A Gem From Life Together
As we contemplate ways of encouraging spiritual family, the classic book by Bonhoeffer, Life Together comes to mind. There is too much meat in that little book to cover thoroughly in a single article, but there is a gem of truth from that book that I?d like to recall and think about.
Ever since I became a believer during the Jesus movement and spent the first 8 years of my Christian experience in a commune, I have had the impression that spiritual family was the essence of a true and valid Christian life. After leaving the commune, I was disappointed in the depth of relationship I found in regular churches. I felt I had a relationship soupspoon that was too large for the shallow relationship bowl I was eating from in mainline churches. In the intervening years, I have gravitated to a Christian life focused on relationships, as opposed to being focused on being a part of an organization.
A Walk in the Park
Last Tuesday evening my wife Penny and I were walking our dog in the park near our house. Up ahead we saw a homeless man sitting on a park bench.
We assumed he was homeless because of the large backpack on the bench next to him. But, as we got closer, we noticed that it was a young man who looked very well groomed for someone who was homeless. He was reading a Bible that looked so new that the gold edge on the pages reflected in the setting sun.
After we passed by, I felt a nudge on my heart. I mentioned to my wife that we should go back to the house, put some food in a bag for him, then come back, and give him a little money as well. She agreed, sensing the same ?unction? of the Holy Spirit.
That was how we got to know Zach. He told me his story; that he had been a Bible teacher at a church and used to have a full time job. Zach told us that, in 2013, God told him to do a faith walk from Texas to Florida. God commanded him to stay out of shelters, missions, etc.
At first, Zach explained, he stayed in hotels and ate in restaurants until all his savings were used up. God challenged Zach to trust Him for his needs. He did not go to shelters and he did not hitchhike, he just trusted the Lord. Rides were offered to him along the way, as well as food.
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When I left home at 17 to go to college, I was ready to be separated from my family by a few hundred miles. I loved my family. They were supportive and nurturing. I knew they loved me and wanted the best for me. So why was I ready to start living on my own?
I was 17 and ready to be an adult. However, there was more to it. I was tired of being told what to do. I was so close to my family that they got on my nerves. My sister and I would fight quite often.
I think our family was normal. We loved each other and sometimes we bothered each other. Sure, I missed them when I was at college, but I enjoyed having some space to my own that wasn?t being invaded by family who were always asking too many questions about my life.
While at college, I had a personal encounter with Jesus and ended up moving to a Christian Commune on an 80-acre farm. I stayed there for eight years. At first, I was really attracted to the idea of having a spiritual family. It was the 70?s and the beginning of the Jesus Movement. Brothers and sisters who were about my same age surrounded me. They had been swept into the Kingdom by the sovereign move of the Holy Spirit. I also had fathers, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers in the faith who were older than most of us were and were helping show us the way.
We worked together, ate meals together. We built living quarters for the influx of new young believers that seemed to arrive every week. We farmed the land. Grew our own vegetables, raised our own livestock. We had our own printing business and construction business. Our meetings were completely open; anyone was free to share what the Lord was putting on their heart. Some of the brothers and sisters would get new songs that just fell on them during our worship services. Some of those songs are still sung today many years later.
It seemed like heaven on earth, I was part of a wonderful family. As the years went on, I started to see problems with the authority structure in the group. Some of the people started getting on my nerves. I suppose I got on some people?s nerves as well. I found myself cherishing time alone, since other people constantly surrounded me. We had become a group of 120 living communally on an 80-acre farm.
Eventually, after 8 years, most of us left the group and decided to live lives that were more normal. I missed many of the people in the group. Over the intervening years, some of us still see each other from time to time. It varied from two couples getting together, to a few couples, to a full on reunion. The thing that is amazing is that when we see each other, it is like we haven?t missed a day. You see, we are family. We know each other so well. Even the passage of time doesn?t change that.
Once you become family, even years apart doesn?t change the closeness we feel. We look forward to getting together. But, if we spend too much time together, we start remembering why this person got on our nerves. So the demands of life come in and we have to end our time together, and then we look forward to the next time we will see each other.
How do you know when you have become a spiritual family? When you react to them the same way you react to you natural family. You love them so much that at times you can?t stand to be around them, but if you haven?t seen them for years, it is like you haven?t missed a day, because you know them so well. And you miss them.
?God sets the lonely in families.? (Psalm 68:6)
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