One who does not surrender his views and opinions to God will continue to be a god unto himself. He also will continue to experience the same hurts and difficulties as before.
~ Jim Richards, The Gospel of Peace
It should have been easy to return to what I know is right. I’ve spent the last couple of years eating too much of the wrong stuff and not moving enough. I know what to do, but by the end of 2016 I had to admit I wasn’t doing it. “Kristi,” I told those puffy eyes in the mirror, “you need help.”
Wisdom isn’t just knowing. If knowing were enough, no one would smoke, drink coffee or eat deep fried anything. No one would ever try meth. Everyone would do yoga and work reasonable hours. Obviously, we need more than information.
I needed help. Not education, but motivation and socialization. We all have those times. If you’re heading towards a goal that isn’t a block away, you’ll get tired. You’ll get scared or frustrated, bored, lonely or discouraged. Your usual crew will be sympathetic, but let’s get real—they don’t want to hear about every struggle and cheer every tiny triumph. They’re not mean, they’re just into other things. It helps to join a team of people who are taking the same steps, hitting the same hurdles, sharing tricks and trading cheers.
I joined Weight Watchers. This is not an ad, although the program has helped me several times. Instead, this is the beginning of a series. Don’t fret, it’s not about weight loss. You don’t want to read about that every week—that’s why Weight Watchers has its own social media site. This is a series about interacting, about forming and sustaining relationships. I enjoy being at home alone in my fuzzy pants just like you, but solitude gets us stuck sometimes. Now, my jeans fit.
Jesus spent forty days in the desert alone with the Father, but then He collected twelve friends and spent three years with them. In John 13:34 NIV, He said, “A new command I give to you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” How did He love them? He put up with their quarrels, laughed with them so much people accused them of being drunkards, lifted their faith, empowered them, taught them and forgave them. He regularly found time to be alone and pray, but He understood we need community.
We resist that need. Community is awkward. We have to adjust our communication styles in order to understand and be understood. It’s inconvenient. We have to share our time and sometimes our toys. It’s occasionally irritating. We have to be patient, accepting and clear about our boundaries. People let us down, and we have to be vulnerable anyway. People bring us down, and we have to lift them up. None of this is a surprise to God. He knows how people are. His command remains unchanged, because He’s smart. He knows He can use us in the lives of others. He wants to use our interactions to make us who we can be.
After Jesus ascended, the community He’d formed changed the world.
Stick with me. We’ll talk about asking for and giving help, setting and maintaining boundaries, communicating and clarifying, dealing with conflict, having fun and being authentic. We’ll practice, and we’ll enjoy it.
Let’s start by asking God for help. Psalm 121 NIV says, “1I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? 2My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” If you’re over the age of 13, you’ve experienced trust issues. Before we can be brave enough to build relationships, we have to understand God is our source. People are not. Before we reach out to another human being, we must tie our knot with God and check it regularly. He’s the one who will hold us steady as we climb.
Lord, whether we’re social experts or hermits, there are things You want to show us. Teach us this year, so we can be more comfortable and capable in every situation. Draw us so close to You that every time we enter a room, it brightens with Your light.