We live in the same house, share meals together, pass one another in the hallway to brush our teeth, and see each other at our very worst moments. Can we then assume that this means we have “fellowship” within our family? I think not. It makes me think of the old expression, “being in a garage does not make you a car”, or “sitting in a church does not make you a Christian.“ Living in the same house with your immediate family does not always mean that there is real fellowship taking place.
On February 22, 2011, my husband, and the father of my three children, was killed instantly in a car accident. Life, at large, would never be the same. Life within our four walls would never be the same. Relationships outside of our four walls would never be the same…both for the good and for the bad. Our little family unit would never be the same…both for the good and for the bad. Bad because the life of Michael Barranco, Sr., and the life we lived with him in it, can never be brought back again. Good, only because of the improved communication, the abundant mercy we strive to show one another daily, the grace in which we daily must walk in order to be patient when one of us is hurting and grieving at different times than we are and it comes out in anger or despondency, and the necessary continual flow of compassion. We had to choose a path of real fellowship to survive… but we still sometimes miss it, even living under the same roof.
In What on Earth am I Here For, Rick Warren tells us a key to real fellowship. “One key to courtesy (real fellowship) is to understand where people are coming from. Discover their history. When you know what they’ve been through, you will be more understanding.” I wrote about this idea in more depth once before in a post entitled, A Habit of a Highly Effective Person. We all need a paradigm shift to take place in order for us to have real fellowship with others, to be able to show compassion, mercy, and walk in grace towards that person whose shoes we have never walked. I recently realized that, even within our four walls, we were often forgetting what each one of us had been through and were not remembering where we were coming from individually, as evidenced in our behaviors, our hurts, and our responses. We know what we have been through, we know our history, we know where we are coming from, and yet we still miss it with one another. Imagine how much harder it is with people outside of your household?
“You should be like one big family, full of sympathy toward each other.” 1 Peter 3:8
“If one member suffers, all suffer together.” 1 Corinthians 12:26
“Every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.” Galatians 6:10
“Starting with people closest to us…” It does not get any closer than those who live under the same roof with you, but this does not mean that it comes automatically without a focused effort, just like good marriages don’t just happen but instead require a daily focused effort on both sides. It says in Hebrews 10:25, “Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another.” Warren says, “A habit is something you do with frequency, not occasionally. You have to spend time with people – a lot of time - to build deep relationships…If you want to cultivate real fellowship, it will mean meeting together even when you don’t feel like it, because you believe it is important…fellowship requires an investment of time.” Time with the immediate family, within our four walls, does not just happen, it is a habit that must be developed and practiced. We can only "encourage one another" if we are spending enough time with them to know where they need to be encouraged!
This week, I prayed with my kids and encouraged them to show more compassion towards one another, to be full of mercy, and to allow grace to work through us in our treatment of each other. Remember the hurts that someone is carrying, remember we all hurt differently, remember we are all still lonely for him (their father), remember the wounds, remember the weaknesses, encourage those that need encouragement, show kindness, walk in love, take time for one another, build real community between us, build real fellowship… make it a lifestyle habit within our four walls. Then, as it says in Ephesians 4:16, “As each part does its work, it helps the other parts grow, so Christ’s whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” We each have a part to play in the progress of growth, health, and love that we experience together within our little family unit. It is work, just like the scripture refers to it. And who is more important to us than those within our four walls?
Ask yourself, “How can I cultivate, today, the characteristics of real fellowship in my household?”
Keep your eyes straight ahead and those you love most right beside you…arm in arm, in real fellowship, encouraging one another with every step that you take, remembering where their shoes have walked.