Opening up to others can seem like a daunting task. Fears, insecurities and past hurts are often the reason we are hesitant to form deep, meaningful relationships. In times past, I have overlooked the God-ordained significance of close fellowship with others. However, God has shown me immeasurable blessings through vulnerability and sincere friendships.
When my husband and I first moved to Greenville, we decided to join a large, local church. This church was vastly different from the churches that I had grown up attending – where Sunday school was the closest thing I could equate to Bible study or small group activity. I was overwhelmed by the size of the church, as well as the church’s challenge to its members to be “an active member”. Everyone was encouraged to serve (utilizing their gifts) and participate regularly in a small group. An introvert to the core, I promised myself that my husband and I would join a couple’s group where I could hide behind my husband’s Biblical Studies degree and wait for him to expertly answer any theological or scripture-related question.
However, God had other plans. In fact, try as we might, my husband and I were unable to find a couples’ small group that met at a time convenient to both of our schedules. Inevitably, with frustration and some trepidation, I joined a women’s small group. It was one of several with which I would become involved. Although I was unaware at the time, it was through my participation in these small groups that God was preparing me to lead my own small group.
God began using the women and the group studies to ignite a passion in me for learning more about His Word, His Son, and His Holy Spirit. Further, He began maturing my prayer life. I began hearing Him and learning more about His character in ways that I previously had not. He was using my “active membership” within that church to bring clarity to His purpose for me – a call into the counseling ministry. As Henry Blackaby discusses in his book, ‘Experiencing God,’ I had joined God where He was already working. He was weaving together people and themes throughout my daily life and slowly revealing parts of His plan for me.
As God was revealing these things, He was also impressing upon me the importance of connecting with other believers. Although I know God hears our prayers whether we are praying alone or with others, I was reminded of Matthew 18:20, which says, “Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” There is undeniable power when we come together and pray for one another. In James 5:16, Scripture reads, “Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” If God says it, we are to take Him at His Word. So, if there is power in unity, there is also power in confessing our sins.
Following Biblical instruction by confessing our sins and praying for each other requires transparency. It means shedding pretense and presenting ourselves – warts and all. That is terrifying for many people. We want to cling to our pretense because it feels safe. That, in itself, is a false security. The more we hold onto the facade, the longer we remain bound by strongholds. The sooner we embrace vulnerability, the quicker God brings His healing activity into our lives. What we allow God to work in us while others are watching may be the precipitating event that draws them into a more authentic relationship with Christ.
In her book, ‘Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus,’ Ann Spangler writes, “Jewish thinkers have considered it vital to study the Scriptures in the presence of other people.” She cites a famous line of rabbinic advice from before Jesus’ time: “Acquire for yourself a rabbi, and get yourself a haver.” Her book further describes “A haver (plural, haverim) is a male student who partners with another student to enhance learning…A female study partner is a haverah (plural, haverot).”
One of my most valued relationships is a close friend and prayer partner. In essence, she acts as my haverah. God has worked through the two of us in undeniable ways. Together, He has taken us further in our faith than either of us would have gone individually. My haverah challenges my thinking, as I do hers, as we seek to understand the scriptures together. When she is too tired to pray for herself, I step in. When I am too exhausted or distraught to pray for myself, she steps in and takes the lead. Our relationship includes laughter, tears, and at times, disagreement – all of which enhance our learning. Through all of our experiences together, God continues to encourage and grow us both in our faith and witness.
God has lead me to discover that being vulnerable with other believers brings significant power and freedom. Although it can be challenging at times, I have learned to silence my insecurities and fears and lay my heart open before other believers. I’m so glad that God had other plans for me when I wanted to keep to my introverted self. Had I followed my own desires, I would have missed so much that the Father wanted to show me!
- Who is your haverah? Is it one person, or a group (haverot) of spiritually mature believers?
- How have you benefited from having a haverot?
- Who do you have that speaks Godly wisdom into your life and challenges your thinking?
- If you don’t have anyone, what is keeping you from connecting? If you don’t know the first step to take, ask God to bring a person or group into your life. He knows your needs and is faithful to answer your requests!
By Stephanie Baker