You make known to me the path of life;
in Your presence there is fullness of joy;
at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11.)
i think i wrote about something similar to this my last time on the blog: fall has gone from being one of my most hated seasons to one of my favorites. i’m a sucker for cold mornings and evenings, with warm days and afternoons. i’m a sucker for playoff baseball, college football, and a pumpkin spice latte. i’m a sucker for wearing my jacket. so you’ll forgive my exuberance at this time of year, dear reader, because on certain days my heart feels so full of joy that it could burst.
now, i’m not of the mind that God is only interested in our happiness – that is by no means true. i think holiness supersedes happiness and i think it is dangerous to think otherwise. however, i am of the mind that sometimes God gifts us with our favorite things to remind us He’s faithful. i’m of the mind that God loves us through His people, and often times we can experience an emotional sensation of the love of God because of certain people who are around; and i’m of the mind that the heavens declare the glory of God and we can be convinced/reminded of the love and faithfulness of God in the form of a beautiful sunrise, a cool summer breeze, or a chilly fall evening.
i spent an afternoon about a month or two ago at the Arboretum (one of my favorite Lexington spots) sitting by a tree with my bible, journal, and some worship music in my ears. as the ideal July (let’s just assume it was July, anyway) afternoon – complete with a cloudless sky and mild chill – passed by, i was reminded of the numerous conversations i’ve had at the Arboretum: the countless times my dear friend Jess and i sat by the “crying tree” and discussed boy/girl problems and our thoughts on certain parts of Christian culture; the time that Sean and i talked by another tree about the transitions we were both in and how doggone hard it is to write a book; the few Bible studies i’d had there; and from there, i got to thinking about how many amazing, incredible people that God has/had put in my life, especially in the last year.
(i don’t know where you’re at, reader. my hope is that this portion of my story provides you with deep encouragement.)
at the end of the year 2015, i was pretty broken, pretty lonely. i’ve written about it many times in past blogs, so i will not prolong the point, but – i had largely turned my back on the church, i was pretty much alone. i lived in a cramped apartment that i hated, and i was pretty happy with my job but still had my days where i needed/wanted to get away from it. i still wrote a fair share, which is probably how i coped, but what i really needed and wanted was community, a sense of friendship. this continued more or less all through 2016. everyone felt at an arm’s length – there were people that i worked with, people i served, and people i occasionally grabbed a beer with, but there weren’t many folks that i really knew, or who knew me (not to mention that i felt pretty self-estranged, given some of the stuff that happened in 2015.)
put simply, i needed a friend or few.
pretty amazing how God sometimes lets us get desperate for something so that we know that it’s He who comes through. someone shared that thought with me this week – that even Adam in the garden was given time to be alone so that it became clear that he needed someone else around.
at the beginning of this year, it seems that God opened the floodgates of friends. He took me from a very select few (outside of co-workers) to introducing me to a massive group of young adults in Lexington. my “base” blew up pretty quickly, and it wasn’t long until i had a number of things i could do every week on almost any night of the week, usually with a swath of people.
this reality has been overwhelming me lately in the best possible way. the other day i had a dream in which i got to see and embrace a very old friend until the point we cried. funnily enough, the next day i got to see a bunch of folks i hadn’t seen a few months, and then that weekend, folks from Berea that i hadn’t seen in years. i actually did weep on the way out of that gathering – partly out of pride for seeing how well these people were doing and how much some of them had grown; partially out of gratitude that i got to call them friends and gratitude that i got to see them again, and partly out of an overwhelming sense of joy that God has enriched this extrovert with so many incredible people, both back home (where i’m from) and in Lexington (new home.)
see, i guess the point i’m getting at is not so much how lucky i am (although that is true, and i could go on and on about the things that have filled me with both happiness and deep joy) but maybe let’s talk about the role that we are meant to play in each other’s lives.
i’m gonna take a liberty or two in my interpretation of scripture real quick (although i may not need to do so.) in Ephesians 4, Paul’s talking to the church about how God gave the different types of ministers – apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers – for the sake of equipping the saints to do the work of ministry. my stretch here is that maybe we can just lump those five-fold ministry gifts together and say that God gave us each other (whether you’re an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, a shepherd, or a teacher) as a whole to equip and encourage and spur one another on for Kingdom work. i don’t know about you, but i find myself (even subconsciously) responding in light of this call from Paul, in the sense that when i find myself around God’s people, i’m more and more encouraged to do God’s work. in other words, the reason God gives us each other is to settle once and for all the question of whether or not we’re loved so that we can move on to Kingdom work. Hebrews backs this up in chapter 12, verse 1 – since we’re surrounded by this great cloud of witnesses, let’s lay aside every weight…and run the race that’s before us.
i’m convinced that this is the role we play for each other – we testify to each other of God’s goodness, love, and faithfulness so that we can all go forward with Kingdom work. i’ve been searching for an analogy, but the best one i can come up with is this: i think we’re like bricks. every brick in a building has four bricks around it – it has a brick that supports it, a brick on either side, and a brick that it upholds. together, each one playing its role, they form a building, in this case – the house of God.