Thursdays might be my favorite work day. Not only is Thursday my ‘Friday,’ but most Thursdays during the lunch hour I get to have fellowship with a dear friend.
Now, The Fellowship of the Ring has a positive connotation.
Fellowship in the real world? Not so much.
Fellowship at church? Yikes.
Why? Because church hurts.
I’ve attended church almost weekly since I was 2-ish. When I hear the word ‘fellowship,’ think of being chided to “say hi to the person behind you,” pasting a grin on your face, turning around to see the back of the head of the person you’re supposed to greet.
I think of post-church service coffee time – kinda awkward standing around looking at the other friendly strangers in the room… giving thanks to the LORD on high for the Costco muffins on the table which allow you to stuff your mouth… thereby giving you a ‘pass’ on the whole interaction thing… getting by on the mumbled, “And how you doin’?” “Good!” “Oh great.” “See ya next week.”
The sigh of relief when you’d make it to the parking lot, to your car, & then HOME!
It might be because we often experience underdeveloped, mostly surface-y relationships… which hurts because we talk so much about how deep & meaningful our relationships & fellowship are & ‘should’ be… & when we’re not experiencing that, it’s easy to get desperate, feel frustrated, & to become disillusioned.
It could be disappointment at unmet expectations. Our own (or others) extreme neediness. Unhealth, selfishness, & immaturity in our interactions with others.
Perhaps its the expectation that something of life-changing significance, true fellowship, will take place in a rushed, crowded environment where there’s literally 45 seconds to ‘talk’…
Or it could be that the time we were open & transparent with another, we experienced swift, sure judgment. Where someone (well-meaning or not), attempted to Fix Us. Apply a ready-made, black-and-white, one-size-fits-all church solution to our complex & often gray lives… Where someone’s ‘gift’ to us was their honesty. (If the truth doesn’t happen in love, is it really a gift? But I digress.)
Maybe we end up mistaking real fellowship with the underdeveloped & surface-y relationships… That’s not what fellowship is intended to be. Or what it CAN be. Its definitely not what is referred to in Acts 2:42:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, & fellowship, to the breaking of bread, & the prayers…”
Fellowship (the Greek word “koinonia”) has a literal definition, but also one that is implied – the literal is… “joint participation; communion; sharing in anything; intimacy; community.” I believe that the implied definition would be along the lines of, “prioritized time & space shared with others around a common purpose, resulting in knowing & being known. Mutual encouragement that results in the growth, relationship, & development of all parties…
Which is why I love Thursdays. Lunch hour, we talk & listen… sharing trivialities & meaning of life stuff. Visit & revisit challenges, struggles, joys, & hopes. Wrestle through what God’s saying & doing in & around us. Close with a brief prayer.
I always come away encouraged. Refreshed. Strengthened. Feeling like I’ve grown & am growing in my relationship with God. Thankful to be living life with others – to know that they love me for who I am, & don’t try to fix me.
I know I don’t have it figured out, but I think that fellowship takes patience. Time. Commitment to the long-term. Willingness to grow. Care. Contending for authenticity. Risk. Be vulnerable. To listen. Release another from my need to pass (final) judgment. Encouragement, persistence, & a willingness to hope & want the best for another. Love that unconditionally extends self, embraces another, & trusts the work of God – the Holy Spirit, to do the transforming & fixing.
My life is richer because of fellowship.