Not Meant To Be Alone

For those of you who don’t know me, I’ve just finished my second year at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis (Dave, Ryan, Nathan, and Kermit all preceded me). So, as is the case for most full time students, May is a bit of a stressful time. So here is the rundown of my past three weeks. Week one: study for final exams, prepare a sermon, take several quizzes/tests, and write several end-of-term papers. Week two: should be my finals week, instead, I’m in bed for five days with a 102 fever (strep throat and a virus, apparently). Week three: study all week to take my make up exams.

Now this three-week span is probably not all that different from weeks many of you experience regularly. The schedule fills up, duties must be performed, sleep must be lost, etc. And because I know my busyness and lack of free time problem wasn’t unique to only me, I’m going to guess that this next phenomenon isn’t unique to me either.

I decided to take three make up finals within about 28 hours, that way I wouldn’t have to drive to St. Louis twice. Therefore, I planned to stay with a good friend who lives in St. Louis. On the day of my overnight stay, however, I got a phone call. My friend’s wife and two year old daughter had traveled to Memphis, TN to spend time with her family. And thus, he was planning on coming to Columbia to visit another friend. He gave me the code to his house, though, so I could stay there without him. So, after taking two exams, not sleeping much, and studying for nearly three days straight, I roll in to his place at about 8 o’clock with a sandwich I picked up for dinner. I took a seat at his kitchen table with only the company of my meal and his two pets, a cat and a dog (named “Batman” and “Ron,” my friend is an odd fellow). I began eating my dinner, when I realized something odd, I was literally crying. I had been rather melancholy all day long, but had attributed it to not sleeping much and not wanting to study. It was at this moment, however, that I reconsidered my initial diagnosis. I wasn’t simply tired, I wasn’t simply sick of studying, I was lonely. You see, for the past three weeks I had little to no social contact. I hadn’t spent time with friends, I hadn’t spent time with family, I had hardly spent time with my wife. Two weeks of intense studying and one week of intense illness had robbed me of the social connections and community that I desperately need.

It’s easy to take a look at our lives and prioritize work, school, house-chores, yard-work, kids, etc., all above community. After all, friendships are a bonus, right? They’re what you do when you’ve got a little extra free time. The problem with that outlook, though, is when do we have extra free time? And spending time with friends, fellowshipping as a group of believers isn’t an optional activity, it isn’t to be done as a “bonus” when we have extra free time. No, it’s something God has designed us for and commanded us to do. It’s difficult to block out a Friday night and invite friends over for dinner. It’s not easy to invest your time and energy into a small group that meets twice a month. God never promised us that social relationships and living together as a church, as a body of believers, would be easy. But he did tell us to do it, and he does know we’re more fulfilled, happy creatures when we do.

So don’t neglect your friendships. Don’t skip out on small group. Don’t just come to church to be fed and to learn. Instead, invest in the community, invest in relationships. Or else you’ll have to relay an embarrassing story about eating a meal by yourself with tears streaming down your face.

For more reading (and better explanation), see Nathan Tiemeyer’s previous posts on community:

No Man is an Island-Part 1
No Man is an Island-Part 2

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