Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Settling the Solitary in a Home

Two weeks ago, I delivered this testimony during worship at Calvary Baptist Church of Waco, Texas. Many of these stories and ideas have appeared elsewhere on my blog, but I think it is worth repeating in whole.

“God settles the solitary in a home.” Five years ago, these words from Psalm 68.6 were difficult for me to believe. I had just arrived in Texas to begin my graduate studies, and this cross-country move was the culmination of a disorienting year: in a matter of months, I had attended the funeral of my last grandparent, broken up with a boy I could have married, graduated from my beloved college, and now I was more than a thousand miles away from my friends and parents. An introvert and an only child, always quite happy to be alone, I suddenly found myself, at twenty-two years old, deeply and truly lonely for the first time.

The people at Calvary were kind from the first morning I visited, and when I joined a lifegroup later in the fall of 2006, I learned that God was going to use this church to teach me that the Gospel brings us into a body, a kingdom, a home. On my first visit to that lifegroup, I arrived a little late, and as I crept shyly through the front door, I could see that everyone was already seated in a circle, sharing a meal. “She’s here!” someone said. “Come in,” they called, “We’ve saved a chair for you.” When I heard those words, I felt as though I had walked into a parable.  Is this what the kingdom of God is like? I wondered.  To arrive at a stranger’s table and find they have saved a place for you?  Ephesian 6 tells us that through the Gospel, the Gentiles are co-heirs with God’s chosen people, strangers made at home in the kingdom of God. Through my experience with lifegroups, I was a witness to this mystery every Thursday night.

In so many ways, the members of that lifegroup were ministers of the Gospel to me during my first three years in Waco.  Especially during that first lonely season, they met the physical and spiritual needs that so often come with young adulthood: our lifegroup suppers were usually the only meals in a week I didn’t eat alone.  And holding hands during our prayers was the only time in a week that anyone touched me.

When school was discouraging, they assured me that my work as a teacher and scholar could serve the kingdom. When I fell in love with teaching, they rejoiced with me.

This would be a partial testimony, however, if I only gave an account of my own consolation. My lifegroup taught me to turn my own sorrow into compassion, my own joy into an invitation. Listening to my friends share their stories, I was able to step outside of my narrow fears and loneliness. Praying together, we endured illness, unexpected pregnancy, medical school applications, depression, job decisions, and family strife as one body. Celebrating together, we gave thanks for new life, acceptance letters, and reconciliation as one body. Studying and discussing together, we tested ideas, hoping to find words and actions that would bear witness to our faith.

These memories are so precious to me that I hate to admit our group’s quiet but painful dissolution. Jobs and school took many members away, leaders changed, and somewhere along the way we forgot that the Gospel demanded that we be more than a supper club and support group.  Our prayer times became brief and vague, our discussions drifted from questions about faith and practice to intellectual squabbles, and most dangerously, we forgot that we were supposed to be serving the church, Christ’s body, not ourselves.

As I prepare to step into a new lifegroup this fall, therefore, I am both eager and watchful. I have seen lifegroups wither and fade, but I have also seen them make the kingdom visible.  I have seen God use them to settle the solitary in a home. I have seen, as Pslam 84 says, that  

Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my King and my God.

Beloved, we are so many sparrows perched upon the altars of our Lord. God forbid that we neglect  any good way to establish one another here, as heirs of this kingdom, as children of this home.


  1. This is really wonderful. Thank you!


  2. Love this, Bethany. Such a beautiful word for our family of faith. You are a gift.

  3. Thanks for this. It means a lot to me to hear what you've experienced in other life groups. I hope that we, through God's grace, can be a place you can come home to each Thursday night. Also, I think you're a beautiful writer, and I can't wait to read more of your blog posts!