The Deep Well with Erin Davis Podcast

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The Safety of Godly Community

Season:  Connected   Buy

Laura Booz: In this season of The Deep Well, we’re talking about how we’re connected to one another. There was a season in my life where I was very disconnected from others—especially, disconnected from the church. And to tell you the truth, Erin, it was devastating. It was devastating to me, and it was devastating to my marriage. Do you want to hear about it?

Erin Davis: Of course.

Laura: Well, it was way back. We were newlyweds, really. We had just gone through a really tough season of life. We were in the middle of churches—we had left one, and we were still trying to find our footing, where we would go.

But right at that time when we were disconnected from a church, I went into pre-term labor with our first baby. It was a big, dramatic thing. I was on bed rest, couldn’t do a thing. Ryan, meanwhile, was holding down the fort. He was doing everything from laundry to painting the house. He really was painting the house at the same time.

Erin: Yikes! Newlyweds.

Laura: So, pre-term labor. We bring home a preemie who needs extra-special care and time and attention. And . . . we were completely drained.

Erin: Oh, I can almost feel it in my body as you’re describing that situation.

Laura: Yes. It was so hard. And to feel disconnected at the same time, that was really hard.

Erin: Did you feel disconnected from each other? Or just from the church?

Laura: Yes. We were disconnected from each other, too, because we were just trying to keep our heads above the water to survive.

Erin: Right.

Laura: So the Lord really brought everything to light, but it was through a major marital crisis. We had been pulled away from each other and were giving in to temptations on every side. It was a disaster.

So, to tell you the truth, we were actually separated for forty days. The Lord surrounded us with a few faithful Christians, family, friends who knew us. And suddenly, they just poured into our lives. They held us together with all their might. And God worked a miracle.

And then, over time, what we learned is how desperately we needed people. Actually, my husband Ryan will say it to this day when we tell people our story, when they see what God has done through our marriage . . .

Erin: How many years ago was all of this?

Laura: Fifteen years.

Erin: Fifteen years ago.

Laura: Fifteen years, and we’ve got one story, and it’s that God did mighty things. People ask how? Ryan always says, “Through other people.” We got ourselves plugged into a Bible-believing church, and we have been so committed to that, like, white-knuckled committed to that because we’ve seen what a difference it makes.

We both have held on tightly to a small group of faithful friends who we can be accountable to. We can share our stuff. We can pray for one another. We know we’re all coming back to submit to the same Book and to kneel before the same Lord.

Erin: Do you ever play that out differently in your mind—that you and your husband separate and a band of Christian brothers and sisters doesn’t surround you, and they don’t speak the truth to you, and they don’t call you to work out your faith? I mean, how would your whole life be different?

Laura: Well, to tell you the truth, what started as isolation would have grown to devastation. We would not be together today, to tell you the truth. We would have one little girl that we would be sharing back and forth. I don’t know what God would have done through that.

But I do know what He did do. He held us together. He surrounded us with friends, faithful, dear, God-loving friends, and blessed us with five more beautiful children. So we are definitely not isolated anymore!

Erin: Those days are gone!

Laura: We’ve got people all around all the time!

Erin: Such a sweet, powerful, hard, beautiful story. How did I not know that? I don’t know everything. I’m not omniscient. He’s working His magic.

Laura: This is The Deep Well with Erin Davis. Maybe you can relate to the kind of isolation that tempted Ryan and me. Erin's going to look to God’s Word to help us get out of that dangerous situation.

She’s continuing to teach through her book. It’s called Connected: Curing the Pandemic of Everyone Feeling Alone Together. Let’s listen in.

Erin: I want you to imagine we’re on an African safari. We’re all in our Range Rover. We’re watching a herd of antelopes graze on the plain.

Now, there’s so many of them that they are calm and relaxed. But they draw a false sense of security from their numbers. They do not scan the horizon for predators. No one stands guard. They eat in peace.

Now, imagine we put on our binoculars, and we look a little closer.

There’s a pride of lions moving forward in the grass. They’re moving slowly, meticulously, in military-like formation. And all at once the female lion gives the signal, and the pride stands up in unison. They start running. The antelopes dart. A planned confusion results, and the lions work together to isolate a single doe. They move in for the kill, and then they drag their prey into the shade. And the antelope herd moves on without her.

