by Joanie Butman
I joined a friend at church recently for a prayer service. At one point everyone was standing, but I sat down because I was feeling dizzy. I had my eyes closed so I didn’t notice my companion falling until she ended up right on top of me. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one feeling light-headed. She kept apologizing, and our wooziness must have fed our giddiness because we ended up giggling while the rest of the church continued in worship. Memories of the nuns of my youth coming over and dragging us both out by our ears popped into my head. Luckily, in this church, our laughter was merely perceived as joy.
What a beautiful illustration of friendship. My comrade had no reason to apologize. I can’t think of a greater honor than being able to offer a safe, soft landing area for a friend in need. It is exactly what we are called to do for each other – regardless of our religious beliefs. It doesn’t often translate into someone landing in your lap, but they might land on your doorstep, or crying on your shoulder, or sitting over a cup of coffee, or maybe the situation calls for something stronger – like prayer. Bet you thought I was going elsewhere with that!
Every circumstance calls for its own kind of comfort. Our job is simply to be available, ready to catch each other in a warm embrace. It could be one-on-one (literally), as in the situation with my friend, or it could be as a community. I am lucky to live in a town where I have repeatedly witnessed our community rally around those in need – financially, emotionally, in celebration and in unimaginable grief. We are bound together by our shared humanity with all the joys, sorrows, trials and tribulations that brings. Sometimes you’re the net; sometimes you’re the one in need. Frequently, leaning against each other is the only thing holding you both up.
Fellowship is an integral part of Christianity. From the beginning God recognized that it was not good for man to be alone. In fact, isn’t mutuality the basis of The Golden Rule? Love your neighbor as yourself – the one tenet on which all world religions can agree. I don’t think anyone could argue that we all benefit when we “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thes 5).
The topic of fellowship is foremost on my mind because the summer is a difficult time to maintain a disciplined spiritual life – not because I don’t read devotions or the Bible, but because I’m afloat without my ‘sistas’ with whom I study the Bible during the year. As hard as I try, I’m just not as disciplined alone and eventually find myself in the same spiritual desert every summer. In an attempt to avoid this phenomenon this year, I joined a neighbor’s informal Bible study. I guess I’m not alone in ‘summer slacking’ as one of the members sent out this email that sums up the importance of fellowship: “During the summer months, so many of us become islands unto ourselves and tend to feel spiritually disconnected. This group is a wonderful opportunity for us to nourish our souls and our spirits and to stay focused on God’s Word and its application for us all.” Amen, sista!
Life offers a dizzying array of situations that cause us to lose our balance. We all have weak moments when we grow faint and need a safe landing spot. And when they come, may you be strengthened by the encouragement of others so that you, in turn, can choose to do the same. There is always someone in need of encouragement; you never have to look far. And sometimes, like my friend, they will land unexpectedly in your lap or on your doorstep. Choose to live with an open heart, open arms, and an open door. You never know who will drop in. It might even be a divine landing, whereby you end up in His lap – the softest, most loving landing pad I know.
One of the highest of human duties is the duty of encouragement.
It is easy to laugh at men's ideals; it is easy to pour cold water on their enthusiasm;
it is easy to discourage others.
The world is full of discouragers. We have a Christian duty to encourage one another.
Many a time a word of praise or thanks or appreciation or cheer has kept
a man on his feet.
Blessed is the man who speaks such a word.