My Inner Circle Friends at the Statue of Liberty Museum
The room was dark, every seat was filled, but electricity was in the air with all of us somehow connected to one another. At the first flash of "Return of the King", everyone came alive, cheering, whistling and clapping as though something paramount was about to be experienced. (Did anyone else go to the Return of the King, 4 hours and 20 minutes on the big screen Tuesday night?)
Long ago, I became friends and co-admirers with my children of epoch movies and books and rousing ideas. And if I go to the movies with them, I have entrance to their hearts and the issues they cherish there--conversation is always rousing and insightful when we share an experience like this together.
Now,we all want to be a part of a greater story--we want to feel that our lives are meaningful in the greater scheme of things, that somehow we are not invisible to the grand scheme of things, but that our personality, our circumstances and our faith and work will produce something of eternal value in our life time. I love the books that Tolkien wrote, and can see how he gave so many parallels to our own return of the king. (could have done without the orks--but maybe they are an actual representation of those in heavenly places who rail against our efforts to build godliness and faith and courage into our own children--that hand that seems against us at every point.)
So many themes that I love in this movie, and in the books. Loyalty, friendship, endurance, sacrifice for the good of all for fighting against evil, overcoming fears and insecurities of our frail selves, little ones who are used to change the world, deep love and intimacy that comes from serving in a great call together. But, I was overcome with thoughts about the utter importance of community, friendship and relationships.
The fellowship of the men who went in force together was a picture of strength, valor, encouragement necessary for all of us to complete the journey of our own great callings. Family is also designed by God to be one of these communities--all for one and one for all. We are always going to be here for each other. We are called to be a part of each other's lives. It is why relationship based discipleship is so important. When we know we are called by God to bring His light to bear in this dark world, when we group together and say, "I wonder how God will use our family to bring HIs kingdom to bear in our lifetime?" And then when we pursue each other, invest in memories, traditions, celebrations, comforting in trials, we build a strength that can not easily be broken. A family is a powerful unit in holding fast to a calling in life.
But, the church was also called to be that. We were to live in community with like-minded believers who would be there for us in all seasons of life. We were to have the voice of God coming through friends, family, and those who surrounded us in our own fellowship of our ring. People who called out to our best self. People who would love us, warts and all. People who would join us in the fight for righteousness and goodness. Those who would join us in praying for our children as we faced trials and battles constantly.
Yet, Satan has crafted this idea of fierce independence and lone ranger mentality. We even tend to value the one who "did it his way." We admire the tough independent. We think we can stand alone in our trials and battles. We go to large churches where we are not accountable. We do not know our neighbors. This has never been God's way and it has never been Biblical.
Humility, serving one another, sacrificing our lives, giving generously of our time and work, supporting the less fortunate, engaging with the orphan and widow, honoring parents and family--not just with a once a holiday card or flowers, but by our living with them in constant fellowship. God's voice, hands, works, words, service is felt when people exhibit the body of Christ through their own lives. Why do many of us feel lonely? Because the believers in our lives are not reaching out and initiating love and purposing to give of themselves to the believers they know--because of busy-ness and overwhelmingly activities centered lives that prevent personal time to give to those around us.
Moses had Aaron and Hur and his brother and sister and Jethro, his father-in-law. Jesus chose a group of 12 men and the women surrounding them to be his band who would turn the world upside down.
We need people to rally us to our best, to hold us accountable, to talk us out of compromise, to pray for miracles and expectation before God together.
Because I do not have strong family in my area, I have struggled over the years to find such friends. However, at the prompting of a friend who said I needed friends to help hold up my arms, I have intentionally pursued groups of friends as my priority. The ones above are family friends who invest in each other all the time. We serve together at our conferences with their children. We have a once a month family dinner for many years (and if we miss one or two, we make it happen the next month.) We have evolved to a point of spending holidays together when possible or a portion of holidays. I could not have made it without my Shelly and Deb angel friends.
About 3 years ago, I looked at those women who most often came to my Bible study, or called me or emailed me--those most often in my life. I had them all over for a once a month lunch or tea time and friend time. This wonderful group of women have become such better friends. They are now my advisory board and managers of the intensives. We have once a month birthday lunches or gatherings. We sometimes get our families together for a bigger pot luck. We share life and needs. I know that if we stay faithful, we will deepen the ties of our hearts and memories to each other through so many seasons. I would not have made it without them. My beloved fun, differing ages, a variety of personality, different levels of hormones each day (!), ups and downs, as different as the fellowship of the ring, but all for one and all going to follow Him in our great cause together of building a powerful, righteous generation of future leaders right on our own homes.
I have another friend in town, a wise and older friend. We intentionally make time for each other. Every time I am with her, I feel I have been in the presence of God. I have national friends--faraway friends--that I call, email, gather with, whenever possible. I am a weak, fragile person. I do not have all the answers. But I know that if I place myself in the pathway of like-minded, mature women, I will be much more likely to hold fast.
Call your friends, write and call your children, send cards, make meals a time of memory, gather to yourself intentionally those who you love and whom you would like to invest yourself. Develop your own fellowship of the Ring of your own calling, that you might have foundations of strength, support and love in your lifetime through all of the seasons. Don't be a lone ranger Christian.
I would spend more time crafting these words but I am off to a birthday breakfast with one of the fellowship of my ring! :)