Have you ever been taken for a ride by those you thought were friends?
Stable relationships or the lack thereof can profoundly impact us as leaders within the communities we serve. ‘Where two or three gather in his name, there he is.’
‘Lord, draw near.’
Years ago, I recall a leader confessing his struggle with being a ‘lone ranger’ in ministry incapable of vulnerable trust, perhaps in part due to personality or lingering inner wounds, but compounded by the difficulty of discovering steadfast spiritual friends who walk the journey without wavering. Finding one who will consistently join us in tending the pastures of our souls at any length or depth, or to faithfully be in prayer with us for the concerns of the church, may well come with hoarseness of voice crying in the silence of our hearts to the One who sticks closer than any brother on many lonely nights.
We know we have been blessed if we are capable of naming one such person in our lives.
I am blessed.
In the stampeding roar of competition for our attention, if we receive the gift of hearing and genuinely being heard for who we are and where we’re really at, we are less easily spooked by the unpredictable noise of congregational and collegial life. We are more likely to stand firm when confrontation yips at the gate. We are less fearful of being corralled into dysfunctional group dynamics. We are more receptive to blazing trail and less skitterish of the unfamiliar. When we know we are loved, we can risk loving others.
Maybe one of us is struggling with isolation, unsure who will graze in peace with us as the pressures mount or adversaries jump the fence of pretence and try to silence us, or pen us into open compliance with their will, or lasso our longing for an abundant life in the Spirit, or capture our commitment to free those who are held captive by an imcomplete view of grace to walk together as brothers and sisters.
It is my prayer that in these few moments together we will remember that there are others who face the day with us, hearts, minds and wills all turned in the same direction and acknowledging the Source of spiritual friendship, washed in his love to live in love.
The strength we gain from true fellowship in Christ leaves us chomping at the bit to experience the intimacy of shared lives and united leadership for the common good with regularity. We long to run this race in healthy relationship with one another, challenging barbed fences which separate us in our call to serve as those who work to overcome lines of distinction based on a shocking lack of gracious understanding regarding the gospel’s unifying implications.
And yet there are times when we are saddled with those who would take advantage of what is perceived as weakness instead of meekness – the quiet glory of power under control. In revolt, they seek to gain the upper hand in ways which do not yield the reins to God nor submit to one another in reverence to Christ, taking us for an uneasy ride with an uncertain destination.
Dear friend, I don’t need to tell you that in community we may be deeply hurt or thrown aside, made fearful of becoming unequally yoked, choked by disillusionment.
The turf of dignity and respect may be trampled underfoot and the ground of unity and peace may at times becomes muddied with unrestrained displays of forceful self-promotion. Pastoral scenes of herds safely grazing together on the living words which never fail to bless may regress into frenzied whinnying and whining in a heyday of greedy grasping for control. Where our interactions have failed to become subservient to the Master’s touch and simply become a thin disguise which awaits an opportunity to bolt, relationships suffer and trust disappears. The security of living in peace may be left in the dust of careless words and actions in an unbridled lack of sanctified discipline.
Thrashing hooves of harshness destabilize the whole and may temporarily knock the wind out of us. We may suffer at the hands of brute force when dissension gallops across green pastures with abandon, stirring trouble in its wake … and we may want to pull away from relationships altogether to join the herd of ‘lone rangers’ from a safe distance.
But it behooves us not to give up on community, for it is in mature relationships which rightly point us to the attentiveness of the One we serve, that we also become able to rise above the neighing negativity to be refreshed in familial bonds within the family of God. Perhaps we falter temporarily when the halter around our sense of shalom is tightened and constricts. But in Christ, we are not harnessed to our fears. We are free to love and be loved in return in the stability of his design for our lives.
There is a Friend who stays closer than any other, and that makes all the difference.
May you be blessed with a faithful companion as you serve the world in his love.
“Loving Friend, where motions at meetings ignore the boundaries of grace and wisdom, where the beauty of meekness – majesty and power under control – is marred, where the bars of protection against malicious untruth, unsavoury gossip, and judgemental assassination of character or motivation have come down and given free reign to galloping feet of hasty remarks harmfully marking the souls of individuals and communities alike, lead us back to the Door of secure love and eternal relationship in you.