Like the Lone Ranger, none of us should be alone in life, ever.
A blog by Director of the REAP Team, Paul Masek
I’m dating myself here. Not literally, of course. That would be weird. But chronologically speaking, when I was a kid one of my favorite TV shows was the Lone Ranger. And I’m not talking about the 2013 reboot with Johnny Depp, either; I’m talking the original black and white TV show consisting of 212 episodes that ran from 1949 to 1957. Some day you just might thank me for those seemingly extraneous statistics…perhaps when you surprise your friends with your Lone Ranger prowess during a trivia night.
What’s most important to know about the Lone Ranger, for the purposes of this blog and our Christian existential crises, is that he wasn’t really a loner. He had a friend named Tonto, a Native American, who helped him in his pursuit of restoring law and order to rather messed up situations.
Like the Lone Ranger, none of us should be alone in life, ever. We all need support beyond our own personal relationships with God; we need to connect with other humans in ways that go beyond the surface level. We were created by God, who is in essence a community (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) to be in community. As we are reminded in Genesis,
“It is not good for the man to be alone.”
Community happens in many fascinating forms, but one of its most powerful manifestations in my life has been through a small group that I have been committed to for over eighteen years. We call ourselves men’s group, since all of us are guys and since we are all really good at naming things.
We started meeting after several of us attended a Promise Keeper’s Convention, during which we were challenged to develop honest, intimate, Christ-centered relationships with other men – so that we might support one another in the struggle of striving to be the kind of men God wants us to be.
Every small group is different, and it’s important to discern what is best for you and your fellow group members. The options are endless and can include, but certainly aren’t limited to, watching and discussion videos, Scripture study, book study, listening to guest speakers, shared prayer, and charismatic praise and worship. Or, in the case of the group I attend, we simply share what is going on in several key areas of our lives: our relationships with our family members, how things are going at work, and our relationships with God.
Since we focus on personal sharing, we normally set a timer when each person begins sharing so that everyone has enough time – but not too much time – to share. The timer really helps the extroverts to rein it in, tbh. Of course, we begin and end every meeting with prayer. And some groups, like ours, incorporate time after closing prayer for “fellowship”, which can – and does – include small talk, adult beverages, and snacks.
Challenges and Blessings
In our small group, our greatest challenges and blessings have been in two key areas: faithfulness and vulnerability.
One of the reasons that our group has successfully survived is due to the faithfulness of our members. Granted, not everyone who initially committed to our group has continued to attend; we’ve had some turnover. And we don’t judge people for that; priorities change, people move on, life happens. But, most of us have made a serious commitment to our small group, and there’s a lot to be said for that.
Attending this group is a priority. We will show up whenever we possibly can, whether there are two of us or ten of us. I’ve heard it said, and I tend to agree, that repetition is the language of love. The things that are most important to us we tend to do over and over again, in season and out of season, whether convenient or not.
While I realize that meeting with pretty much the same group for so many years might appear boring to an outsider, all I can tell you is that making a commitment to be in long-term committed relationship with another person or group of people helps us to become more loving people. I can honestly say that I really love the men I’ve gotten to know through our men’s group, and I think they would say honestly say that they are learning to tolerate me.
As I’ve mentioned, our group is an accountability group. We decided, when our group began, that we wanted to call one another to be the best men we can be. And we knew that this would require, at times, tough love and brutal honestly.
Vulnerability is always challenging. I don’t know about you, but ever since I was a teenager, I’ve been tempted to wear the “I’m fine” mask; you know, saying that everything is OK when it’s not really OK? This temptation is so real that if one of us neglects to share about a certain area, one of us will ask about it. And we follow up with what has been shared in previous meetings, i.e., “Last time we met, you shared about a struggle with one of your coworkers…how has that been going?” or “When’s the last time you’ve been to Confession?”
Vulnerability is the key to intimacy, and our small group exists so that we can form real relationships and strengthen our friendships with one another and with God.
- If you are not currently a member of small group, I would like to challenge you to ask yourself, “Why not?” And, after some honest introspection, consider starting one or joining one here.
- If you are a member of a small group, I’d like to challenge you to renew your commitment to the group, be honest with your fellow members what you hope to gain from the group, and ask the Holy Spirit to guide your group always.
I think the Lone Ranger would agree…