When was the last time circumstances forced you to crash a hangout with two best friends? It is the worst. Everyone knows you're not as close as the two of them. I know it. They know it. The spot on the floor I stair at while they laugh at their inside jokes knows it.
Even if they don't rub it in, it's still awkward. Of course it's worse if they don't have the social skills to briefly stifle all their fun memories from the past month right in front of you.
In those third-wheel friend moments, I typically think to myself:
Yes I know you guys are bestie-friendy.
Do you think I would really be here third-wheeling it if I had a choice?
Note to self: never make an outsider feel like this when they're around me and my close friend.
I wonder if I should offer to take selfies of them?
As awkward and irritating as being the third-wheel friend is, so many people settle for a third wheel relationship with God.
Third-wheel Christians have placed their faith in Christ, but remain codependent on another Christian's relationship with God to feed them spiritually. They see themselves as not really that special to God, not as spiritually advanced (whatever that means), and not deserving of intimacy with him.
They think that being around a godly person will by osmosis make them know God. Every word they hear about the bible is a third-wheel Word. Every story they tell is a third-wheel story about someone else, not their own testimony. Every prayer is a third-wheel prayer.
Maybe they don't see themselves as worthy of a genuine relationship with God. Rather than running to their father for prayer, worship, and bible study, they settle instead for 140-character, insty-bible-art, inspirational quote, third-wheel leftovers to sustain them.
We are instructed to be around godly people (Proverbs 13:20 He who walks with the wise becomes wise) and the biblical offices of pastor and teacher are intricate to our growth as believers.
But for some, their entire spiritual nourishment comes from lapping up the overflow of another believer’s life rather than going to the Fountain for themselves. Third wheel Christians get encouraged by a teacher, author, pastor, or mentor but become codependent on them to meet with God on their behalf. Blogs replace gods word. Authors replace time on your knees. Other people's stories take the place of your own stories of transformation. However zealous and inspiring other people's walks with God seem to be, it is no comparison to meeting with him yourself.
Breaking down third-wheel barriers does not mean isolating yourself from the body but strengthening your place in it. When you taste and see the goodness of the lord for yourself, you can serve and love the body of Christ. In Christ, you are worthy to meet with him. If you are his child, his spirit lives in you already.
The closeness of God is intended for you. You are not an exception. When suffering comes, and the storm rages in your life, another's believer’s intimacy with God can encourage you, but it will not sustain you. Only a faith that lives itself out in obedience to the word will persevere through the storm. (Matt. 7:24 Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.)
So be around other believers. Listen to teachers, read books with discernment. But go to the fountain of life for yourself. Dive into the word of God for yourself. Don't be content to let someone else experience the presence of God and tell you about it.
At some point, probably this week, you will experience the joy of being a third wheel. You'll be...
The one friend not as close as the other two
The only one with kids
The only one without kids
The only one not engaged
The oldest one
The youngest one
The weirdest one (that's me)
The only one not _______
That's ok. Endure it with grace and a sense of humor.
And know you are never a third wheel to God. His love and intimacy, his conviction, his word are meant for you in Christ. If you have the desire to know him, love him, follow him, then he has already been pursing your heart. Not just your friend's. Not just your mentor's. Your heart. Run to him for yourself.