I can’t take my eyes off her face. Her hands are knitting steadily, but her attention is on the passionate conversation taking place around us. She’s not one of the women leaning forward and talking loudly, but she is totally engaged and occasionally contributes in a calm voice. She’s in her mid-thirties. Her smile is gracious and her expression patiently thoughtful. I am so drawn to her. What is she thinking, feeling? I find out later that she is the mother who’s oldest son was killed fighting for freedom. Just days ago, another family member was also killed by government shelling.
A few nights later I am in a friend’s home and she is there. There are just four of us this time. She leaves her abaya on, but removes her hijab like the rest of us. The setting is more relaxed. The knitting continues here. The conversation is more personal and intimate, though the subject matter is the same. A nugget of Truth is extended and she considers it. She is being pursued by One who cares deeply about her, though she has seen Him only through a dim, distorted glass.
She is part of a group of women who have formed a knitting group. Together they get a chance to be creative, to dialogue about their daily lives and their families. And they are earning money to put food on the table or buy school supplies and countless other needed items. These women live in exile, but they live in community. Extended family and neighbors from their home city are here struggling to make a living along side each other. Created in the image of the Three-in-One God, they are meant to live in this way. They have grasped something that we who live in a prosperous, fast-paced culture are missing. Even those of us who know Him through the Son lose sight of our focus and grow weary because we don’t invest in relationship – with Him and with His.
Relationship. It is the place where redemption happens. As a young mom considering the education of my children, I heard Dr. Raymond Moore say that research shows we learn best from those with whom we have a strong relationship. That statement rang true with me. During 29 years of homeschooling, whenever I have focused more on my plans and curriculum than on how I actually interact with my sons I have been an ineffective mom and teacher. As an older woman, Scripture tells me to instruct young moms to love their husbands and children. Everything else listed after that – being self-controlled, pure, creating a home, etc. – cannot be maintained for long if these relationships are not nurtured. In Revelation, Jesus commends the Ephesian church for their works, their doctrine and their endurance, but is grieved that they have abandoned the love they had at first. None of the rest is worth anything outside of a relationship with Him. He says if they don’t bring that back into first priority He will remove their lampstand!
Out of the mystery of One God in Three Persons flows His plan for an eternal relationship with those being conformed into the image of the Son. And essential to this transformation is living this life in community. False religion focuses on what we do. True religion teaches that any good we might do is generated by relationship, first with the One who shed His blood to redeem us and then with each other as we spur each other on to love and good deeds.
Would you pray for my Syrian friends? Ask that the tragedies they’ve experienced would cause them to seek truth and that they would be set free to walk in relationship with Jesus.
And let’s pray for each other, that our riches and our full schedules, our attempts to accomplish all the right things will not replace our first love. And if it has, let’s repent so our lampstand will not be removed.