Lessons from a Dolphin - Ros' Blog
One thing we often hear about from disabled people is the isolation they feel. Many disabled Christians are unable to get to church, either for lack of an accessible church locally, or lack of transport to get there. Isolation is never good; we were created by the community of the Godhead for community with Him and each other.
But is it disastrous if we can’t have fellowship with other Christians? Do we really need to meet together with others to be a “proper” Christian? Can we not follow Jesus anyway even without regularly meeting up with other believers?
The short answer is: probably, in extreme circumstances. For example, a university friend of mine who finally bowed to strong pressure from her family to accept an arranged marriage and go to live in a country where Christians are persecuted, and remained a secret believer, cut off from fellowship with others – I believe God has grace for people in circumstances like that. But it’s not how God intended it to be; He 'sets the lonely in families' (Psalm 68.6). And if we are cut off from fellowship, we have no other benchmark against which to measure our feelings and beliefs about God, our interpretation of Scripture or our understanding of what God is saying to us. So alone is possible where no alternative exists, but together is God’s intention for us.
I’ve been out on the road for Through the Roof for the past week or two, manning (or womanning!) our stand at ONE Event in Lincoln and then speaking at UCCF Forum 18 in Shropshire. Most of the time I haven’t seen or heard any news while I’ve been away, but occasionally I’ve caught a snippet on the car radio when I’ve been travelling between places. One story that caught my attention was of the dolphin in the Firth of Clyde. I wonder if you heard it too?
A dolphin, nicknamed Kylie by locals, became separated from his pod of dolphins, no one quite knows how, and ended up living on his own in the Firth of Clyde. But from 2004 onwards he has found company in the form of a school of harbour porpoises who live in the Firth. Now, scientists studying the dolphin have discovered that he has altered the noises he makes to resemble the sound made by porpoises. It’s the first known example of an animal in the wild learning to "speak" another species’ "language".
And I think this is a good analogy for what happens to us when we have regular fellowship with other believers. We begin to talk like a believer, think like a believer and, ultimately, live like a believer in Jesus Christ. When Peter was trying to deny knowing Jesus, it was his speech that gave him away – he spoke like a Galilean, and so it was futile to pretend that he was ignorant of Jesus. Those around him retorted, “Surely you too are one of them; for even the way you talk gives you away.” (Matthew 26. 73) We too, when we keep regular company with Jesus and those who love Him, begin to talk in a way that marks us out as belonging with Him.
So I would encourage you, if you are unable to meet with other believers because your circumstances or the inaccessibility of the environment prevent you from getting to church, find some other way of having fellowship with those who love Jesus. Host a group in your own home, perhaps, or set up a regular Skype conference with other people in a similar situation, in which you can study the Bible together and pray for each other. Or do this via a Facebook or WhatsApp group – there are many more ways available to our generation of connecting with each other than any previous generation has had.
As we meet together in the company of others who love Jesus, we find that, like the dolphin who now speaks porpoise, our speech begins to change. I find that I lose the grumbling and the self-pity when I meet with others who want to express their worship for Jesus. The questions that trouble my mind find answers when I hear someone else read the Bible and share what God has said to them through it. I stop my “why mes” and “what ifs” and start to speak in “thank yous” and “hallelujahs” instead.
How could you connect with other believers? And if you’re fortunate enough to be able to meet up with others whenever you want to, how could you reach out to and include those who can’t?