written by Dori Bitikofer
Church Family. I was reminded of this phrase as I watched our church welcome in new members. Standing in front of the congregation and going through the formality of membership does not automatically make us family. Time, openness, and selfless acts are required to build deep relationships with others.
We have become close to one of the families brought into membership that morning. This young mother and I often chat about our lives, large and small struggles, and dreams for the future. Although our upbringings were much different, we find connection in our interests and desire for growth and accountability. We have become family.
Family. What does this word mean to us? For some it means warmth, connectedness, belonging, love. For others it evokes feelings of disconnect, loneliness, heartache, or even competition.
When building relationships, are we seeking those who need friendship?
Are we taking the time to ask God with whom we should be investing time?
Recently, God has been challenging me in this area. Despite my self-doubts, I have been obeying. I am learning that God doesn’t expect me to accomplish the impossible – that’s His expertise. Although I have many short comings, He has equipped me through positive and negative circumstances with unique insights, words of advice, understanding and compassion. I am growing to trust His requests of my time involvement with others. I am also learning to trust myself, acknowledging my own worthiness to be used by God in this way.
These deeper relationships often lead to deep, spoken words. These words can cause pain if we aren’t careful. Oftentimes I am gripped by fear of speaking the wrong words. As I cry out in desperate prayer for the right approach, phrase, heart desire … God answers. I am humbled and awe-filled as God places words in my heart to speak. I am learning to trust the words He whispers from deep within me.
Because these relationships are not one-sided, I must also be open to words God places within my friends for me. Although these words are for my benefit, they are sometimes unexpected and difficult to process. If I am not actively seeking God, I may only hear the words of the speaker and miss the deeper meaning of the One who inspired those words. When I am seeking to hear God, I will notice His voice speaking through others.
Ephesians 4:25, 29, 32, 5:1 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body… but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs …Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
May we not only see deeply, but also listen deeply and care deeply.
Used by permission from The Burning Bush, Franklin Conference newsletter.