Three months has been a long time.
As our churches began to open for small group gathering last week, we collectively rejoiced, breathed a sigh of relief, and enjoyed our time together; voices raised in song, united in prayer, standing together.
We missed smiling faces, the words of encouragement, and sharing testimonies of God’s grace. These simple joys were likely taken for granted before 2020, as routine meshed one week into the next.
But not anymore.
Experiencing life without each other has lit a new flame in our hearts, a hunger for community; to continue, “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 5:19-20).
While this newfound delight has given us much to look forward to, it presents a contrasting opportunity to reflect on the reasons we didn’t miss gathering together.
(Am I allowed to say that out loud?)
Is it possible there were some of us who didn’t mind the sheltered, quiet worship within the confines of our homes?
Those of us with littles experience the frazzle of getting everyone out the door on Sunday mornings. Now, wearing our joggers, kiddos still in pajamas, we were watching the online service; it was simpler, and quite comfortable.
Personalities we find difficult to relate with have been out of sight. Existing in isolation from people limited opposing opinions to social media, where you can just keep on scrolling (or block) past what you don’t like. We haven’t needed to face those who may have hurt us, or navigate our insecurities as we compare ourselves to the woman next to us. Giving our time to serve, is a practice that has faded as social activities became obsolete.
Does any of this resonate with you?
If we’re honest, we can acknowledge there are aspects of community that are challenging. It’s the nature of relationship. Since we’ve been sitting on the sidelines of social networking the last while, we may begin to notice our emotions reacting quickly, perhaps with some anxiety, fears or frustration.
If we pay attention, these emotions can propel us toward growth; to hold tighter to our identity in Christ, to practice sacrificial love, and humble service. See, Ephesians 5 goes on to encourage our, “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph 5:21). It’s not just the wonderful worship we gather for, but to follow the example of Jesus in putting others before ourselves. Then, in Proverbs we are also reminded “iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Prov 27:17), and through community we are blessed to both give and receive.
So, my prayer as we enjoy this time of unity once again, is for us to “encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thess 5:11); to recognize our tendencies and weaknesses, that we might spur one another on toward love and good deeds, glorifying our Father in heaven.