After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up on a high mountain by themselves to be alone. He was transformed in front of them … As they were coming down from the mountain, He ordered them to tell no one what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept this word to themselves … (Mark 9:2, 9-10a)
I don’t think Jesus fretted over how the other disciples felt when he took Peter, James, and John up on the mountain to witness his transfiguration in the sight of Moses and Elijah. They were the first three he chose to follow him initially and he grew closest to them. He had no reason to apologize for that.
Author S.E. Hinton once said, “If you have two friends in your lifetime, you’re lucky. If you have one good friend, you’re more than lucky.”
That may sound like a pessimistic view of friendship, but I think the distinction she makes about finding a good friend versus simply calling someone a friend is valid. Good friendship can probably be defined in various ways, but rock solid trustworthiness is certainly at the center.
I have several friends who have seen me at my worst, and most vulnerable. They have heard me say vile things. They have seen me shed tears over the loss of my father, the hardships of relatives and even over the loss of my cat, Midnight. They have heard my dreams, my struggles and my confessions. They know my weaknesses, but yet, fail to throw them in my face. And they keep my confidences, which is probably the best indicator of trustworthiness.
This week, Chuck Colson said something on his Insight for Living broadcast about keeping a friend’s confidences that I’ll never forget.
“I know very, very few absolutely confidential people. The longer I live, the less I know,” he said. “Very few people will die with any secrets still in their hearts. You and I should have dozens that die with us. There are tombstones that are built in my mind, of information that will never go one step further.”
He has built tombstones over the gravesites of confidences he is keeping. That’s quite a word picture, isn’t it? If the confidences are buried six feet deep, they have no opportunity to be revealed. As such, maybe an even better word picture would be to bury confidences in unmarked graves where nobody will ever know they existed.
When Jesus pulled aside Peter, James and John and took them up on the mountain, he ordered them to keep his confidence about what they had seen, and “they kept his word to themselves.” He trusted them, and they kept his trust.
American evangelicalism has been embracing a trend over the past five years that emphasizes community. We stopped referring to Sunday school, and instead began calling it a community group. We stopped referring to small groups that meet in homes and began calling them “life groups.” My previous church called these groups “missional communities.”
As such, leaders urge us to work out the implications of the gospel in community, and that’s a good thing. It’s hard to love your enemy or forgive someone if you live in isolation and are never schemed against or offended. But these groups are temporal and seasonal, by design. They are good, but a smaller group of two or three believers who are in it for the long haul is better.
In one sense, these smaller groups, which I’ll call deeper community, are the church – not in the institutional sense, but rather, in the organic sense. We need both, but deeper community is the place we remove our masks, grieve, confess, dream, speak loving rebukes and words of healing. And it’s the place where confidences are buried in unmarked graves.
Last Friday, I met two friends for lunch and we experienced deep community there. That night, I met two more friends for coffee at Barnes & Noble and the same thing occurred.
I always know when I've been in deep community because it lingers, and it has a nuanced influence on my thinking and sense of belonging long after we've gone our separate ways.
And after I've experienced it, I can't wait to experience it again.
How about you?
Lee Warren is a freelance writer and editor who has written twelve non-fiction books, one novella and hundreds of articles for various newspapers and magazines as well as edited more than 50 books that currently appear in print. He's a fan of NASCAR, baseball, tennis, books, movies and coffee shops.