August 30, 2011
I Need a Friend
But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me." When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her (Ruth 1:16-18, NIV).
Friendship is the catalyst for every other love and the foundation of every healthy relationship. God created us to need each other. We need friends and we need to be a friend. Over the next few days, we will continue to uncover nine keys to healthy friendships.
Key two: Risk
The emotional demands on women are vast. One of the ways God replenishes the emotional drains we experience is through friendships. Many women are convinced that the risk of having close friends outweighs the rewards. I disagree. There is no love without risk. Every friendship must contain the element of risk if it is to grow and mature, reaching its full potential. Ruth was willing to risk her very future for the sake of her friendship with Naomi. John 15:13 says it well. "Greater love has no one than this; that one lay down his life for his friends." When we choose to lay down our life, we automatically take a chance on being hurt, rejected, betrayed or misunderstood.
Anyone who knows me also knows that living foliage is doomed to die a premature death if left in my care for any length of time. I have even been known to kill a plant without touching it. In fact, the only hope any plant of mine has to live past its purchase date is for me to ignore its existence with great diligence. I am certain you can understand why I am in awe of anyone who gardens and is actually capable of growing green things.
I once had a neighbor who was known for her green thumb. In fact, everyone in our small Mississippi town knew that the most beautiful roses were found in Joyce's back yard. It was in that same yard where I learned an important lesson about friendship.
Every afternoon, after their nap time, I took our two children, Jered and Danna, outside to play in our fenced-in back yard. While the kids enjoyed the fresh air, neighborhood friends and their swing set, I enjoyed visiting with Joyce. Most of our conversations took place over the vine-covered fence and her dazzling rose garden. After weeks of watching Joyce plant, prune, water, feed, talk to and even sing to her "Rose Babies." I noticed that Joyce never handled the roses without wearing thick gloves to protect her hands from thorns. One day, our conversation abruptly halted when she yanked her hand into the air and yelled, "Ouch!" When I asked her why she insisted on growing roses instead of some safer and less prickly foliage, her answer was profound. "The beauty of the roses is worth the occasional wound they inflict," she replied. Joyce had learned to handle the roses with respect and in such a way that her wounds were few. Friendships are much the same.
Friends will hurt you. Friends will wound you. We would be wise to don thick emotional gloves when it comes to handling friendships. It is a fatal mistake to assign the responsibility for our happiness to friends. In reality, depending on a friend to make us happy sets that friend up for failure in the relationship and positions that friendship for inevitable destruction. For example, I have a friend who simply cannot keep a secret. She would do anything in the world for me - except keep her mouth closed. Because I love her and don't want to write her off as a friend, I have simply chosen to be cautious about what I share with her. Every friendship has a price tag of some kind attached. We just need to get to the place where love covers the cost.
The words of 1 Peter 4:8 say it well, "Love covers a multitude of sins." In this verse, "cover" literally means to "hide" or "overlook" the faults. Friendship knows the weaknesses are there, but chooses to love anyway. Friendship is always costly but always well worth the cost.
Key three: Transparency
In verse 16, Ruth offers an amazing display of transparency. "Where you go I will go. Where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God, my God." Openness and honesty nourish friendship. We are naturally drawn to transparent people because transparency produces authenticity. In fact, one of the most winsome aspects of Jesus was the fact that He was so transparent and lived an authentic life. He did not remain aloof from His disciples. He lived among them, sharing every part of their lives. He ate with them, prayed with them, ministered with them, cried with them and laughed with them. Jesus repeatedly opened Himself up to the disciples.
John 15:15 "I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father."
Jesus made a deliberate choice to be transparent, modeling friendship at its best. He was hurt, betrayed and rejected by those He called friends. Still today, He waits for you and for me, longing to be the most transparent and authentic friend we have. Life can be a very lonely place. Jesus knows. Friendships are not only an important source of encouragement to us as women, but a valuable source of strength as well. I am convinced that if we built fewer relationship walls, we would have more friends and be a better friend.
Father, I have to admit that it is sometimes easier to be lonely than it is to be authentic and real with others. Forgive me for letting fear keep me from reaching out to someone in friendship. I am willing to risk being hurt. I am willing to be transparent in order to be a better friend. I lay every friendship at Your feet as an offering of praise for the Friend You are to me.
In Jesus' name,
Now It's Your Turn
Think of a time when you were hurt by someone you thought was a friend. How did you respond? Answer the following questions in light of that response.
Would you change your response if you could? How?
Did your response make the friendship stronger or weaker? In what way(s)?
Have you let go of the hurt and forgiven the person who hurt you?
Read Colossians 1:13-14. How do these verses influence the way you forgive the friends who have hurt you?
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Tuesday, July 12, 2011
One of the hardest things for me is unbalanced relationships. You know, the ones where you feel like you give your all but the other person just keeps taking. The relationships where there is no give and take, no security because you don't know if you can rely on that friend. For myself, I usually look to cut those people off. I mean, they're leeches right? They can't just selfishly take and expect me to keep giving! It's like me always pushing up on the seesaw and they just keep sitting there, so I've got to go over and push their side down too. It's just not fair! So they should get off my ride! Right?
Jesus says no. He goes so far to tell us,
"But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matthew 5:44 & 45 NIV)
He tells us to love our enemies! How much more should we treat our friends (no matter how undeserving in our eyes) with grace and love. Ephesians 4:2 (NIV) tells us to, "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." Yikes! Bearing with one another in love. So, God wants us to keep on putting up with each other in love, not just tolerance. I mean, seriously, someone puts up with me, and I KNOW I'm not the easiest to bear with.
So even thought I want to give that person what I feel they deserve - one good push off my seesaw for their selfishness - the truth is, how can I, in good conscience, do that? God doesn't hand me what I deserve for my negative behaviors. Instead, he looked at our undeserving actions and said, "Whew! We better get these fools a Savior, quick!"
Furthermore, His word says, "Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen." (1 John 4:20 NIV) So actually, I can't really love God if I stop showing love to those around me, even the ones who may get on that one last nerve or suck that one last bit of energy without thinking to ever give back.
Real talk, people get on our nerves. And we get on people's nerves. The trick to success, even though it may be hard to do, is to put pride to the side and give grace as fully as we receive it. Yes, pride. I mean, really, who do I think I am that someone needs to be deserving of my friendship to have it? Again, Ephesians 4:2 (NIV) tells us to, "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." The first words of that scripture tell us to be completely humble first. Then it says be gentle. Then it says be patient. We can't bear with others in love if we think too highly of ourselves.
So as we deal with each other, let's remember the words at Romans 12:17 - 19 (MSG):
Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”
Don't punch that person off of your seesaw of life. Trust God to take care of it and just keep on loving & giving grace freely. You might be surprised at how strong you actually get.
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