Now, most of us will only ever see this on Animal Planet, and maybe not even there. It’s not exactly entertaining to watch. But the way a pride of lions hunts their prey has a lot to teach us about loneliness.

Lions do not test their prey for weakness like other predators do. Lions aren’t looking for the sick. They’re not looking for the small. The only weakness that lions look for when they hunt is isolation. Their goal is to separate someone from the pack—and it works! Lions are able to take down animals much bigger than them and much faster than them.

And in this scene, we are the antelopes. We are made vulnerable by isolation.

We’re going to stay in Genesis. We’re going to be in Genesis, chapter 3. If Genesis 1 through 2 give us an archetype for relationships as God created them—intimacy with God and others—Genesis 3 gives us a different kind of archetype. It gives one for how our connections are fractured by sin.

Let me read us Genesis 3:1.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

If you’re following along in your Bible, maybe circle that word “crafty,” because it’s good to know your enemy. Satan is cunning. He will trick you. He stalks us, much like a lion stalks their prey. Now, we don’t necessarily see Satan stalking Adam and Eve here in Genesis 3, but we need to get our understanding of God and our understanding of our enemy from our whole Bible.

First Peter 5:8 gives us a pretty clear warning: “Be sober-minded, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

So, while it might be comforting for us to imagine that we can always see Satan coming and get out of his way, that’s not what the Bible describes. He’s predatory. And he has a history of using isolation to lure God’s people into sin and then to keep us there, trapped by our shame.

Let me read us Genesis 3:1–6: 

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”

Adam was nearby. She gave him some of the fruit. But Eve apparently did not discuss the temptation with him. And we see in her the very first woman with an independent streak. She was determined to make this decision on her own.

Let’s freeze the frame for a moment.

How would things have gone differently if Eve had said, “Let me talk to my husband about it”? or “Let me talk to God about it”?

Remember the intimacy they shared? God had given Eve a double-layered safety net—relationship with Him and relationship with Adam—and she cut through the nets. She put herself in grave danger by deciding to go at it alone.

This is why the book of Proverbs tells us that “in an abundance of counselors, there is safety.”

We all know what happened next. Genesis 3:7–8:

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the coolof the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

When we step outside of our communities, all of us—all of us—become more susceptible to temptation and sin. We’re recording this still in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. We don’t know how long that pandemic, or the resulting isolation will go on. Some of you might be listening to this years later. But let me give you some current examples of how the isolation of this pandemic is affecting us:

  • Use of pornography has gone up somewhere in the neighborhood of 25% since the pandemic began.
  • Divorce rates have soared by more than 30%. Some researchers are calling this “the pandemic within the pandemic.” 
  • Alcohol and drug use have also seen big spikes during this pandemic.

One pastor recently confessed to me that he spent many of the earliest days of the pandemic drinking because he could not cope with the stress of having a flock so in need and not being able to shepherd them.

The sin cost of global isolation is impossible to measure.

But here’s a reality: Loneliness, again, is less of an emotion, and it’s more like a military strategy employed effectively by Satan, the enemy of our souls, because isolation makes it easier to sin. Who would know? And once we sin, we all naturally gravitate towards shame. And then loneliness and shame become this two-edged sword, and that sword is really effective at making us ineffective followers of Jesus.

I’ve heard it over and over (I’ve lived it some) from women, many of them very lonely women, who say things like:

  • “No one would understand if I told.”
  • “People will judge me. People in my church will judge me.”
  • “If people knew what I have done, they wouldn’t want to be with me.”

Daughters of Eve, every single one of us. We’re made vulnerable by isolation, and we’re made isolated by shame.

One story I heard years ago has just stuck with me. It’s a story of Dawn. Dawn came to one of our focus groups we did while I was researching a book I wrote on loneliness. Dawn was a single mother of a little girl she’d adopted.

Several years prior to this interview, she had been in a secret sexual relationship. And, like Eve, her instinct was to hide. She wanted to cover herself when she was around her Christian community. And the result was a very dark, very lonely, and very long valley.

Here’s what Dawn told me: 

I have to tell you, the loneliest time in my life was when I was fully immersed in sin. I was surrounded by great friends who were all Christ followers, yet the guilt and shame of my wrong doing kept me silent and secluded from seeking out any support or embrace from those who could have helped me.

Dawn carried those very heavy weights of guilt and shame into all of her relationships. She resigned from a ministry position. She distanced herself from her Christian friends. She kept going to church, but she only ever sat on the back pew. She came late, and she left early.

