Tag Archives: personal relationship

13. the gift of friendship

girlfriendsFriends

Without them, life would be a miserable, lonely existence based on the mundane tasks of day-to-day living.

Come to think of it, life would be that way without Jesus too.  

I’ve learned a bit in my short life here on earth. I may not have fit in when I was a child (I still don’t and that’s okay), but I am and will be forever grateful for those individuals who said, “You’re weird and I like you. I’m here for you” and proved it by their actions. (By the way, you’re weird too, but that’s okay *insert mischievous grin…)

One truth: God loves relationships.

Relationship, companionship and friendship are the lifelong desire of every single person, from life to death. It is a God-given drive and emotion stemming from Eternity that is in every human heart (Ecclesiastes 3.11).

Friendship is a wonderful gift sent straight from the heart of God. There are several references to friendship in the Bible, from the dawn of creation to the end of time.

I recall God walking through Eden with Adam and Eve each day, building upon their relationship with him and with each other (Genesis 2-3).

I contemplate Enoch, a man who lived 365 years walking in close fellowship with God when one day, he simply vanished (Genesis 5.23-24).

I ponder the moment when God called Abraham friend (James 2.23).

I mull over Moses, who was given the opportunity to watch God walk by (backside only, of course – Exodus 33.11).

I think of the relationship between David and Jonathan: They shared a great love and deep respect for each other (1 Samuel 18-20, 2 Samuel 1).

There are many more. Jesus also calls his followers his friends (John 15.9-14):

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one that this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” – Jesus

Awesome

Inspired

Friendship

Friendship is risky. To be known, truly known, is to risk being hurt, but friendship can be beautiful, and worth the risk.

Friendship is beautiful. God gave it to us and he knew we would need each other to get through this life.

C.S. Lewis wrote about a common thread when it comes to friendships:

cslewis

Think about your friends for a moment. What do you have in common with each one? What is each relationship based on?

I’ve got friends at work where the only thing we have in common is our work and a love for cheesy humor on Pinterest.

I’ve got friends at a local coffee shop where the only thing we have in common is our love of coffee.

I had friends in high school where the only things we had in common were a love of movies and board games.

But, when it comes to my Christian friendships… There isn’t anything deeper.

Those friendships take on a special quality:

The bond of Christ.

We are all enhanced by those relationships and they often run much deeper than your typical run-of-the-mill friendships based on coffee and movies (or books, for that matter). 

Through the bond of Christ, you can have a deep, meaningful friendship with someone who has very little or nothing in common with you. That bond is all that matters. He or she is your brother or sister in Christ; they’re family. We risk. We trust. And with that trust, we’re able to have healthy conflict, to build off that and still be okay. What a blessing!

Friendship is one of the ways God takes care of us. We need all the things friendship entails: human contact, encouragement, companionship, love, honesty, loyalty, understanding, and so many more things. Building those friendships is a wonderful way to encourage and lift others up in the Lord.

  • Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Ecclesiastes 4.9-10
  • May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude or mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of your Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15.5-6
  • Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6.2
  • Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, but the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice…As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27.9, 17

As Christ-followers, we’re commanded to carry one another’s burdens, share in each other’s joys and sorrows and be there, to encourage, to speak truth into, to love, etc. The list goes on.

friendship1

Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t want in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend. – Albert Camus

I’ve always liked that quote, but, when I put it in the light of my friendship with God, it doesn’t make sense.

You see, Jesus is my friend. He is my past and he’s in my past, following me wherever I go, although I’m never truly leading. He is my future; he offers to lead my every step, if only I would let him, rather than venturing off on my own to explore something that captures my attention in the moment. And He is my present, always walking beside me. He’s all around and, what’s more? He’s my friend.

Jesus died to restore our friendship with God. Sin disabled our ability to remain righteous and stand in the presence of the Living God. Prior to Christ’s sacrifice, God’s love and justice would consume us in our weakness. Now, his blood covers mankind and those who choose to follow him have the wonderful ability to live in close fellowship with God.

