Lone Wolf No More
By Anthony Casperson
In a few video game RPGs there’s a feat that one can choose to take for their character called “Lone Wolf.” Some games might have another name for it, but this is the name I’ve seen used most often.
The games in which such a feat can be found are those that have a party dynamic which the player controls. More people with more powers and abilities who can help the player’s main character (the PC) traverse the world.
However, there are some players who don’t want to have to deal with the specifications of 2-4 characters when playing. And so, the Lone Wolf feat allows a player to have the PC be their only character, while giving them some sort of buff. This would include things like more HP, more points for feat choices, more stamina, etc.
The character is able to solo the main quest without hindrance because of the feat. Something that would otherwise be next to impossible without other characters. Character growth without others.
When it comes to our spiritual lives, however, there is no Lone Wolf feat. It’s sort of a strange thing that, when it comes to our personal spiritual growth, we can’t grow alone. Sure some may try, but the truth is that being a follower of Jesus requires others.
I could point to the multitudinous “one another” passages from the New Testament to prove my point. Love one another. Serve one another. Forgive one another. Encourage one another. The list could go on.
But even the gifts of the Spirit, given to all who follow Jesus, show that we are meant to grow spiritually with others. What is a teacher without students? What is a generous giver without any need? What is an encourager without someone being called to their side? What is an evangelist without someone who needs to hear the gospel?
The very things that God provides for us to grow in our spiritual lives, point us to others. Ephesians 4:12 says that Jesus gave gifts “for building up the body of Christ.” Even the things that Jesus gives us to grow spiritually in him make us have to be with others to use them.
I think he has a point…but one that often gets minimized in its application.
When we hear these kinds of words, it’s to call us to attend a time of gathered worship or a bible study. Don’t get me wrong, these things are good. Singing the praise of God along with others and spending time learning about the truth found in the bible are things that we should do. But they are not a full realization of spiritual growth with others.
It’s like playing a video game without the Lone Wolf feat and only using the full compliment of characters in a handful of situations. “Good job everybody, dealing with that fight. You can all go home now. I’ll deal with the next 5-6 by myself. See ya.” You will quickly find the difficulty level rise. And are likely to cease from progressing.
There’s more to spiritual growth than just a shot on the weekend and a booster in the middle of the week. There’s a depth of growth that is not common when only spending time with other spiritually-minded people while singing, listening to someone speak for 20-30 minutes, and trying to understand this week’s passage. Some growth can and does happen in these situations, but it is a paltry sum considering the possibilities.
We followers of Jesus need to get into each other’s lives in a way that so few do. There’s a real need to let 1-2 other people (of the same gender) get past the masks that we so easily throw up. Trustworthy people who know the dirty little secrets that go on when we’re alone. Those who can support in the places that we have great weakness.
And we need to be such people in their lives as well. We need to be ready for occasional late-night breakdowns and so much more. It’s a chosen family who gets into each other’s business when we really need it, but don’t want it.
I’m not saying this as someone who has arrived at this place. I’ve seen it done before. And for an extremely short time in my life, I’ve been a part of it. But like all relationships, it takes time and energy to maintain. Unfortunately, circumstances and location can distance us.
It’s an intended part of our personal spiritual growth, but one that eludes us so easily. I don’t really know the answer on how to step up into this type of togetherness and keep it. But if we don’t talk more about this spiritual need, then it will fade even further from our reality. Perhaps talking about it might spark something to get headed in that direction.
I pray that God opens up the opportunity in all of our lives to take part in this experience of spiritual growth. I pray that our time trying to Lone Wolf it is over.