The Deep Well with Erin Davis Podcast

— Audio Player —

Episode 8: How to Make Real Connections

Season:  Connected   Buy

Laura Booz: Here on The Deep Well Erin has been exploring the pandemic of everyone feeling alone, together. One young lady has been listening to the series with us, and she describes how the Lord has used His people to heal her loneliness. Let’s listen in.

Sam: I’ve been walking through some really tough things in my life, and Jesus has been on kind of a rescue mission for me. Part of the glorious beauty of that story has been community. It’s one of the ways He has rescued me and sustained me—through people. It happened when I least expected it.

There’s about seven of us in this sweet sisterhood. It’s amazing to see how He intertwined our lives and how much we needed that community. It’s this incredibly beautiful thing where we make space for each other, and I think that’s one of the things that Jesus did, always.

We might be running to something, but someone brings this burden. I think that’s a fear of mine, that what I bring to the group is a burden; that maybe a lot of us feel like we’re always just carrying this heavy thing and no one else wants that all the time. I fear that when they think about me, it’s like ,“Here she comes with more stuff.” 

But they made so much space, and they would always stop and pray, and they would check in. When you’ve experienced that kind of Jesus beauty, you keep bringing that as well. So it’s like I want to make space for you. 

And we have. It’s beautiful because we do the fun things, but we’ve done really hard things together. We’ve watched; we’ve cried together, and we’ve jumped up and down together. So it’s that cliché of doing life together. I can’t even describe how transforming it has been to be seen and be known the way Jesus sees us and knows us. It’s something that these women do in my life often. 

I’m coming from a place of just being beat down, sinking in many ways. They affirm me. I’ve never experienced this kind of affirming happening between women before. Whether it’s something as simple as, “I love your sweater; where did you get it?” or it’s, “I see this in you, and it’s incredible, keep doing this. Keeping going, lean into this because Jesus has created you with this beauty.” 

There is also part of that community, a husband and wife, who just saw me struggling. They said, “We want to be a part of your life, is that okay?” 

I was terrified. I didn’t want that. They had to hunt me down. They even pointed out how much I was hiding from them, but they started. They had invited me over one Wednesday night, and they were like, “We’d like to keep doing this with you. What if you came over every single Wednesday night?”

I show up and I sit at their dinner table, and every week they send me with leftovers and the agreement is that if I bring the containers back, they’ll send me more leftovers. Their kids call me Aunt Sam, and I was in their Christmas picture. It’s been the most transformingly beautiful thing that I’ve ever experienced, because one couple said we want to love her.

It’s so simple. They gave me a key, and I come in every Wednesday. That’s what community looks like. 

Laura: This is The Deep Well with Erin Davis. I’m Laura Booz. In this season I’m so grateful. We’ve been able to explore the important topic of Christ-honoring community. Let’s listen as Erin wraps up the season. 

Erin Davis: Well, I was driving down the highway on the interstate, near where I live, and there was billboard that caught my eye. This is what it said, “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.” 

So, I Googled it and I found out that sign was actually one of many signs around the country that was funded by a group of atheists. And the goal of that group and the goal of those billboards to seek to build community among those people who we wouldn’t consider people of faith. They might be atheists, they might be agnostics, they might have a belief but not be associated with anything we would call religion.

Sociologists call this group the “Nones”, n-o-n-e-s. And they are a growing demographic. They are a growing demographic. Well, those signs seem to have struck a chord because they made national news. What is it about atheists seeking connection with other atheists that seems news worthy? Why does that even matter? 

Well, I rattled that idea around in my head and in my heart for a long time, and here’s what emerged. Those of us who know God, those of us who are known by God, hold the only key to true connection, and there is no substitute. That billboard was not exactly an outlier, organized atheism is catching on. 

Listen to what Sanderson Jone said. Sanderson leads the Sunday Assembly, which is a community of faithless congregants he started in London. He told reporters, “People who go to church are healthy, wealthier, live longer, and are happier. One of the best things about church is that it is a safe place for everyone.” 

He’s onto something, but he’s missing the reason why. Health, wealth, longevity, they are not guaranteed for those of us who follow Jesus and go to church.

Many saints are suffering, but church does have the power to improve our lives. It’s not the church building that does that. It’s not just the ritual of meeting with other people every week. Church isn’t something we do. Church is the artery that pumps blood into so much that is necessary for us to run the race of faith. 

The world desperately needs what we have, and they’re telling us that they even want what we have in our connections with each other. 

