Monday, June 8, 2015

Friendship: Iron Sharpens Iron


Urban Dictionary: True Friend
A true friend is someone who has touched your heart and will stay there. Someone you care for, who cares for you. Someone you can do the stupidest things around and always be forgiven. Someone you'll instantly remember in ten years because they are in your heart and not just your mind. They have the ability to change you, even if they don't. They will be etched in your memories forever.
I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to friendship, but especially friendships that evolve from church and how they impact us and our walk. We talk a lot about relationships in church, but do we talk about friendship? Think about some of your best memories, I bet they involve friends. Your worst times are made better by friends, and your best times aren’t as wonderful without sharing it with friends.

Here’s what I’ve learned from personal experience; I bet your happiness with your church is based on two very important things. If you’re really happy within your church I’m sure you have an excellent leader who is providing you quality teaching and you have quality friends within your church. Yes, there are other important things that make you happy with your church, but in my experience these two things are what matters most.

So what happens when church friend’s behaviors change because you are changing? Perhaps God is calling you in another direction, not calling you to leave your church but directing your talents to be used in another capacity? How does that affect church relationships & friendships? In my life, I’ve noticed differences in friendships since I’ve dedicated my talents to ministry outside my church. At times it’s come in the form of complete disinterest when I share a story I find inspiring, but it’s also come in the form of rejection.

I never noticed before now that some members of my church are exclusive and I am no longer a part of that exclusivity. They do not want to hear about my new path, they have stopped calling, they don’t look at me the same, and in many ways pretend I don’t exist; they are disassociating themselves. 

I’ve found on particularly hard days when I struggle with this that I feel like an outcast. I’ve asked God to bridge the gap between my path and my church friends. I know that suffering for our faith comes with continued growth. I pray my discouragement turns to encouragement.

I can’t begin to understand the rejection, but I can pray for strength; I will pray for guidance. A wise friend pointed out that in these circumstances often church friends think that by branching out, broadening your path, reaching others outside your church walls for God that perhaps you are being called away from your church and that can seem threatening, especially to a small church.   

God is teaching me every day through the blessings He gives me and the trials I suffer, whether they are self-made or brought on by change; there is a lesson. In this lesson I’m learning I will not be the kind of friend who is a sponge, one who avoids and does or says nothing, but also contributes nothing to the friendship. I will not be a sword, the kind of friend who cuts to the quick but also destroys the friendship in the process. I strive to be a stone; the kind of friend that upon which others can be sharpened, to be made better and more mature. A stone makes a faithful friend which is much better than a sponge or a sword.

Losing friends doesn’t mean forever. Differences challenge us, but if we walk with God then the challenge strengthens us and the challenge is a good one. It’s during tough times that we discover what we’re made of, especially when we endure them by remaining respectful and kind to others. 

Let me say, it doesn’t feel good to lose friends or have a friendship weaken. It feels like persecution, but it is testing my character, endurance and my sincere attempt to live by faith. I know evil will do all it can to work through my situation and will use the people in my life to cause me doubt and to convince me to abandon my path. By understanding that sometimes I have to lose life as I have known it, I will embrace the totality of the path God has brought me to, the one with open doors and miracles waiting to happen. I prayerfully need to stay open to the change God wants for me.

I will be a stone.

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Prov. 27:17)

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