Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Threat of God-Given Friendship


A few years ago, I was part of a women's Bible Study. One of our studies revolved around friendship. It was perhaps my favorite of all the studies we had done. While the focus of the study was on friendships between women, there was some very good information that helped me recognize which friendships should be nourished, which were real and God-given, and how to be a better friend to others. (Granted, I still don't always do so great at the "how to be a better friend" bit... but I at least learned how to....).

The one thing I did not like about the study, however, is something that I have experienced time and again both before that study and since then. People have preconceived notions of who can be friends, and who cannot.

It is frowned on for a student and teacher to be friends, or a boss and employee, or a pastor and parishioner, or a man and a woman. Throughout my life, many of my friendships have fallen into one or more of these categories. In college, I became good friends with a couple of my professors. One was a woman, one a man. I have also had bosses whom I considered good friends, again both male and female. I have been friends with pastors before, the first of whom was when I was a teenager/young adult. And, as I have already stated, I have been friends with men.

I can understand the reasoning behind the "rules" imposed on friendships. With teachers, bosses, pastors - there is the potential of "favoritism" - perceived or otherwise. There may be expectations that these people should favor us because we're a friend... we mean more than the other people.

And when it comes to opposite genders being close friends, there is the potential for things to become too intimate, crossing over into cheating on a spouse or even just hindering our intimate relationship with our spouse or any potential spouse.



However, I firmly believe that God puts these friends in our lives for a reason. And I firmly believe that as long as you consistently turn to God and pray to him, he will be there to strengthen the friendship and keep it pure. And he will use this friendship to help you grow. He will use this friendship to strengthen your relationship with your spouse. Friendships - regardless of who they are with, or what gender the other person is - has the potential to be harmful. It has the potential to be unhealthy.

Yes, perhaps more care needs to be taken when it is someone of the opposite gender. The same could be said for same sex friendships, especially if that's whom you are attracted to. You need to be able to keep sexual intimacy out of the equation, and need to ensure you have a strong commitment to your spouse. And you need to be able to keep your heart set on God - keep God  between the friendship.

And yes, one needs to have the ability to separate "position" from "friendship" (i.e. at work, you need to respect him/her as your boss, and not expect different treatment; and he or she needs to respect that you are an equal to the rest of the employees and not expect you to do more or less... but after you clock out, leave work at work and be able to just enjoy time together talking about your families or hobbies or just hang out playing games).

But do not turn away from someone whom helps you grow closer to God - do not dismiss a God-given friend just because of their gender or position. Embrace the loving, nurturing relationships God gives you.

May God bless you with great friends who make you a better person - who help guide you in your walk with Christ - who need you to help guide and support and encourage them in their walk with Christ.




Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Sometimes the Darkness is Easier








Imagine you’ve been living in a completely dark room. Your eyesight has already gotten used to your surroundings. You’re able to see the walls and shapes and know your way around. You can see any furniture or other fixtures.

Suddenly, a light is turned on. You’re temporarily blinded. You can’t see anything through the brightness. You’re scared and uncertain, but eventually adjust. You eventually learn to appreciate the new colors and vividness of which you’ve been exposed.

And then the light goes out again, leaving you once again in utter darkness. The ability you once had to make out everything in the darkness is gone. Again, fear sets in.

If this only happens once or twice, the fear is probably short-lived, and you realize that you will once again be able to see. However, when it happens repeatedly, you begin to desire to stay in the darkness. You prefer the shady but still-there sight over the continued blindness and fear.

For me, this is a good analogy for those who’ve suffered abuse. This would be especially true for children who are abused continuously, and by multiple people. You let one person be your light, and they abuse you, bringing you back to the darkness. You let another in, and again, abuse. Then another… and another…

Soon, you stop letting in the light. You prefer the darkness. It’s safer there. You’ve grown so adjusted to the darkness, you find it safer and more comfortable there than the continued blind fear. You’ve grown so adjusted to the continuous light then dark then light then dark that the fear of having to go through that again is stronger than the fear of the dark.

