God’s Game Pan
- Jen Hatmaker Author, NavPress
- 2007 19 Sep
It’s weird that God called me to writing, because it requires so much isolation. Some writers are reclusive by nature; they hole up in their cabins drinking gallons of vodka and refusing hygiene and human contact. But I am the exact opposite, save the vodka. (That was a joke.)
When my last deadline was approaching, I’d worked around the clock for days. I hadn’t taken a single phone call or left the house. Near the end, my husband deposited our three kids at my Girlfriend Trina’s house so I could work without distractions. After a few hours, I called Trina and asked if I could come over. Brandon looked at me like the mental patient I resembled and said, “Why do you want to go there? All our kids are there! It’s quiet here!” With a melodramatic lump in my throat, I cried, “I’m sick of myself ! I’m sick of silence! I just need a girlfriend!”
At Creation, God declared everything He made good — the light, seas, plants, stars, animals, and finally the man He fashioned. It was all good. Adam began working in the Garden of Eden, walking along the river, tending the land. From God’s own mouth, creation was declared good, good, good.
Until God watched Adam begin the business of living. No, this wouldn’t do. There was a void, a piece of perfection not yet designed. Adam’s productivity was impressive; his physical abilities weren’t lacking. The animals were getting along fine. The natural order God established was flawless. The cycles were balanced. The vegetation was flourishing. The sounds, the smells — earth was a masterpiece. It looked like paradise, yet . . .
God declared, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” Creation was incomplete until humanity was placed together. With Eve, it was truly good. Oh, Girls, it is not good for people to be alone. Isolation is not good. Loneliness is not good. Selfabsorption is not good. The last time a human was alone with God’s blessing, there was only one man on the planet. Since the creation of Eve, God has set us in community.
Read Ephesians 4:1-3.
How would you define “unity of the Spirit”? What is that?
A few synonyms for unity are agreement, unison, unanimity, conformity. Unison? Christians are about the most diverse group on the planet. I suppose that’s why Paul used words like “completely humble,” “gentle,” and “patient.” Peace is the bonding agent among believers, no matter their differences. Peace can exist between conservatives and liberals, Baptists and Catholics, Americans and Europeans, old schoolers and new schoolers.
It can because the Spirit is able.
Henri Nouwen wrote,
Community is first and foremost a gift of the Holy Spirit, not built upon mutual compatibility, shared affection or common interests, but upon having received the same divine breath, having been given a heart set aflame by the same divine fire and having been embraced by the same divine love. It is the Godwithin who brings us into communion with each other and makes us one. It consoles us with the revelation that God indeed does want to create among us the unity we most long for.2 If the Spirit is powerful enough enough to wash a filthy sinner pure as snow and present her to the Father as a specimen of holiness, worthy of eternity, then He can bridge the gap between a hymn lover and an electric guitarist. Do our style preferences matter? Does my denomination require a wall of separation? Does the color of our skin make any difference in God’s holy nation? Where you live, how I worship, where they minister — how have these so fractured the family of God? As Paul reminded us, “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives
its name” (Ephesians 3:14-15).
*On a broad scale, how have you dealt with differences in the whole family of God? Judgmentally? Patiently? Critically? Humbly? Why have you responded this way?
Read Ephesians 4:4-6.
Continuing Paul’s theme, list everything you can think of that is the same among all believers. How are we truly one?
Believer, we are one in all the ways that matter. It’s time to get off our self-righteous soapboxes and live a life worthy of this sacred unity. God has set us in a community of the rescued. What we have in common is enough to celebrate for eternity, yet we prefer to focus on our differences, spewing pride and dissention. And we wonder why the rest of the world doesn’t want to be around Christians.
Girls, the family of God was designed for joy and togethernesson a grand scale. We are to draw together as we draw near to Jesus. I dare you to read two pages of the New Testament and not acknowledge the holiness of community. The entire Word screams this truth.
Godliness is not an individual journey. If it were, then who is all that love for? What is all that service about? Who are we to be patient, gentle, and honest with? Who are we to be kind, compassionate, forgiving, and joyful toward? Why do we have to get rid of bitterness and rage? Why do we need to learn about sacrifice? Who are our spiritual gifts for?
What is the point of community?
Read Ephesians 4:7,11-13.
Paul moves from “one” to “each one” now. List every reason for community you see here.
My teachers have prepared me for works of service — they’ve given me passion for God’s Word and the tools to unpack it. Some taught me from the pulpit; others taught
me over coffee. My girlfriends have exercised grace to me in hundreds of ways. In my community of faith, I’ve been built up. I’ve been loved. My knowledge of Jesus has stretched infinitely. Without God’s family surrounding me, raising me, challenging me, I would’ve settled for my own limited perspective on God’s Word, alone in my ugly behavior and terribly lonely.
Harry Stack Sullivan, an eminent psychiatrist, proposes that all personal growth, damage and regression, and healing come through our relationships with others. By ourselves, we
can only be consumed by selfishness and suffer shipwreck. Who we are at any given moment will be determined by our relationships with those who love us or refuse to love us and with those we love or refuse to love.
*Do you experience the benefits of Christian community Paul described? If so, how have they affected you? If not, what has kept you from them?
I’ve never met anyone who detached himself or herself from God’s church and became better for it. Though it’s trendy to separate Jesus from His church and claim a purer faith, worship void of human error, “All I need is Jesus” is a load of bull. Jesus said the same thing: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. . . .
May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:20-21,23). To forsake Jesus’ church — the one He died for — is to forsake Jesus.
It is not possible to be a growing believer without joining your heart with other hristians. If you think you are, you are being deceived, Friend. God’s heartbeat is for community. Every single command in the Bible was summed up in two life views: (1) love God and (2) love others. It’s not a gray area. It is through believers’ love for each other that God teaches the world. We are living demonstrations of compassion, forgiveness, selflessness — lessons this world is in dire need of. Community is where Jesus strengthens us through His other disciples. It’s the village that raises our children together in God’s family. It’s where the lost, broken, orphaned, and left behind can find open arms. “God sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6).
We are that family.
Copied from Girl Talk, by Jen Hatmaker, © 2007. Used by permission of NavPress, www.navpress.com. All rights reserved.