Monday, July 13, 2015

I Wasn't Lonely Until I Had Friends

I've always been a bit of a loner. Growing up my closest friends were my family: my brother (1 year younger), my sisters (5 & 6 years younger), and my cousin (1 year older). Since my dad was a pastor of a small, growing church, there weren't many kids there my age--& generally they were younger than me so I was the "babysitter." I was the only one in my youth group for 2 years (until my brother & his friends were old enough to join.) I didn't have many friends I found things in common with. And honestly I have a hard time reaching out to others. I tend to be pretty shy naturally. The homeschooling group I was a part of did contain one family we were fairly close to, and they had a girl my age, but I ended up doing a lot of things by myself. And I'm really okay with that. I love to just curl up in a corner and read a book. Or take my dog on a hike in the woods. I went to a college where I didn't know anyone else. After college I moved to a city where I knew no one. I'm no stranger to doing things by myself. And I never felt alone, because I was committed to doing things with the Lord by my side, whether I had another person or not.

In some senses I've discovered this to be a good thing. I can be confident in who I am because I've learned to not just go with the crowd. I've learned to be an individual. It was also imparted to me at an early age that I should want to please God the most. I really do want to be a godly individual. So I want to do the right thing, even if no one else is doing it. And I've found for myself that this can be a lonely place. And partially I've discovered that this can feed into my stubbornness and pride as well. I find myself thinking, well, I've done fine with things on my own, why should I even bother with other people? I mean, if really God is all that we NEED (and He is), then what's the point of other people? I'm not really a "relationship" type of person. I've never really "needed" friends.

But I found that God was showing me that I didn't have a love and compassion for others like I should. So I prayed for God to give me a love for other people. And He has brought people into my life who are hurting--people who need help. I have found great joy in showing love to other people. However, this can also be draining--when you do it in your own strength. I have to keep infusing myself with the power of the Holy Spirit in order to keep going. And it can feed into my idol of desiring to feel needed, loved, and appreciated. But in these people I have found friends. Friends to talk to. Friends who may be different than me. Friends who I probably would not have chosen if I had been the one to choose. Friends who show me my need of the Savior and encourage me to trust in God alone for my sustenance. And I've discovered it can be fun to have friends.

Then, in the irony of it all, these friends can then turn into idols. I find myself thinking, if this person is my "friend" then I can expect them to owe me something. If I'm there for them then they should be there for me. And my hope turns (once again) from the Person and work of Jesus into hoping in people. God never intended relationships (or friends) to fulfill us. And I'm back to thinking I don't need anyone else in my life. But yet God wants me to reach out and love others. And not to expect anything in return. Just because it's the right thing to do. And because I love JESUS.

I need to keep making relationships with friends intentional in my life. It's tempting to think, well, I've been the only one to initiate this contact; if this person was really my friend they would reach out to me. But that's just selfish thinking. Why should my life be more important to them than the work and the other responsibilities that God has given them to fulfill?

I think at some point I have the same qualms that I've found that almost EVERY persons faces: if people knew the real me then they wouldn't want to be friends with me. But that's not true. The right people will stick with you. Because you're heading in the same direction: closer to the Lord Jesus Christ. And that is the point of friends: to help us ALL bring more glory to God. Friends can be a picture of Jesus.

Nope, it's not easy. Still trying to figure it out. But I do have Jesus. And He never disappoints.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

I Am Not Okay

I want to be okay. I want to be assured that I am measuring up to what God wants me to be, to be doing my job to the best of my ability, to please those around me (including God), and to be doing what is right. (I.e., I don't want to be a sinner.) I've found myself falling into believing the lie that I CAN measure up to God's standards, at least in other people's eyes. After all, I'm a pretty nice person and I don't really have any big secrets or struggles. In fact, (I find myself thinking) I haven't really ever done anything wrong, right? Those Ten Commandments? Yup, never broken those. Ever. (Ha, right.) Even through college and my first few years of the "working world" I found myself thinking that I was a basically good person, because the things I struggle with (unbelief, pride, selfishness) aren't that "big of a deal." But when the trials of life hit then I am forced to examine my theology and see what is truly driving me and what the Scriptures say. And that is when I uncover the depths of my sinful heart. (Remember that 1st commandment: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me?" My heart is full of idols.)

The more I uncover the grace of God and the character of God, I start to see myself as God sees me, and I am NOT okay. I am a sinner. I cannot live up to God's perfect standard of holiness, at least not in my own strength. I have found friends who have been in the depths of sinful struggles, and I've found that I am not any different. I am just like them. I am capable of the same things. Just because I haven't acted on my sinful desires to the depths other people have doesn't mean I am justified. I find myself to be self-righteous, which is just as bad. BUT GOD doesn't leave any of us there. The more we realize the depths of our sinful souls the more we have an opportunity to see how GREAT God is. It's okay to be a sinner, because Jesus died for sinners. There is hope. When I see myself as God sees me, I am thankful that as a Christian, through the blood of Christ, I am a JUSTIFIED sinner. We are terrible sinners, but Jesus Christ is an equally great Savior. Through HIM I can live in humility and repentance. God no longer sees me; He sees Christ in me. And that makes me okay.