Well, the Bible gives us so many radical paradigm shifts for our relationships, and it all starts with the character of God. Here’s a little pop quiz. Where do we first hear about Jesus in the Bible? It’s not Mary and the archangel Gabriel; it’s not the baby in the manger. That was kind of a trick question. The first time the Bible mentions Jesus, it leaves out His name. 

Listen to Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 

Us, our, who is God talking to here at Creation? Well, He was talking to Himself. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, all present at Creation.

Now, we call this mystery the Trinity. And while there are plenty of analogies to help our human brains to try to understand God in three persons, none of them really do this justice. But here’s what we can know from Scripture, in the triune nature of God, there is no fighting for the needs of the individual, there is intentional dependence. 

Jesus, fully God, deferred to the will of His Father. He also said that it was good for Him to leave earth so that the Spirit could come. They deferred to each other.

Now, it’s a high bar, but God’s character is a constant object lesson on what God designed our relationships to be. Jesus also lived in the broken world that we do. Jesus also experienced the ache of loneliness. His friends abandoned Him when He needed them. If you remember in the garden, the night He was arrested before He was to be tried and crucified, they couldn’t even stay awake to pray with Him.

It feels so lonely to suffer alone. And Jesus felt that; He experienced that. He knows what it’s like to have friends not come through. And when Jesus hung on the cross, as a sacrifice for our sin, He quoted Scripture. And He asked the Father why He had forsaken Him. Jesus felt what it was like to be truly alone. 

Jesus bore a season of unimaginable loneliness, so that you and I could be reconciled to God the Father. Jesus hung on that cross alone, so that you and I don’t have to be separated from God. So that we could know and be known and know each other without the separation that sin always causes. Jesus was lonely so that we could have God’s presence, so that we don’t ever have to be truly alone again. Who God is, and what Jesus did for us, it’s the epicenter that sends shockwaves into our relationships with each other. 

Let’s consider Acts chapter 2. What’s happening here is the very first Christians are starting to gather in the very first churches. And for a world that was still very angry about Jesus and Christianity, these early Christians put on display a brand-new kind of connection. 

Listen to Acts chapter 2, I’ll start in verse 42, “And they . . .” that’s these new followers of Jesus. 

And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. . . . And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts . . . praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved (vv. 42, 44–45, 47). 

There’s a lot of “all” and “any” language in this passage. It describes the kind of connection that these early Christians had with each other. This kind of fellowship described here, it’s the Greek word, koinonia.

I was actually in a group called Koinonia as freshmen in college. I didn’t know what koinonia meant then, I just knew that I was kind of alone in the big world for the first time ever, and this group of Jesus followers took me in.

They fed me; they spent time with me. It was very much like what’s described here in Acts chapter 2. And what we had for each other was koinonia. Koinonia doesn’t mean to hold something in common, koinonia means to hold everything in common. Every blessing, every burden, every privilege, every responsibility, we share it. 

Koinonia is transparency at it’s very best.
Koinonia is knowing at its very sweetest.
Koinonia is unique to the children of God. 

Our world is so fractured, and the world that the Christians lived in, in the book of Acts was so fractured. Our connection with each other, the fellowship of the saints, is one way we put the gospel on display. 

One day I posted this sentence on social media, “The Church is God’s Plan A for the spread of the gospel.” And someone commented on that post, “There is no Plan B.” I love that. I can’t get over it. The Church, the people of God, the saints, we’re God’s Plan A for the spread of gospel. What Jesus did on the cross, we’re God’s plan a to spread that around the world from generation to generation. There is no Plan B. There doesn’t need to be a Plan B, there will never be a Plan B.

There’s a Jars of Clay song that I loved to listen to when I was a teenager. I listened to it back on CD then. I was a new follower of Jesus, and the words, even though they may not be original to Jars of Clay, they’ve stuck with me all these years. They’re based on John 13:35 and there Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The lyrics of that song goes like this:

We are one in the Spirit
We are one in the Lord.
We are one the Spirit
We are one in the Lord.
And we pray that our unity

Will one day be restored.
And they will know we are Christians

By our love by our love,
Yes they will know we are Christians by our love.

This is God’s plan for the spread of the gospel, and this is the mark we wear as followers of Jesus, our love. It’s not our church buildings. It’s not our church programming, but the Church, the Bride of Jesus, the people within the church. Those of us who are a part of the family of God.

