the point further, I got this email this morning from Karen in Minnesota about some recent goings on in this arena for her and her husband:
We celebrated or 25th anniversary on a cruise to Alaska last week! Not bad for having been unemployed for almost a year, huh!? We heard of a last minute deal on Wednesday and drove the next morning to Seattle to catch the ship! On the cruise we made two life-long couple friends. One is a couple who love the Lord and we shared amazing free fellowship. They are Catholic. Again, years ago that would have been a deal breaker. We connected so much with them they invited us to share their motel room when we got back to Seattle and we did! We all went to Mt Rainer together and to the Seattle market. None of us wanted to say goodbye. The other couple has a passion for life and photography and each other. We love them for who they are and have no agenda for them. How liberating! They are Jewish.
We have become great friends with our tattooed, pierced, living-together neighbors (at home, too). Not too many years ago we would have been too judgmental for that to ever happen. We have found such joy and freedom in recognizing how loved we are and allowing that same freedom to others. As an aside, this couple has recently come to love Jesus with a refreshing passion so now we share Him too.
When God gets to be in control of our relationships, and we grow increasingly secure in his love for us, some amazing things can happen way beyond our expectations.