You need people in your life that pursue and invest in you. Someone who asks how you are. Someone who sees that you aren’t fine even though you say you are. Someone who wants you to tell her something, anything, because she knows that if you aren’t telling her anything, you’re probably not telling anyone.
It’s not easy to develop relationships that are vulnerable enough to know the quirks and warning signs while being steeped with the trust it takes to confront, listen, and patiently pursue until someone is ready to talk. Sometimes that person is someone in our own home, but more often, it’s someone outside of it with just enough distance that they can be there even when those relationships are under stress. And that’s one of the reasons it’s difficult to find that someone. It requires a sacrifice of time to develop. We don’t instantly trust people. We can’t share our life story in one setting. There will always be a few gaps here and there, but people who invest well in our lives connect some dots to find threads woven together to make us who we are.
I have watched young women struggle to find that one lifelong friend who understands them and is fiercely loyal and authentic. But I find the same struggle among women of all ages. Sometimes it’s because of their own expectations of what that friend should be (and not be). They want many boxes ticked off their list without realized the other person is growing and learning, too. We develop friendships through a pursuit of trust, grace, forgiveness, and honesty.
Friendships come and go over time, but it helps when we look forward with an expectation of longevity. We can’t have it all at once. In fact, we can’t ever have it all. There’s always room for growth, and we have to be willing to engage, not just because we need someone but because they need us, too. We need each other to invite authenticity and allow accountability.
We need to ask each other how we are and be willing to answer honestly.
Christmas is a magnifier. Whatever is going on in your life is probably amplified right now. That can feel positive, and it can feel negative. Regardless of how it makes you feel, you can choose to respond with honesty, humility, and a willingness to change. Our joy doesn’t come from our circumstances, so what feels like a magical Christmas or depressing Christmas doesn’t define your Christmas, and it doesn’t define you. It’s not time to place blame, dwell on the inescapable, or compare with others.
Our joy and blessings can be permanent. Yes, they seem to shift from time to time, and they certainly change us. The permanence doesn’t mean we feel the same all the time. It doesn’t mean all is happy and wonderful. It means we have a foundation, and when we let the magnifier be about the source of our faith, we amplify the right focus.
What are you magnifying today?
Only God can be fully forgiving, compassionate, and cleansing. Only He is blameless. He desires our integrity. He restores us. When we trust His authority and claim His character and promises, then we are able to receive His fullness.
The first step is an honest plea:
Be gracious to me, God, according to Your faithful love; according to Your abundant compassion, blot out my rebellion. Wash away my guilt and cleanse me from my sin. For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me. Against You—You alone—I have sinned and done this evil in Your sight. So You are right when You pass sentence; You are blameless when You judge. Indeed, I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me. Surely You desire integrity in the inner self, and You teach me wisdom deep within. Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones You have crushed rejoice. Turn Your face away from my sins and blot out all my guilt. God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not banish me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and give me a willing spirit. Then I will teach the rebellious Your ways, and sinners will return to You. (Psalm 51:1-13)
You acted in secret, but I will do this before all Israel and in broad daylight.
David responded to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”(2 Samuel 12:11-12)
When faced with the truth of what we’ve done, it can be a wake up call. We might have rationalized choices along the way, one after another that seemed to fit and make sense. But then we face the truth.
If we are honest and wise, we will respond with immediate humility, reverence, and submission to the truth instead of rationalizing or blaming.
There will still be consequences, but God is able to immediately forgive us and help us move on.
Perhaps you can faintly hear a wake-up call right now. Tune out everything else. Listen. Wake up. Change.
How often do we declare something as wrong, then step into that exact same thing?
Saul had removed the mediums and spiritists from the land…He inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him in dreams or by the Urim or by the prophets. Saul then said to his servants, “Find me a woman who is a medium, so I can go and consult her.” (1 Samuel 28:3b, 6-7)
We declare something wrong until it benefits us, or at least, we perceive it will benefit us. Even if we say we tried to rely on God, if He didn’t respond the way we preferred in the timing we wanted, we can easily turn back to what is familiar, even if we have a love-hate relationship with it. We often live in tension, which can become turmoil…or we ignore the turmoil, even get comfortable with it, which welcomes hypocrisy.
Realistically, we all have some hypocrisy in our lives, but we can at least be attentive enough to want to weed our lives of it. We can be honest with ourselves and others through the tension and turmoil. And we can let God set expectations instead of us imposing ours onto Him.
Just because we disagree and have been on opposite sides of a battle doesn’t mean we toss honesty, humility, peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness to the side. Winning at any and all costs is not winning.
Saul and David definitely had their differences, mainly because of Saul’s jealousy, pride, and struggle for power. Yet, near the end of his life, he had this interaction with his successor, David:
When David finished saying these things to him, Saul replied, “Is that your voice, David my son?” Then Saul wept aloud and said to David, “You are more righteous than I, for you have done what is good to me though I have done what is evil to you. You yourself have told me today what good you did for me: when the Lord handed me over to you, you didn’t kill me. When a man finds his enemy, does he let him go unharmed? May the Lord repay you with good for what you’ve done for me today.” (1 Samuel 24:16-19)
We don’t have to wait until the end of our lives. In fact, we shouldn’t. Why waste time? Choose to be honest, humble, peaceful, conciliatory, and forgiving. Today.
Look, I have selected your fellow Levites from the Israelites as a gift for you, assigned by the Lord to work at the tent of meeting. But you and your sons will carry out your priestly responsibilities for everything concerning the altar and for what is inside the veil, and you will do that work. I am giving you the work of the priesthood as a gift. (Numbers 18:6-7a)
We receive gifts from God. We like gifts.
God’s gifts are assigned. He designates them to us, as individuals and as communities in which He places us throughout seasons of our lives.
We like the honor, but we don’t always like the responsibility that comes along with the assignment. Assignment feels so…obligatory.
Yes. Our relationship with God includes responsibility. He doesn’t demand it, because He wants our willing response, but as our relationship with God deepens, we better understand the responsibility He extends to us. We accept it more fully. It excites us, yet burdens us, too. We know it is a blessing, and sometimes it feels thrilling, but it also feels confusing and uncomfortable and unrelenting.
When we’re honest with ourselves and with God, we listen for assignments and we let God challenge us to change and grow along the way. We receive His gifts not like we receive annual birthday gifts but as a humble recipient of an award we’re not sure we deserve. We open them with uncertainty of what we’ll do with it but with trust that God is certain and will let us discover the gift and fulfill His assignment one step at a time.