This doesn’t just apply to abused children, however. Those who end up in a few bad relationships, or are betrayed by friends over and over again, or any other form of abuse or betrayal, can end up the same way. You find yourself pushing away or avoiding anyone who may possibly bring light into your life because you fear you’ll be abused or betrayed by that person as well and tossed right back into the pitch black darkness.

Faith can be the same way – whether this is caused by church members, pastors, or simply getting kicked down by life every time you start to believe God is there with you. Eventually, you would prefer to remain in the darkness than believe that the church is a godly place; or that God even exists.


This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5 NIV)


This is a very difficult thing to remember – and more difficult at times to see. My prayer for all tonight is that no matter what you’ve been through – no matter what abuse or betrayal or pain you’ve had to suffer – God helps you to see him as the light he is. And that God helps you to see the light he brings into your life through the hearts of others. And that God helps you to accept that light into your life and to hold onto it, even when it seems to dim.

May the light of Christ shine on all of you tonight and always.


Random Thoughts on Random Subjects

I noticed I have a few unpublished posts in which I only got a paragraph or two written (and basically made my point in those small paragraphs). Therefore, I decided to combine them into one random thoughts posts...

----

All I want for Christmas is... selfish stuff






Please know, I don't mean to offend anyone. But...

I have seen the above quote, or something similar, posted quite a bit lately. Many don't even say "I want".... they say "I pray".

To me, this is something so selfish.

Yes, I have lost people. And yes, I do talk to them. I do tell them I love them and miss them. But I add that I pray they are at peace. And to be honest, I am fairly certain they are at peace - they are with our Lord. They are loved in such a greater capacity than I could ever dare dream to love... in a way in which only God can love.

I don't want my loved ones to know how much I miss them. I want them embraced in the arms of God. I want them at peace and filled with such an endless love and warmth this world could never have provided. When I say I miss them....it's just me needing to voice my own earthly, human sorrow. It's me needing to feel closer to God and those who've left this earth.

----





I saw this tonight... and my first thought was that sometimes it really isn't about putting them back together. Yes, that is the initial thought most of us have. But most often, it's about reaching through that brokenness... getting cut in the process... but still reaching, just to hold that person. Just to show that person some love and acceptance. 

You may not completely change a person that way, but you will make an impact. And to me, the cuts are worth it.

----


"'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.'
'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'

But what is love? What is the kind of love Jesus is talking about in these verses?

We tend to think of love as an emotion – it’s a feeling of affection for another person. And we tend to believe that if someone loves us, they are acting from this place of affection and should meet certain expectations.

The problem with this way of thinking is that when the affectionate feelings lessen, or when expectations aren’t met, the relationship dies. Couples break up, get separated, or get divorced. Don’t misunderstand me – there are circumstances where this is a necessary occurrence. I am in no way stating that there aren’t good reasons for a couple to separate. But a simple loss of affectionate feeling is generally not a good reason. Although, on the otherhand, a simple affectionate feeling isn’t a good reason to be a couple.

Even when it comes to our relationship with family members, or close friends, we still operate under the definition of love being a feeling of affection. We tend to believe that this is enough.

Again, the problem with this is that if something goes wrong to cause that feeling to lessen, we find ourselves at odds with our family or friends, distancing ourselves from them, causing rifts or broken relationships.

This is not what God wants. Love for and from God is not merely a feeling of affection. Love is an action. It is a commitment. It is not a commitment to always feel affection. It is a commitment to always be loving.

When we treat love as simply a feeling of affection, we lose the ability to show godly love towards everyone. We are told to love our enemies. If love is an affectionate emotion only, how can we possibly succeed in loving our enemies? When we remember love is an action, then and only then can we bring that Godly love to those enemies.


----




Disqus Shortname

Comments system