Last month I picked up our local paper and found the obituary of a woman who had been a close friend. She moved a number of years ago to an assisted living facility that was closer to her daughter but about a hundred miles away. I missed her and for a while we would talk occasionally but I did not make an effort to continue the relationship. Looking back I realize that she was the one who would call, I don’t think I ever did. I thought of her occasionally, even thanked God for her, but never made the effort to keep or get back in touch.
While I don’t believe God calls us to pursue every relationship that becomes separated by space or circumstances, there are some that we should not lose. This was one of them. My friend taught Bible studies in her new assisted living home and I heard of the impact she made there. She had made an impact in lots of other places too—including my life. Her deep and abiding relationship with the Lord made her words ones to be valued.
We were part of a fellowship that came apart when sin was found in the leadership. The consensus was to throw out everything we had learned there, but I was relieved to find that my friend and I were among a very few who realized that much truth had been imparted and should be treasured rather than dismissed. Years later, when I was no longer welcome in the next church because I believed in, and taught, biblical equality, she went out of her way to support and encourage me even while being led to stay within their ranks.
Why did I not realize the importance of such a relationship? Probably too much self and not enough abiding. Whatever the reasons, my heart broke when I thought that it was now too late. Yes, we’ll see each other for eternity, but the relationship during this life was lost. If she needed my support during those years, it was not there. I can’t fix what’s over and done, but I can learn and hopefully not let it happen again.
Those the Lord Gives
I was pretty sure the Lord wanted me to write about my friend and Christian relationships and why they must be treasured, but when I read an article by Paule Patterson who wrote our guest post last week, it confirmed this leading. The article spoke of the fact that sin “not only damaged our relationship with God, but it also equally damaged our relationship with other humans.” However, this is not about the need to forgive and keep relationships positive. It is about not losing contact but cherishing and holding close those the Lord has given us.
God is the author of relationship. Once the wondrous “Hound of Heaven” got hold of me, I began to realize that there are special bonds that were given by Him. While most are lifetime, some have been just for a season. The list includes family, neighbors, co-workers, friends, and even some organizations. These are to be kept on the radar for prayer, a visit or call, a book, text, email – whatever fits with the still small voice that prompts action.
Doing is good, but praying is the major thing when it comes to ‘the list.’ I asked the Lord a number of years ago what was really important, what was His desire for my folks. The bottom line has come as a prayer that His will be done in (their) earth as it is in heaven. (In the “Lord’s Prayer” the word translated on can also be translated in.) We Christians are redeemed earth, a temple of the Holy Spirit, thus the prayer for His will in the earth that composes our bodies. For those on my list who don’t know the Lord, I believe the prayer fits as well or better—even the organizations. Such a prayer won’t become rote if it is accompanied by requests for insights into what the Lord is doing in individual lives.
Sin is self-centered. Self is a major problem for relationship. “Me” is more pressing than “they.” My friend’s death made me recognize that there were God given connections that were slipping away through neglect. I am thankful for the wake-up call. I’ve confessed and I’m forgiven—the point is, what have I learned and has it moved from my head to my heart?!
But it is not just doing; most of the time it is being. Who we are speaks so much louder than words or planned actions. This is the “letting our light shine” that goes out way past our friends or even acquaintances. I no longer expect spiritual goose bumps or deep feelings of love for an individual when God uses me. What’s important to another is usually something that we would not count as important. This is the being part, the just living part. Confirmation of this truth comes when someone tells of a word or action that was critical in their lives when we had no clue that we were being used.
Despite the fact that we are often ignorant of God using us, that’s not always the case. I take that to mean, pay attention to the Holy Spirit prompts. Things like a person coming to mind repeatedly, or seeing something on social media, or knowing that your friend is going through a rough place. What is the Lord prompting us to do?
I get lots of prompts that get ignored because it’s inconvenient or just through laziness. The Lord says to redeem the time, or as it says in the NIV, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Ephesians 5:15-17 I suspect, for me, He’s indicating fewer games on the iPad, or missing a bit of football, or putting down a good book—but it’s whatever counts as our favorite way to veg out. Relationships are far more important—as is obedience.
I thank the Lord for using my friend as a wake-up call. If you needed a push, I’ve shared mine with you.
 To “veg out” is to spend time just relaxing—we all need some time like this but it can be overdone.