But she couldn’t get free on her own. She said:

I desperately wanted to tell someone, but the enemy convinced me I needed to remain silent, that no one would understand, embrace me, or help. So I kept quiet. And in doing so, I became so very lonely.

So Dawn stayed on the back pew of her church, wrapped in loneliness for eight years. Eight years of isolation. Eight years of keeping people at arm’s length. Eight years of listening to the enemy’s lies, that being alone was the only way to deal with her sin.

Eventually she joined a program called, “Celebrate Recovery.” As a part of that program, she had to adopt a mantra: No more secrets. And that led to no more shame. And that led to no more loneliness.

Here’s what she said:

It took almost an entire year to get through the program, but I walked away with freedom, joy, and a firm decision that I would not be silent any longer, and I would never be lonely like that again.

Dawn got so tired of the chase that she looked the lion in the eye and refused to be hunted.

James 1:14–15 is like a roadmap straight to sin. It gives us the progression that sin always takes. Let me read it to us:

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

This is a birth story, of sorts, though not a happy one. Sin is conceived in our hearts as a result of an unholy desire. And then when that desire develops, when it is fully developed, it’s born as sin. And that sin always grows up to become a rebellious teenager and wreaks havoc in our lives.

Now, temptation itself is not a sin. Jesus was tempted by the same enemy who orchestrated the fall of man, and the same enemy who lied to Dawn for all those years. Yet Jesus was without sin. How can we be? How can we stand up to temptation? We tell. We tell God. We tell others. We keep telling.

So it was after James gave this clear description of how sin works that he gave us a prescription for how to fight it. We tend to divorce these two thoughts about what is sin and what James writes later in 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

What is the “therefore” there for? Well, because each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. And then desire, when it is conceived, gives birth to sin. Then, we confess our sins to one another and pray for one another.

We need to tell each other. There is healing when we tell. There is power when we tell. We’re much harder to separate from the pack when we tell.

This pandemic that we’re currently in has caused a seismic shift in all of our relationships. For many of us, church has become virtual. We are still hearing the preaching of the Word, but we’re doing it in isolation. Does that matter?

In many cases, church alone or church in family groups is more convenient. As someone with small children, it’s certainly more convenient for me. In fact, at the time that I’m recording this, I’m still going to church with a small group of friends. We gather in a friend’s barn. We call it “Shed Church.” We’re not back in big church yet. And people have lots of different opinions on this. I’m not interested in wading into the opinions, but I am interested in encouraging us to find our way back to each other.

We’ve got to find ways as God’s people to stand united against our prowling enemy. We’ve got to find ways as God’s people to have regular rhythms of confessions and prayer, confession and prayer, confession and prayer. We cannot lose those. They’re essential.

If we sacrifice the safety net of the saints on the altar of convenience, we will unleash another deadly pandemic—the pandemic of sin—because sin grows in dark and lonely corners. We’ve got to drag it into the light, and we’ve got to do it together.

You know this. If you’ve ever been locked in a pattern of sin that you’ve tried and tried to get free of on our own . . . You’ve said, “Okay, this is the day. I’m not going to do that anymore.” And then you fail. You are a child of God, and you should have victory over that sin. You know the gospel. You try again and fail, and you try and fail, and you try and fail. You’re missing the piece from James: “Confess your sins to one another and pray for each other that you may be healed.”

Sin grows when we don’t tell. We’ve got to drag it into the light together. And, listen, there’s a whole lot more at stake than just whether or not we feel lonely.

Do you remember the show Lost? The premise of it was fairly simple: A group of people learned to live together on a desert island after their plane crashes. And that group of people lived by a code. It was written by screenwriters, but it’s applicable to us as we follow Christ. And here it was: Live together; die alone.

There’s safety in the pack. There’s accountability in the pack. There’s an effective strategy to fight the enemy in the pack.

  • Isolation makes us vulnerable to sin. 
  • And sin makes us vulnerable to shame. 
  • And shame makes us vulnerable to isolation. 

It’s truly a vicious cycle.

And so, while following Jesus is deeply personal—your walk with Jesus probably doesn’t look like mine—it’s not private. It’s not private; it’s something we share.

Maybe you’ve heard the word, “Hooah!” It’s a battle cry used by soldiers. Military strategists have traced it all the way back to the Mongols. In the eighteenth century, British armies gave three “Hooahs” before every bayonet charge. Members of the United States Army and the Air Force use that battle cry today—“Hooah.” 