Notice: It’s a gift of choice; not something to be earned.

Friendships take a lot of time and effort to be all that they can be but it’s worth it. Those Christ-centered relationships will be lasting relationships, not just here on earth, but stretching on into eternity with him at the forefront.

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to sin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18.24

I’ve been deeply blessed to have a close-knit group of Christian girlfriends. Now, we typically don’t all get together at the same time, but when we meet up (whether one-on-one for coffee or what-have-you, LifeGroup or a women’s event at church), that time is so rich and precious. We all vary in age and come from different backgrounds. Those differences (along with our similarities) make us stronger and better able to navigate and cope with the trials of life, individually (based on the advice and counsel of someone wiser) and as a unit.

And the same goes for my brothers in Christ. You’ve all done such a marvelous job in protecting the hearts of your sisters and encouraging them in their own walks with Jesus.

You know who you are and I am so thankful for each and every one of you. God has enriched my life with the blessing of friendship. So thank you for allowing him to use you in not just my life, but every life yours touches.

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart…all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.  Philippians 1.3-8

How about you? Are you the type of friend you should be, especially to your brothers or sisters in Christ? Are you doing all the things you should be doing: lifting burdens, being there, etc.?

If not, how can you improve in that area? And what would that look like?

Ask God to touch your heart with the truth of true friendship and to show you what it means to be a friend in Christ.

dancing with Jesus

Dance.

I’ve always loved watching people beautifully and gracefully move from one end of the dance floor or ice rink to the other. I’ve even come to enjoy watching Dancing with the Stars this year, particularly Amber Riley, who plays Mercedes Jones on the hit TV series Glee. You see, she’s not what Hollywood defines as perfect. She’s not skinny. She’s not morbidly obese either. She’s real. She’s genuine.

And she’s not afraid to show it.

I love that!

I wish more celebrities were like that. The list may be short, but they impact their world more than they know, including Jennifer Lawrence, Ellen DeGeneres, Denzel Washington, Emma Stone, Jennifer Hudson, Tyler Perry, Zooey Deschanel…just to name a few.

Anyway, before I go too far with that tangent…

Have you ever watched professional dancers or skating partners? There’s an intimate dynamic that occurs between them. The crowds ooh and ah over each turn and spin, cameras flash, but the two at the center of it all don’t see it. They are focused 100% on their partner, attuned to the slightest signal, responding instantly, beautifully and effortlessly.

There is a part of me that hopes to actually experience dance one day outside of the walls and privacy of my apartment. I remember wanting to learn the art of it when I was a child but my parents couldn’t afford it…then again, I never mentioned it. I didn’t want to be a “burden.” Looking back, my choice in not voicing that dream also had to do more with fear than anything else.

You see, I lack a certain amount of physical grace. Then again, perhaps an accident-prone young woman would be gifted in that area. I might just have to find out.

Dance:

  • Noun: an artistic form of nonverbal communication
  • Noun: taking a series of rhythmical steps (and movements) in time to music
  • Verb: move in a graceful and rhythmical way

Life is a dance. We get to choose the type: divine or worldly. In choosing the latter, it can be easy to perform for the applause of those around us. Girls dress a certain way to get the attention of boys. We talk a certain way because our friends do. Parents send their children to certain school because it’s what the neighbor or community does. We sometimes even watch certain TV shows or listen to a specific style of music just to fit in.

I’ve been there. I’ve done that. In high school, I dressed a certain way and listened to Limp Bizkit and Metallica (even though I secretly hated it) just so I could fit in or get a little attention. I wanted them to genuinely like me. I was sick of being the outsider, always looking in.

Thing is – any attention and most of the conversations or invitations I received were not genuine. I came to that realization when I began to learn what having a real relationship with Jesus meant…in college.

There are times I find myself riding that same carousel. Around and around I go on a seemingly endless cycle that leaves me empty and never heading anywhere.

But it doesn’t take long for me to realize that I really crave the former: a lifetime spent dancing with Jesus.