I bet you sang that little song when you were a kid, with your hands: “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open the doors and see all the people.” And it is the people that would make me giggle when I was a little girl. It is the people of the church that thrill me now, that are the antidote to loneliness in my life, that draw people to Jesus.

Now, I know, because I’ve been a Christian a long time, and because I talk to lots of other Christians, that koinonia doesn’t often come easily. You may have been listening to this series on loneliness and thought, I want that, but I don’t have it. I’ve tried to have it. I don’t have it now. I’m isolated for whatever reason. I don’t know how to get back to koinonia. 

And here’s the facts: we hurt each other; we disappoint each other; we miss this mark even in the church. Maybe you go to church and you hear that in church we are a family. Maybe you feel like the black sheep of that family. 

Following Jesus does not mean that we are never awkward with each other. It does not mean that we are never dismissive. It does not mean that we are never inattentive or that we never hurt each other’s feelings . . . we do. 

This is why don’t just need Jesus on the cross, we need Jesus in our hearts. We need Jesus in our midst, but koinonia is worth never giving up on. Even if you had it and feel like you lost it. Even if you feel like you tried it and couldn’t find it. Koinonia, the fellowship of the saints, is worth never giving up on.

The day after I finished writing the book Connected, my husband called our closest friends and family for a surprise pizza party. I just cried and cried into my hamburger mushroom pizza. It’s so sweet for me to think about that during the process of writing a book on loneliness, God taught me how to not be lonely any more. Here I was surrounded by people that I was truly connected with, and they were so proud of me. It was a really fun party.

But the next day was not so celebratory. Our third son, Judah was a newborn, and he had some really scary medical tests scheduled for the following day. I woke up the day of those tests smothered by fear and anxiety and sadness and guilt. I just couldn’t face the day. I tried to deny how scared I was. I tried to pretend. I tried to glue on a mask, but it wouldn’t stick and that didn’t work. I defaulted to my old patterns of hiding from people when life was hard. I literally tried to hide in the closet that day since I was so scared, and my husband Jason had to coax me out.

Now, it was the Lord who ministered to my heart first that day. He is close to the broken hearted. He is El Roi, the God who sees me. But as the Lord started to comfort me, by His Spirit I was reminded that I have His people. So I moved towards God’s people instead of further into hiding, because koinonia is worth never giving up on. I sent some texts, and I called some friends and I told them how scared I was. I asked them to pray for me, and I told them I couldn’t face the day without them. 

And my Christian friends rallied, like they have done for me so many times since, and like I’d hope they’d say like I’ve done for them. It was a hard day. We got the worst-case scenario results. It did not go the way we wanted it to go. It was a sad day, but it was not a lonely day. 

So often loneliness is not something that is forced upon us. It’s not just our circumstances. Most of the time loneliness is a path that we choose to walk. And while painful, loneliness is the path of least resistance. Connection on the other hand, takes effort. Koinonia can only ever be evidence of God’s work in our hearts and lives, but it is worth fighting for. 

German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said,

Wherever a people praise, there is church. And where ever the church is, there is never loneliness.

 Now, the church is so much more than getting together to pray, just like it’s so much more than a building. But he was speaking to the way that koinonia can push back against the loneliness we experience. 

There is a pandemic of disconnection spreading. People are lonely. People without Jesus are desperately lonely, because they don’t know what it is to know and be known by God. And they don’t know what it is to experience koinonia. 

As the followers of Jesus, we hold the only cure, so let’s have church.

What a powerful conclusion to a season about loneliness, getting to the heart of the issue, helping us to learn to be connected to one another in Christ. We’ve learned that relationships are messy and oftentimes it is hard to connect. But we’ve also learned that God created us this way. He’ll give us grace to grow in relationship with one another.

This entire season has been based on Erin’s book, Connected: Curing the Pandemic of Everyone Feeling Alone Together. You can get a copy by going to ReviveOurHearts.com/TheDeepWell.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

About the Teacher

Erin Davis

Erin Davis

Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. She is the author of many books and Bible studies including: 7 Feasts, Connected, Beautiful Encounters, and the My Name Is Erin series. She serves on the ministry team of Revive Our Hearts. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.

About the Guest

Laura Booz

Laura Booz

Laura Booz is the author of Expect Something Beautiful: Finding God's Good Gifts in Motherhood and the host of the Expect Something Beautiful podcast with Revive Our Hearts. She'll cheer you on, share practical ideas, and point out the beautiful ways God is working in your life. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Ryan, and their six children. Meet her at LauraBooz.com.