“Hooah” is a declaration of solidarity before a battle. And maybe right now you’re listening, and you think, I just need to say “Hooah.”I just need to talk myself into freedom. I just need to pull myself up by my bootstraps.

It won’t work. Instead of “Hooah,” could I encourage you to choose “Hallelujah.” It’s the chorus we sing together because if we want to be victorious in the battle over sin (and don’t we all?) we’ve got to fight our enemy together.

Laura: I know we’re all facing difficulties right now. It’s tempting to try to tackle those problems on our own and try to solve our problems by ourselves. But I hope you heard what Erin said. I hope that your heart resonated with the beauty and the strength of joining those who say, “Hallelujah.” I hope you’ll say it alongside others in the Body of Christ.

And I hope you’ll go deeper on this topic and learn what God intends for your relationships. And one way to do that is by reading Erin’s book. It’s called, Connected: Curing the Pandemic of Everyone Feeling Alone Together. You can pick up a copy by going to www.ReviveOurHearts.com/TheDeepWell. Look for the book, Connected.

Erin Unscripted

Laura: On this podcast we like to have a section called “Erin Unscripted.”

So, Erin, you said, “No more secrets.” I want that, but what in the world does this look like? Do you have guidelines?

Erin: We definitely need guidelines, and that doesn’t mean we tell everybody everything all the time. I don’t think that falls in line with wisdom. But it means we don’t hide the thing that we’re most afraid to tell. It definitely means we don’t hide our sin.

If you are hiding secret sin, first of all, you’ve got to know it’s not a secret. There is no such thing as secret sin because God sees all and knows all. As the psalmist said, “If I went to the depths of Sheol, You were there.” So there isn’t a dark corner dark enough for you to go to to sin that Jesus won’t see it and be aware. So it’s really not about telling the thing that nobody knows as much as it is you expressing the thing that God already knows.

In my family, we talk about this a lot, as we’re raising boys. We would never want someone to harm them or take advantage of them and tell them they couldn’t tell us. So we tell them a lot, “You cannot have secrets from Mommy and Daddy. We do not keep secrets here. That’s to keep you safe.”

And that’s true for us. But Jason and I don’t tell our boy everything all the time. I mean, there is wisdom in this. Sometimes it’s something benign. Like, right now I’m hiding a secret for my son’s thirteenth birthday. It’s not his birthday, so I can’t tell him yet, but I’m looking forward to it and planning for it. Sometimes it’s just something they’re not ready for. I think there’s some of that with us, between adults, too.

But as you are listening to this episode of the podcast about how isolation makes you vulnerable to sin, and the Holy Spirit was doing what only the Holy Spirit does, meaning, maybe your heart was racing. Maybe you just kept thinking of this thing, this behavior, this choice you’ve made over and over, and you tried to push it out of your mind.

Maybe you wanted to turn the podcast episode off, but you were compelled not to, and you’re uncomfortable.

That is a mercy. Find someone. You don’t have to tell everyone, but find someone who loves God, who absolutely believes in the authority of His Word, and who loves you, and you tell them.

Laura: That’s good. It could even be something that happened years ago, but it’s just that thing that you just can’t stop thinking about it during episodes like this. Or you wake up in the middle of the night, and it’s there.

That’s the type of thing you can bring into the light with a trusted friend. And even things like fears or invasive thoughts that you feel like you just have to keep tackling on your own and you don’t really get anywhere. I really struggle with that.

I struggle with a vivid imagination and a lot of fears and intrusive thoughts. It feels embarrassing to tell someone, but I have one or two close friends that I really can tell them anything and trust that they believe the best about me and trust that they’re going to bring me back to God’s Word.

In fact, if I look over the span of my friends, my close friends, it’s not that we have a hobby in common. We don’t even have similar personalities. It’s really that there are a few women who I know for a fact when I bear my soul, they will open the Word of God. They’ll be gracious and kind, but they’ll also be faithful friends.

It makes me think of Proverbs 27:6 that says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” Sometimes we need it to hurt.

But even when they have to speak hard things to me, that wounding is faithfulness, and it’s good for me. So I’m keeping them around.