I’m wired to.

Remember the description of dancers/skaters in the midst of their act; the intimacy of it?

What if we knew God that intimately? What if we were so focused on Him, so in tune with Him, that like Jesus we could say, “I do only what my Father wills.”? What keeps us from that? What keeps us in angst; keeps us striving and experiencing burnout?

I use to focus solely on me. I sometimes still do.

And I’ve learned, and continue to learn, this important truth: human beings can only serve one thing at a time and we should not have any other idol before God (Exodus 20.3). If I’m going to proclaim I want to worship God with my life, I can’t and shouldn’t esteem the opinions of my friends (or what people in general think) more highly than God’s opinion of me.

Affirmation is a huge thing for me. Encouragement means the world to me. Those things leave me feeling full, flying “high as a kite” (so-to-speak), and feeling better equipped to take on anything that may come my way on a daily basis. They are not sinful things in their own accord, but when I begin to make them my ultimate goal in life, it becomes an idol, or a sin, and therefore, a serious problem. That feeling equipped thing is an illusion…I can’t do anything apart from Jesus (John 15.1-8 , also see Philippians 4.13).

I can either dance for His applause or I can dance for man’s applause, but I can’t do both at the same time.

This is something I’ve been wrestling with for the last couple of years (thank you Beth Moore and two of my dearest friends) and probably will continue to for some time. I know that He’s giving me more than I can handle in this morning, but there is beauty in the fact that I don’t have to face that junk alone. He’s there with me, swinging me through that next dance move.

Romans 12.1-2 has been extremely helpful to me during this time (among others) in my life:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

When we offer our lives to God as living sacrifices, He considers that worship. Dancing with Him is worship. Letting Him into your life is worship. Trusting Him with your life is worship. Life itself should be an act of worship.

I’d like to share a poem penned by Amena Brown that inspired this entry and God has also used it to further the progress Jesus is currently making in the dimly lit corners of my heart and in my life:

Dance with Him ~ Amena Brown

Dance with Him
He puts His hand on the small of my back
Two fingers pressed into the center of my palm
He pulls me close
Steps with His left, my right
I focus on His eyes and try to ignore my feet as they clumsily count one – two – three

I recall that first moment quite beautifully. The only difference is that then, I can envision placing my feet on His, as a daughter would on her father’s, as He took me around the dance floor. Oh, how easy it was to simply trust and believe then.

I can also relate to those clumsy feet. They still are, most days anyway.

Have you ever watched someone learn to dance? Watch this video – see that little girl in the middle? I can relate to her…in more ways than one. 

I’m often like that with God. I’m so focused on what I think needs to be done or on what I already know to do, whether that be reading my Bible, leading a Bible study, fulfilling other responsibilities to those around me and my church; it’s easy to take my eyes off Him. It’s easy to turn what should be an act of intimate surrender into role behavior which ultimately leads to burn-out and ineffectiveness. That happened yesterday…

Nothing went as planned and that just goes to show Who is in charge and it’s definitely not me.

When I surrender to Him, forsaking my ideas and agenda, clearing my mind of everything but Him, everything flows.

I’m trying to trust Him
He knows this dance better than me
I’m still a novice and it’s obvious
I have yet to lean in and let Him control the turns

God knows I’m trying. He definitely knows this dance better than me, little “Miss Know-It-All” that I am. This patience thing is tough.

He takes His time and even when I miss a step
It’s fine
He knows I’m learning

His patience blows me away. I can’t even fathom the depth of it all…

He wants me to put my hand in His
Close my eyes and trust Him
With my life
My heart
With worry
And “I’m so scared”
With hurt
Worth and unworthy
Loving and unlovable
And my heart has been hurt before
I have been burned before
Loved
And endured loss before
I am in no mood for a dance
No mood to be romanced
I have become a grace cynic
And love’s worst critic

This world is a beautiful, broken mess and the echoes of Eden affect every part of it . Life isn’t easy. Life hurts. And that fact makes trusting hard.

