This time of year is often one of reflection: looking back at the year that is bidding us adieu and contemplating the beneficial things that ought to be repeated and those areas that require action of another sort.
Although it hasn’t been my custom, last year I took the Word of the Year quiz at dayspring.com. (My word last year was delight. You can read about that here.) I wrote this simple prayer: Lord, with Your help, may I always find my delight in You and in Your Word; and, in turn, may I be a delight to You and to those whose lives are intertwined with mine. Though it wasn’t always true, I did find much delight in His Person and in His works this past year.
It was interesting to reflect on this word and the paths I walked with Him, so I decided I would do that again today.
Surprisingly, my word was “gather”. At first I thought, “Gather? That doesn’t seem right. Surely that’s not a word that’s supposed to be in there. It doesn’t seem overly inspirational.” I took a look at the verses Dayspring shared for this word.
“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”Matthew 18:20
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”Galatians 6:2
“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honour giving preference to one another…”Romans 12:10
Do you notice a connection between these verses? For me, one idea stood out. Relationships.
In our context, the Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines gather as:
- to bring together
- to cluster around a focus of attraction
- come together in a body
- to grow, increase
People gathered together. Whatever you may call it: Relationships. Family. Friends. Community. Church. Tribe. Crew…
I’ve shared before that I enjoy having people around, showing hospitality to friends, family and strangers alike. I love it when my kids and their friends invade. I like meeting new people. However, as an “introvert living in an extrovert’s body” socializing is hard work and I need alone-time to recharge. The problem I face is, sometimes, this becomes a justification for cocooning myself away for too long or avoiding some social engagements.
In September, after a particularly busy summer, I decided I really need to focus on my children who still live at home. These last few years, as we transitioned into full-time ministry, have not been easy for them. My df girl, the older of the two, is turning eighteen in 2020. This is her last year homeschooling and I’ve felt like we really need to be intentional about this for her and for my cl boy, as well.
I’ve also been thinking about cultivating relationships in general. With many connections and being in ministry and reaching out to people in the community, it often seems that we just “brush” lives in passing. That is sometimes necessary and even, perhaps, all that the Lord has intended for some. Unfortunately, those closest to us, relationship-wise, often get neglected because of the volume of people coming and going. My desire is to be deliberate about reaching out to others regularly and to nurture the closest relationships in my life.
So, having divulged this information, you can see that “gather” is not entirely out of the realm of my focus already.
Let’s go back to the verses laid out for gather and see what we can glean about relationships.
Two or three gathered together with Christ in the midst.
Relationships with other Christians is vital to our growth. We need community: to seek counsel from one another, to pray together, to enjoy fellowship. Two are better than one and, most important, are the bonds that are united with Christ, the third strand that makes every relationship stronger (Ecclesiastes 4).
Bear one another’s burdens.
We require people to depend on, to be transparent with, to walk alongside during the hard stuff. I have my love and a couple of close friends that I would go to for prayer, as well as our lovely group of ladies’ Bible study gals, knowing that they would be both trustworthy and faithful in my time of need.
This brings me to the final verse. I will, as I am wont to do, add the surrounding verses:
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. Therefore “IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM; IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP COALS OF FIRE ON HIS HEAD.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:9-21
The verses prior to these talk about our relationship with God. We are to commit to Him all that we are: our bodies (verse 1), our minds and our wills (verse 2). Paul then goes on to describe our relationship with others (does this remind you of Luke 10:27?), believers in particular, but “all men” as well, with one overriding thought: Love sincerely.
These verses have me reeling with the full import of their words. Though I want my relationships to be defined in such a way, sadly that is often not the case. There is so much to be observed in this passage and others with similar mandates that I couldn’t possibly do it justice in one short post. However, I share it with you that, perhaps, you might ponder it in your own heart as will I, listening to God and praying for His sincere love to shine forth through us, even in spite of us.
Lord, let me live the days that you have given me as one who loves others as You do. Let me see past the masks and rough edges into the recesses of broken hearts that I may love not in word only but in practical, nurturing ways, cultivating ties that are reflective of the perfect love of Christ.