“Waking the Dead: The Glory of a Heart fully alive” by John Eldredge; a small part of Chapter 11- “Fellowship of the Heart”
Going to church with hundreds of other people to sit and hear a sermon doesn’t ask much of you. It certainly will never expose you. That’s why most folks prefer it. Because community will. It will reveal where you have yet to become holy, right at the very moment you are so keenly aware of how they have yet to become holy. It will bring you close and you will be seen and you will be known, and therein lies the power and therein lies the danger. Aren’t there moments when all those little companies, in all those stories, hang by a thread? Galadriel says to Frodo, “Your quest stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little and it will fail, to the ruin of all. Yet hope remains while the Company is true.”
We’ve experienced incredible disappointments in our fellowship. We have, every last one of us, hurt one another. Sometimes deeply. Last year there was a night when Stasi and I laid out a vision for where we thought things should be going- our lifelong dream for redemptive community. We hoped the Company would leap into it with loud hurrahs. “Hurrah for John and Stasi!” Far from it. Their response was more on the level of blank stares. Our dream was mishandled- badly. Stasi was sick to her stomach; she wanted to leave the room and throw up. I was. . .stunned. Disappointed. I felt the dive toward a total loss of heart. The folllowing day I could feel my heart being pulled toward resentment. Moments like that usually toll the beginning of the end for most attempts at community.
Seriously now- how often have you seen this sort of intimate community work? It is rare. Because it is hard, and it is fiercely opposed. The Enemy hates this sort of thing; he knows how powerful it can be, for God and his kingdom. For our hearts. It is devastating to hiim. Remember divide and conquer? most churches survive because everyone keeps a polite distance from the others. We keep our meetings short, our conversations superficial. “So Ted, how’s everything going on the Stewardship Committee?” “Oh, just great, Nancy. We’ve got a big goal to reach this year, but I think we’ll be able to get that gym after all.” No one is really being set free, but no one is really at odds with each other, either. We have settled for safety in numbers- a comfortable, anonymous distance. An army that keeps meeting for briefings, but neverr breaks into platoon and goes to war.
Living in community is like camping together. For a month. In the desert. Without tents. All your stuff is scattered out there for everyone to see. C’mon- anybody can look captured for Christ an hour a week, from a distance, in his Sunday best. But your life is open to those you live in community with. Some philospher described it like a pack of porcupines on a winter night. You come together because of the cold, and you are forced apart because of the spines. Here we go again. Why does Jim always have to be discouraged? I’m sick of encouraging him. And what is it with Mary and her inability to stop talking about herself? Why is Brian always so guarded? These people bug me.
However, there are two things you now have that you didn’t have before, and they enable this sort of fellowship to work. First, you know the heart is good. That is the missing key in most fellowships. Your heart is good, and the others’ hearts are good. This makes it so much easier to trust and to forgive. Whatever may be happening in the moment, whatever the misunderstanding might be, I know that our hearts toward one another are good, and that we are for one another. Craig says something that stings. If I thought, You now, he meant that; he’s trying to hurt me, it would pretty quickly trash the relationship. But I know that is not his heart toward me; that is not who he truly is. If I thought it was, why, I’d turn tail and run.
Second, we know we are at war. The thought that says, Oh, brother, here goes Frank again. Why can’t he just drop it about his mother? What is it with these people? They’re not really my friends. I’m outta here. that’s the Enemy. You must remember that the Enemy is always trying to pull everyone else to do to you what he is doing to you. As I said earlier, he creates a kind of force field, a gravitational pull around you that draws others into the plot without their even knowing it. Gary walks into the room and, suddenly, I’m irritated at him. It’s not me, and it’s not him. I have to know that. His lifelong assult has been, “If you can’t get it right, we don’t want to be with you.” It’s a lie. It’s the Enemy. I don’t feel that way toward him really. But unless I live with this awareness, keep a watchful eye out for it, and resist, I’ll get sucked into the pull, start making agreements with it, and there goes the friendship.