As we have been celebrating and observing Holy week, and anticipating Easter, my mind was drawn back to a significant event that occurred in our family. My daughter had been living at Selah House, a Christian based residential treatment center for girls who struggled with eating disorders in 2013. This was her third stay at a residential treatment center after previously being at Remuda Ranch in Virginia and Remuda life in Chandler Arizona. Every time we visited Selah House, whether to be with my daughter or for family counseling, our experiences were always very positive and encouraging. We always felt welcome, loved, and very much a part of the family of residents and staff. The day that impacted me the most was graduation day, the day we were bringing my daughter home and celebrating her recovery with all the residents, therapists, and staff. Our family gathered together in the large comfy living room with 10 amazing and precious young girls, along with the counselors, equine therapists, financial experts, the founder, and other staff. Most of our time was spent loving and encouraging each other but focused mainly on our daughter and her impact on her Selah Family, her recovery, and anticipating the future. As we all shared there were many tears and much laughter, but we were all united and committed to each other. I am not sure if I have ever been in an environment consisting of such diversity yet feeling so incredibly connected and loved.
The question that kept rolling around in my mind this week is why were we so connected, such a tight community, and why did we all feel so loved and cared for? All of our stories were unique, and our backgrounds couldn’t have been much more diverse, yet something was drawing us together and we felt inseparable. It was the kind of family that was extremely attractive, and we all longed for. Instead of focusing on our differences we embraced our similarities. Every person was on a journey of suffering and pain, but a journey that involved a similar struggle. All of our lives were directly or indirectly deeply affected by eating disorders. We understood each other and the struggles at a deep level resulting in a connection and understanding that went beyond words to a profound emotional connection. Simply put we ‘got each other’, in spite of the fact that those who hadn’t had our experiences simply didn’t and couldn’t ‘get” us or understand.
I am sure all of us can relate at some level, to finding connections based on common interests or experiences. In our experience when we were open with our struggles and feelings it has opened up brand new worlds and relationships. People trusted us because we had similar experiences and struggles and they no longer felt alone, misunderstood and forgotten in theirs. Yes, all of us are and were very different in how we say or see things, but they were less important than our need to connect, be understood, cared for, and loved.
I have been reminded often this week of the words of Jesus in John 17:21. Jesus’s dying wish was a deep concern for all of us that we would be one. That we would love Him and each other with a deep love that makes us inseparable. A love, community, and family that changes the world, and that all are attracted to and want to be a part of. This community cares more for each other than themselves, gives of their surplus to benefit others, and even lays down their lives for each other and loves their enemies.
As we have been reading through and studying 1 John at Bethany, the theme of Love and unity is undeniable and repetitive. The words in 1 John 5:2 really jumped out at me, and reinforces Jesus’s desire and aim that His death, Resurrection, and the coming of the Holy Spirit result in a unique and unparalleled family of believers that love and connect at a deep level the world has never seen or experienced. John says that we truly love others by observing and following God’s commandments and teachings. Often, we see God’s commands as difficult and burdensome, but the opposite is true as they free us up to be loved and love in a supernatural way that is unattainable from a worldly or human ability. When we are loved by God and Love Him, we become better parents, spouses, siblings, children, employees, employers, and human beings in general. Basically, authentic followers of Christ should live, love, and connect at deeper, purer levels than others because we have a common goal, a common Father, are family, and the Holy Spirit lives within us. Yes, we have many differences, but they should not separate us because we are focused on our and His likeness and what we have in common with Him.
As we observe the world around us and our lives, we often see something different and frightening. Our world and relationships seem to be decaying, frail, on slippery ground, and there is much frustration as the future seems unknown and frightening. People seem unable to agree on much of anything and our differences are highlighted. We are all passionate about many things and troubled why we don’t see life and the world identically. Politics are maddening as no one seems to be too concerned with working together or trying to understand why others see things so differently, walking a day in other’s shoes, or trying to enter and understand their worlds. What about the pandemic? Again, as in politics our differences are highlighted, and we have difficulty trying to understand how others can believe so passionately yet different and opposite of us. Should we wear a mask, social distance, get a vaccine………... the list is endless, maddening, and seemingly without the ability to know the truth or what is best.
I wonder what Jesus would say, or John, or the apostles if they were here today? I am sure they would not be surprised as fighting, selfishness, thirst for power and control, competition, and disagreements have followed humans in every culture and time. One thing for sure Jesus would be and still is deeply concerned with us being “one”, and that His sacrifice would draw us all together with a deep bond that cannot be broken. Just as the early church, anabaptists, and those who have gone before have demonstrated and shown us the way, we also must return to what we have in common and draws us together rather than focusing on our differences.
This is the word God has been impressing on my heart and what I want to share with you. As followers of Jesus let us focus on and rediscover what we have in common and makes us unique. What draws us together and connects us and matters more than all else? What is it that is sure, Truth, without doubt, matters most, and cannot be taken from us? With the rapid development and expansion of the internet, technology, and social media it is easy to see and highlight our differences and lash out at those who feel differently forgetting they are our friends and that we need each other. These smaller and somewhat insignificant worldly matters are not worth losing friendships and family over and are very trivial compared to what God has intended for us. I love the words of C.S Lewis as he says we are often like little children who want to continue making mud pies in a slum rather than imagining the offer of enjoying a holiday at the sea or the infinite joy God offers us. I invite you to avoid foolish controversies, arguments and quarrels that are unprofitable and useless as Titus 3:9 explains. Instead set your minds on things above where Christ is and where we want to be, remembering Philippians 4:8: “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”
As you celebrate this Holy week, may it be a time of encouragement and strength. May you remember what Jesus has done for you, His incredible Grace and Love and desire that you experience this eternal Life beginning now, the best life. May you embrace and celebrate your common bond within the Family of God, yet embracing, learning from, and entering into each other’s uniqueness, and stories. Always remember you and your journey matter to God and to me!! We both would love to enter into your story. God Bless!
1 Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Php 4:8–9). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.