Do I trust Him with my life?
With my heart?
With my worries?
With my fears?
With my worth?
With my identity?
With my life’s purpose?
With the pen of this beautiful, broken story; the story He’s given me?

I can honestly say that most of the time, no…I don’t. There’s a huge part of me that wants to, but, in my human condition and the world I’m in make it difficult to simply make that move.

I will continue to strive to trust Him, and, by His grace, I can…One day I will…when His strength has been made complete in me (2 Corinthians 12.9).

He sends me invitations every day
And even though I have yet to RSVP
He doesn’t remind me
He keeps pursuing
Taking steps in spite of me

I always dreamt of being pursued this way. What a wondrous thing it is to realize that I am! If only I would accept this truth each and every day.

He is a songwriter
Composing the notes that hold together eternity
And He wants to teach my limbs to sing
He’s been waiting to watch me let go of woe
And worry…until my soul
Sings in that beautiful voice He gave me
That I have someone come to think
It not so beautiful

He wants me to let go. Will I? When? And I’m guilty of buying into Satan’s lie that the voice God gave me isn’t beautiful. It is!

To dance with Him
I must give in
And give up
Plus
The trust it takes to really love
And I want to love Him unbridled
Believe in Him with a faith that is unshakeable
Like tree roots centuries deep
Until I learn to follow His time
Take deep breaths
Rest my head on His chest
And my cares at His feet
But I never fear –
As long as I depend on me

“As long as I depend on me…” Funny how that works, isn’t it? It’s funny how, when we depend on ourselves, we think we’ve got it all figured out and something happens, forcing us to realize that we don’t. It happens all the time. I really should fear when I find myself making plans without Him. Yesterday is a prime example and still sticks out like a sore thumb. I had planned on coming into work early and was looking forward to an awesome new upgrade to my computer (Windows 7!) prior to the start of my shift. That didn’t happen, nor did the rest of my day go according to plan:

  • Creative juices were flowing and I wanted to finish this post – didn’t happen.
  • Project work needed to be completed – didn’t happen.

I was frustrated, found myself thinking rather negative thoughts (which is not usually the norm for me) and annoyed with the world for raining on my parade.

But…

God spun those plans on their heads and in turn brought a fullness into the midst of that chaos with opportunities to serve my boss, my co-workers and my neighbor when I finally arrived home, not to mention those on the other end of the line on the calls I take on a daily basis.

Countless opportunities.

The frustration ebbed and my general annoyance vanished almost immediately.

God is in control.

When I live in constant surrender to Him, forsaking my ideas and agenda, clearing my mind of everything but Him, everything flows.

Take His hand
Take a chance
Fingertips in the palm of the One who holds galaxies
In His hand
Hand on His shoulder
Heart in His hand
We dance
To a down beat
That keeps time with His heartbeat
Sometimes
It feels like He’s letting me go
When He’s only letting me turn
And sometimes
It feels like He’s letting me fall
When He’s only letting me learn
Sometimes
It feels like He’s letting me go
When He’s only letting me turn
And sometimes
It feels like He’s letting me fall
When He’s only letting me learn
His is the song that never ends
His love
Sinners become friends
He wants to dance with you
Until the only Song you hear
Is Him

To be filled, we must first bet emptied – of ourselves, our sin, our wants, our desires. I believe that anytime we cling to anything – even good things – other than God, they become a hinderance to the working of the Holy Spirit. That job we fear losing, the ministry we can’t let fail, that relationship we’re afraid of letting go, whatever it is…when we begin to strive only for that thing(s) – hold tight to it – we begin to operate in our own will. To be overshadowed, we need to stay surrendered completely, focused on our Savior and not the dance itself. Our actions will otherwise lose power because we’ve left Him behind.

I’m nearing there. I’ve taken His hand. I’m learning to surrender. I’m learning to trust Him with my heart. I’m learning to let Him lead…bending, twirling, twisting, turning, falling…until the only Song I hear is Him.