Hi everyone, Ian from Sydney here.
For most of my SUM married life I thought I was okay doing the Christian life on my own. I’m an introvert by nature and enjoy my own company and for a number of years struggled with being in crowded situations. I still do and will usually choose to sit on the end of rows in any theatre or auditorium. This is purely a relief mechanism so that I know I can ‘get out’ quickly if I need to.
As we’ve talked about many times over the years, it’s often easier for us Christians to maintain peace in our households by not engaging too much in church activities and such like. I’ve actually been very blessed by my wife who has always actively encouraged me to attend church: she knows it’s good for me. However, I resisted for years getting involved in other activities. I typically engaged in things that could be done at home (eg, virtual prayer team) and things I could do on my own, ie, reading/studying/quiet time.
Don’t get me wrong; I particularly enjoy one-on-one conversation and rarely struggle chatting with people. I work on the principle that ‘everyone likes to talk about himself or herself’ and so very easily slip into asking people questions about their life. I can easily spend a decent amount of time with someone and know a reasonable amount about them and they’ll be none the wiser about me. I mostly go away feeling pretty content.
Fell in Love
A few years ago something changed. I feel in love. With Jesus. I’m not exactly sure of the date and time but it occurred around the time I was invited to join one of our prayer teams that involved meeting fortnightly. In addition, we were asked to attend another weekly prayer session that met for one hour each Wednesday night with an expanded group of between 15-20 people.
It was an honour to be asked to join this group. Its leader was the Prayer Pastor for my church and she has a wonderful relationship with the Lord. The group had been together for a number of years and there was this unity and connection that I soon came to desire. Not just with each other but with the Lord.
As I mentioned in my last post, I’m an avid learner. Everyday I seek to learn. But interestingly as I mature I realise the importance of “unlearning.” There are so many habits we develop that can only be changed by incorporating new ones and unlearning the existing ones. As I was thrust into these two groups I was learning habits of prayer and worship but at the same time having to let go or unlearn others that I had held onto for so many years.
The Power of Community
Part of this process of unlearning I’ve found requires a willingness to receive. A willingness to open up and allow others to love me, to teach me, be willing to sit at their feet and learn. This can involve moments of tremendous vulnerability. And learning to trust.
I’ve discovered that in my habits of relationship of learning lots about the other I have inadvertently ‘closed’ myself off from others. I wasn’t allowing them to love me. Yes, I expect this behaviour started in my teens and has simply continued. Habits are like that. Am I afraid of revealing myself? Sure. I must be. But it’s also brought me much frustration regarding my friendships. It takes two to tango doesn’t it?
We were made for community. God is communal in His very nature- three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And we are formed in His image. Therefore, for us to achieve all we are to as humans we require some form of community.
So we can only mature in our relationship with the Lord in a communal context. Yes, it’s critical we develop sound disciples of solitude, silence and prayer in the secret place but we also need community. For many of us we've discovered the wonders of being members of this community and some special friendships have developed as a result.
“Grace is a community you enter.” (Bill Thrall and Bruce McNichol)
Grace is a concept that I’m only now really beginning to understand. I’ve probably limited it to the notion that it is “unmerited favour” but now I’m coming to realise it is all around us. It is what God is. Grace is always available. We’ve just got to enter into it.
Loving community is a place where grace resides. Jesus is in the centre of it.
Humility and Grace
This is another concept I’ve probably misunderstood. “Humility is trusting God and others with me. Humility is not only how you enter this community, it is how you live in it everyday.” (Thrall and McNichol)
When we trust, we open the door for grace to walk in. This activates the Lord’s power to work in our life. To change our habits, to rid us of sin, to love more generously and compassionately, and so on. I’ve witnessed this in my own life these past few weeks as I shared one of my struggles with my wife and a good friend. Almost immediately as a result of both of their non-judgmental acceptance and love, the struggle has lost much of its power.
I’d love it if others were able to share instances of when you’ve seen “grace walk in” and change elements of your life.