I am a truly blessed man.
I should start by saying that I am a dyed-in-the-wool introvert (no, that’s not the reason I consider myself to be blessed). My default setting is toward solitude. I’ve learned to enjoy myself at parties and social gatherings, but they still sap my energy. When I get home, I need some time to myself to recover.
Yes, recover. If you’re an extravert, that might be hard to imagine. But there are lots of people like me.
We just don’t talk about it a lot. (We’re introverts, remember?)
But none of that is to say that I believe anyone should do life alone.
I am blessed because of the wonderful people I have in my life. My wife and I have been together over 40 years; what a privilege to walk this journey with such a godly, smart, and compassionate woman. I have the confidence of knowing that my brothers and sisters in our church family pray for me, and would come running if I call. (Admittedly, it would take a lot for me to make that call. But that’s another story.) And while many people lament over the drudgery and annoyances of their work, I love my vocation and the colleagues with whom I stand shoulder to shoulder in our shared ministry. Even when we disagree, I know we’ve got each other’s back.
Often, when I get busy and distracted, I can take all this for granted. And when things aren’t going well, I can get frustrated and start moaning over this or that obstacle. But that’s all the more reason to pause, take a deep breath, and remember: I don’t have to go it alone. I have family, friends, and valued colleagues with whom to chase the kingdom together.
Yes. I am blessed.
The apostle Paul could be hard-headed and, I imagine, difficult. But he was no rugged individualist. He had no desire to be the lone, heroic missionary struggling against the odds. Instead, he chose his colleagues carefully, looking for those he could trust on the journey. Silas’ gifts of prophecy and encouragement had already been on full display in Antioch; thus Paul recruited him to reprise his role as a representative of the Jerusalem church to the growing Gentile movement (cf. Acts 16:4). Timothy, too, had already shown promise; I imagine Paul envisioning the man Timothy would become with some field experience and mentoring.
More than this, however, Paul also wanted the churches that he founded to become families. This was more than just a metaphor for Paul; it was a new spiritual reality, a redrawing of social boundaries. In the wake of the cross of Jesus and the sending of the Holy Spirit, believing Jews and Gentiles were to be one family in Christ, making common cause for the kingdom and caring for one another’s needs.
I know. Some reading this might think, Yeah, if only. My relationships don’t sound like that. My church doesn’t sound like that. It’s not that I want to be a loner. But there just aren’t many people I can trust. Some days, it feels like there aren’t any at all.
I get it. And please don’t hear me as saying that any of this is automatic or easy, as if God simply chose some of his children to win the relationship lottery. After over four decades of marriage, my wife and I are still quite capable of annoying each other — over the same stupid things. Relationships at church and at work still flounder from time to time, and we have to claw our way back.
But underneath it all is a conviction that can be hard to hang onto in a highly individualistic society: we were not created to be alone (cf. Gen 2:18). We were created for relationship, in the image of a triune God (cf. Gen 1:26-27). The church is not a loose collection of like-minded individuals; we are as the the many parts of a single body, the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12).
So I ask: who are your companions on this journey that we call “the Christian life”? Who are the ones whom God has called to stand with you, or just as importantly, with whom God has called you to stand?
You might not always agree. At times, you might not even get along. But if these are to be your companions, look for the ways in which you can be a blessing to them.
You just might experience blessedness in turn.