In Pursuit of Connection
After 14 years of ministry in the same church, I found myself sitting in the crowded auditorium one Sunday morning feeling very alone. I am pretty sure I wasn't the only one. A common theme I have noticed among women – and all of humanity, really – is the deep-felt need for connection. We long to know and be known.
The military culture I grew up in is one of constant turnover and shifting assignments. Friends I made in September could be gone by June, so I learned quickly to make connections with people. It was easier in school. Connections didn’t take too much effort. They weren’t always deep and intimate, but they were connections nonetheless. That same opportunity for interaction doesn’t always arise for adults.
As I sought to understand this craving I had for connection as an adult, I was sometimes confused. My husband knows me; he knows me well. So, why did I still crave relationship and connection? Over the course of time and the study of God’s Word I began to understand why I had this need.
We All Need Connections
A few years ago, I began studying the book of Titus with a team of women from my church in preparation for a Simeon Trust Workshop. We continued together as we wrote a study guide and taught through Titus. The more time I spent with them, the more I noticed we were coming together less out of obligation and more out of love for one another. As I continued wrestling with Titus, I began to understand I was craving intimate connections with other women in the body of Christ because I needed it!
In the first half of the Titus 2, Paul is instructing Titus to teach the church sound doctrine – and this doctrine very much dictates how we relate to one another. Men are to model for and instruct men, women are to model for and instruct women. We see that women need women. We all need to be in relationship – friendship and fellowship- with each other. These are to be growing, discipling relationships.
Friendships that talk about our children and gardening are the most comfortable to begin. It's easy to compare mom-blog notes, or talk about what you are planting this year. I have some friendships that are like this. We talk about our kids, what movies we like, what games we like to play, and even touch on the hard things, too. But, the friendships I am talking about are not just a based on common interest, workplace, school, or even church, but are relationships that are rooted in and centered around Jesus’ work on our behalf. They have to be intentional. Intentional in pursuit and intentional in transparent loving one another. We are intentional by pointing to Jesus and Scripture as the source of comfort and direction.
We are transparent by creating gospel-rehearsing relationships that confront our sin and drive us to repentance and maturity in Christ. This is what I was craving, though I didn’t know it.
Purpose and Power Grounded in Jesus
Titus tells us why we have these relationships (Titus 2:10). These relationships formed around Jesus are for our good and display the beauty and power of the gospel. When we are in relationships that are grounded in the gospel, we love each other in ways the world cannot comprehend. We don't try to fix each other; we point each other to Christ, who has already provided our fix. We don't judge each other or abandon each other because of something that was said or done. No, we move forward with grace and mercy because of the grace and mercy we have been given.
We are not content to leave each other in our sin, but confront with love and truth and walk beside each other as we pursue repentance. Our connections with one another, our friendships and fellowship with other believers, display who Christ is to the world around us. So, these connections and friendships, while yes, are good and fulfilling for us, ultimately glorify Christ's name.
In my self-conscious humanity, this is incredibly difficult to imagine or accomplish on my own. Why would anyone want to know or be known by me? If they really knew, … How could I possibly contribute to the display of the gospel? I am frail and full of fear. Or I was. Praise God Paul did not stop at verse 10!
These types of relationships are meant to show how great God is and how he changed us. This change would be impossible if not for verses 11-15 of Titus 2. Grace came when Jesus came. It is only because of Christ’s redemption of us that we can know true love and grace; that empowers these relationships. It means we can interact, pointing each other back to our hope of the gospel. Our foundation is what Jesus has done.
It means we are able to seek and establish these types of friendships without fear. Because these friendships are rooted in the worthiness of Christ and what he has done, I do not have to fear being open, transparent, and vulnerable. Because I have been rescued from my sin, I can give grace and love to another who needed rescue, too. These friendships are not based on what I can offer, but based on my pointing to the one who offers freedom from fear.
Pursuing these relationships will foster a community of fellowship that is based on the gospel, displays the gospel, and produces growth in wisdom and godliness. And it seems we’re made for it.
But how do I do this? It’s not kindergarten where I can just walk up to another girl in the sandbox and instantly say, “Let’s be best friends.” It seems more difficult than that as adults. But is it, really? That’s the question we’ll answer in part two of this post. You won’t want to miss it.