Monday, May 13, 2013

The Things We Didn't Talk About

Hungarian Telephone Factory 1937 Budapest
Yesterday one of my sister's skyped me. My husband and I were very involved in the church where she worshiped right after she became a Christian.  We had many a late night phone conversation, many an evening Bible study, many a dinner together.  She came and cooked for us when our "baby" was still a baby. She's an old friend.

When she called she had much to share.  What's striking is what we didn't talk about.  We didn't gossip about the people we know.  We didn't discuss my kids' school work or her daughter's success in college (she's at my Alma Mater and doing fabulously but that's beside the point).  We didn't complain about our weight, our husbands or even the weather.  What else do women talk about anyway?

We talked about God.  She told me how much she had grown lately, how she's influencing her student's families, how she's teaching a parenting class as an outreach, how she's learned so much about prayer and how it sustains us.  She told me a sad story about how it hurt to confront a brother in her church but that he confessed and asked her to pray for him.  

She's not just a friend.  She's my sister, my encourager, my student and my teacher.  

The spiritual discipline of "soul friendship" is called that because it relates to having a friend with whom you can share spiritual things. Although I am usually a big fan of using bible words for bible things, I like the term "soul friendship" for fellowship because in the bible the examples we see are often pairs or trios of people.  Think for example of Jesus withdrawing on to the mountain, going in to see Jairus's daughter or away to pray in Gethsemane.  Who did he take?  Peter, James, and John.  Or consider other famous bible pairs, David and Jonathan, Moses and Aaron, Elijah and Elisha, Paul and Barnabas, Paul and Silas and Paul and Timothy.   

I like the term fellowship too. But I am sorely afraid that we use the term to mean any time that Christians happen to be together especially if there are casseroles involved.  I haven't got anything against casseroles, honest.  But I am firmly convinced that we need more than food and the preacher saying grace to qualify an event as real fellowship.

As a younger Christian I often wondered at how things like church discipline or confession could work in real life.  We all have friends who are more likely to cheer us on than chastise us for our sin don't we? As a college student surrounded by other Christians and developing real soul friendships, the idea became much clearer.  We can confess to someone who hates our sin as much we do, and who loves us better than we love ourselves.  We can be blessed by church discipline when it means that we give up our sin or we give up the most important people in our lives.  Both of these hinge on us having deep relationship with our sisters and brothers.

If you're wondering about it being a discipline, let me share one more thing about that phone call.  Even though I needed the encouragement, it had been months since I talked to that sister of mine.  The discipline of soul friendship is deciding to enjoy it on a regular basis!  So if we wanted to practice it, we'd call our sister every Tuesday to talk about God.  We'd have a bible study at our house, the kids could romp, we'd all eat pizza and we learn from each other.  Twice a year we'd get together with old friends, and sure we'd pass around the brownies and giggle over old stories, but we'd also share what we'd learned this year and the deepest convictions of our souls.

We need these friendships. Jesus did too.  I suspect you already have Christian women that you love.  The next step is to be with them on purpose.  Give them a call and instead of talking about kids, husbands and housecleaning, talk about where you are in your Bible reading, the sins you struggle with everyday, and the joy you've found in your Father's hand.  

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