Have you ever had one of those days where it’s just hard to continue caring for people when they hurt you? The reason I stay at church isn’t the people. I love the people, but the reason I stay is God.
I have this tendency to sever friendships. I’m not telling you this because I’m looking for opinions, but my theory is that if I leave more evidence of my sin, then I can’t hide from it. That is the entire purpose of my blog; to praise, to explain, and to experience. If I leave enough fragments of broken logic, poor expectations, and false expectations that God should work magically and immediately, when I look over what I’ve written I will know how much he is worth. This isn’t the first time I’ve taken down notes and he’s bailed me out of them.
I sever friendships after they’ve been bad for awhile. Time is important to me, so if I haven’t seen or spent time with someone in a while, they are almost gone for me. I think part of that comes from moving around a lot as a kid, and wondering whose house I’d be living at for a while. The other part is that I’m afraid that I’ll move on and so I read too far into people’s mistakes, using them as excuses. When you judge people because you are afraid that you’ll get sick of them, that is when you have a problem.
I know that most people in the church aren’t really all that transparent with weakness, but this is the truth and it no longer embarrasses me. Friends I’ve hurt already know this. Some of the friends I have already understand, even if they aren’t pleased. The question that it comes down to is whether or not this behavior pleases God. You can’t lie your way into a false answer on this one. Forgiveness is pretty pivotal to being a Christian. Even if the mistakes I use to convict others are legitimate, treating them poorly and managing these decisions out of frustration does not lead to good fruit. I’m learning as I take stock of my selfishness that a lot of what past friends have said is true. This is my life, but it doesn’t have to be my legacy.
If you continuously test your opinions, you come into this space where you have less and less in common with the friends you made at first. As you change your thinking and add nuance to how you see the world, you slowly leave people behind. This is why I think a lot of people deny that they are changing. It’s scary to be as unsure of the future as you are when you know you are growing in a way that some good friends just will not follow. Being a Christian (among other things) is like that. You can’t please them all.
We may change and evolve over time, but how friendships end or naturally dissolve is something you also must steward with grace. Even if you are growing apart from someone, you still have to love them and pray that they’ll go in a good direction. The basis for a friendship ending could be something as legitimate as someone moving away permanently, or as frivolous as the judgment you inserted into a situation. When you look back on good memories with that friend, what do you want to remember?
The strategies we use in friendships transfer into marriage, and cultivating this habit will only lead to disaster. You can’t reject someone when the way they act sucks for a while. You can I guess, but it doesn’t prepare you for months worth of lulls in a good marriage that come naturally and could have been helped by being less judgmental towards your friends. We all have to just bear with people sometimes; whether that is a sibling who is going through a phase, a parent who needs to stop a bad habit, a coworker who is having a hard time, or the people we struggle to understand. I believe in mercy, and that mercy has got to apply to this. You can’t pick and choose salvation.
What good does this do you, to treat people like they only get one second chance? What is it good for? You become a judge and a hypocrite. It’s hard enough when you’ve got one hypocrite, let alone two in any active relationship. If it’s hard to treat our friends well, treating a spouse well has got to be ridiculous. I’m glad that I’m waiting on that. It seems like an absolute mess.
If you’ve been in the faith long, you slowly grow into these moments of seeing how your faith or lack of faith may have impacted others. I have a friend who was recently married, and although we aren’t close, I heard that she was getting married last summer. I talked to her a little about Jesus and what marriage signified. She wanted to come to church with me, but on both of our parts there was never a time. Now, she’s a few months into marriage and having problems with her spouse, who doesn’t believe. She is “mostly spiritual”. I can’t help but wonder if my indecision made her current struggles any worse, or if there is anything I could have done. As someone who is gradually putting on leadership, it’s haunting to see a time where I could have helped and it might have made a difference. I will continue to pray for them, and although it’s ultimately up to personal choice, I worry that she is going to only come to God after it doesn’t work out.
When you’re young in the faith and you don’t have as much trust in following the Holy Spirit, some of the promptings you get as nudges don’t seem all that trustworthy. It was that way in this situation, and if anything, it has taught me to be more steadfast. With serving God, it isn’t as much about how well you lead but how well you listen. Everything is given to you as a matter of grace.
Faith listens, but sin is a judge. Faith cares, while sin only cares about making time in our own schedule. Faith is patient, while sin judges others for not fixing their lives on your time frame. Faith is dependable, faith is enduring, faith at the core is like a really good friendship that provides undeniable benefits to it’s members by a hope that abides. Sin competes and compares in order to diminish, and Faith already knows, so you aren’t afraid to be yourself. You are not less. You can confide in a God who provides.
I really miss talking to some of my friends, but I have more peace in recognizing that God knows. He build his love around it. It is enough to just be. If we only realized how deeply God knows us, we’d also understand that faith is just a better friendship. You can learn to love from a God who never leaves.