Confession: I don’t read fiction often, but when I do, I read the last chapter first. I enjoy reading fiction – I really do! But because I don’t get to read it as often in this season, if I don’t like the ending, I don’t waste my time with whole book.
I’ve heard all of the reasons why I shouldn’t:
“That ruins the reading experience and the mystery of having to figure it out later!”
But I personally find that I really enjoy paying attention to, appreciating and even looking for details that would be easy to miss if I didn’t understand the significance of them.
I’ll show you what I mean. Look at the end of the recorded story of Paul’s relationship with the leaders at Ephesus:
“And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.” – Acts 20:37-38
Picture it. It’s the grown men version of the same thing your kids did as toddlers when they grabbed on to your leg and held on tight when you tried to leave a room. It’s a picture of the kind of love that can’t be faked, that didn’t come easy, and was mutually shared, bonded by the gospel and intentional investment over time.
It’s the realest of real relationships that we all crave. So how do you get those kinds of relational results?
Short answer: not without effort.
Paul details his past relationships with them and their future relationship without his in-person guidance in Acts 20:17-36 to arrive at their tearful, difficult good-bye.
But I simply want to draw your attention to a key phrase that’s tucked in vs. 18:
“You yourselves know that how I lived among you the whole time…”
Living “among” meant their relationship had many levels.
Yes, there was a spiritual level, where they worshipped, prayed and dug into Scripture together. But living among also included many other areas of life: moments of sharing meals, spending time together, and enjoying each other’s company. Living among would mean celebrating life’s highs together and helping/being there in hard times. Living among would also mean knowing one another deeply, being able to apply God’s truth individually, knowing each other’s strengths and struggles.
It took time.
It took effort.
And it didn’t happen everywhere God led Paul to go. But it happened in Ephesus.
We should expect the same. Those deep relational results won’t come everywhere God calls us to go. But just because they don’t happen everywhere God calls you, that doesn’t mean they can’t and shouldn’t happen somewhere.
They just won’t happen accidentally or without proximity.
We dug into this full passage inside SWHW this week, and even though I already blew the ending for you, if those are the kind of relationships you’re craving in your life, I’d love to invite you to join us for a verse-by-verse look at how Paul + his leaders got there and you and those around you can get there too.