Erin: So if you don’t tell your secrets because you’re afraid somebody is going to say a hard thing, well they should. That’s their job. I’ve said to my inner circle, “When I am out of step with the Lord, I want you to force feed me the Word of God. Force feed it to me. If I say, ‘I don’t want it.’ If I act like a toddler, ‘No! I don’t want it. I don’t want to listen to you.’ I want you to force feed it to me, and I will force feed it to you.”

And that pact has held through heartache, but also through sin.

Not that long ago I texted a small group of women and said, “These are some things I’m feeling. I keep feeling them. I can’t get them to go away. They’re ugly. Help me. Would you pray for me for thirty days?” 

And every one of them was, like, “Yes!”

It wasn’t a really brave step on my part. It was a desperate step on my part. It was me realizing that almost as soon as the words come out of my mouth, there’s always help.

Laura: That’s awesome!

What do we do when we’re on the other side of the table and someone is opening up to us with their secret?

Erin: Wow! I don’t think we do much. I think just having them say the sin is the primary action. But then James tells us, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another.” Don’t confess sins to one another and counsel each other—although it’s fine to do that—but pray for one another.

Listen well. Don’t let them off the hook. Let them say it and speak it and express whatever ugliness is there. 

Resist the temptation to say, “That’s okay. You’re a good person. You’re a good mom.” Those might all be true, but she might be confessing to you that she hates her middle-school daughter, or she resents her mother. It’s not a good time to say, “You’re a good mom.” It’s a good time to say, “You need Jesus. Let’s get to Him together.”

I also wouldn’t try to make them feel better by sharing all your own stuff. I think we kind of want to ease their uncomfortableness a little bit. There is a time to share your own sin. There can be mutual sharing. But I would sit in the hard. I would sit in the uncomfortable, and I’d pray together.

Laura: That’s awesome!

Years ago, I worked at a pregnancy resource clinic. As part of the training, I remember reading this pamphlet about what your first response should be when someone comes to you and says, “I’m pregnant.” Their guidelines for that were so helpful to me in regard to every occasion when someone comes with some surprise.

First of all, it was: Don’t be surprised when someone comes to you with sin, because we are all sinners in need of grace. So work towards that end, mentally, and with the Lord to remember that.

And, also, your first response to somebody when they’re sharing from their heart is really important, because that’s the impression they’re going to walk away with. That’s the impression that’s going to motivate their next move.

So I like what you said: It’s just to sit there and listen and bring it before the Lord and see what He would do.

Erin: I’d be curious if you’ve had this experience, Laura. For me, often I feel like people are fishing. Like, I’m not really the one who they need to tell. They need to tell their spouse. They need to tell their parents. They need to tell their pastor. But with me, they’re putting a lure in the water to see how it’s going to go.

Laura: Yes! It’s a lower-stakes game, but, if it doesn’t go well, they’re not going to tell another soul. So, just to love them, just to listen.

Our greatest fear when we are in sin is judgment. So we need to just not judge and we need to pray. It’s like, now you can cast your net with the people that really need to hear this—with the person you’ve betrayed, with the friend that you’ve been bitter at for two years and you haven’t told her, and you can’t get over it. Now you can go to her because you didn’t get judgment from me.

Sometimes, if you can think of it like that . . . Like, “I’m just going to be a soft place here so that they can do the harder conversation next.” It might help us put on compassion.

Laura: Yes. And then when we are that person that they’re finally coming to, asking the Lord for grace to receive the hard news and to respond in love and truth.

Erin: And the only way we can do that is by being ever mindful of all that we’ve been forgiven of. That's the only way to keep us from self-righteousness. It’s to realize: “I’ve got no stones to throw here because I’ve been forgiven of sin, too.”

Laura: Awesome!

At the end of every year, Erin marks what she calls “Awkward Text Day.” Find out what that’s all about, on the next episode of The Deep Well.

God’s Word is a deep well. You can drop down your bucket and pull up truth every time.

The Deep Well is a production of Revive Our Hearts, calling women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ.

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About the Guest

Laura Booz

Laura Booz

Laura Booz is a writer, teacher, and podcaster who encourages women to love God, think biblically, and live vibrantly. She'll cheer you on, share practical ideas, and point out the beautiful ways God is working in your life. She’s delighted to host the Expect Something Beautiful podcast with Revive Our Hearts and to be writing her first book. She and her husband, Ryan, and their six children make their home in Pennsylvania. Meet her at LauraBooz.com.

About the Speaker

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 …

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