Just last week, our Young Adults spent 4 days at a serene and simple retreat centre in Malacca. God has blessed our time together, we were challenged and encouraged by God’s Word and Spirit through the speaker, the retreat activities planned by the organising committee, and the many good opportunities for reflection, deep sharing, prayer and fellowship. At the same time, we were mindful to prevent this from simply ending up as a “mountaintop experience.” Rather, we hope that what we learnt, shared and committed to would continue on into our daily lives beyond the retreat.
One of the precious lessons we learnt and were reminded of was the sharing of life stories or “narratives” with one another, in the context of a safe and loving spiritual community. Paul writes to church in Thessalonica, "We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.” (1 Thes. 2:8)
Are we sometimes guilty of focusing on the teaching ministries of the Word (which is something we should be thankful for and continue in), but yet do not go beyond that to sharing our lives with one another? As the old saying goes, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Paul understood this. Jesus modelled this, sharing his life and ministry with his disciples for 3 years. Mark 3:14 records, “He appointed twelve … that they might be with Him and that He might send them out … .” Even the Sanhedrin council (of rulers, elders and teachers of the law) recognised this, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
There is something valuable about sharing life together, when two or more people spend quality time in deep and meaningful spiritual and life conversations. Perhaps the greatest challenges are the precious commodity of time, as with the increasingly fast-paced, multi-stimulus, high-stress environments most of us are accustomed to. As the year comes to an end, and as we reflect and give thanks for what God has done in the past year, may it be our prayer to develop spiritual friendships, to have opportunities to share life on life, and allow God to work in, through and among us, to reflect Christ for His glory, “for where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matt. 18:20)