Just about every two to four years our family would be stationed at a new Air Force Base or location. We moved a LOT growing up. And as I started a new school or church, it became easier and easier to meet and greet new faces. Ask the same questions and make new friends. God really used these experiences to make me the friendly outgoing person that I am. This was the time before Facebook, so staying connected over the years on social media wasn’t even a thought. The new friends faded away after yet another move and I felt like I was always starting over. Making a new set of friends once again. I longed for the fairytale best friendship. You know the one? Started grade school together, knew each other forever, did everything together, finished each others sentences. A bestie.
God graciously gave me a set amount of years in one place during my Jr. High-High school years. These friends become the ones I had always dreamed of. Making memories, laughing, dating, & dreaming together. Most of these friends poured over into my twenties. As we went to college, married and had children of our own, our dynamics changed yet we clung to what we knew. Trying to hang onto the old while God was changing us into something beautiful and new. Then one year I lost my dearest and very best friend of fourteen years. My heart broke inside of me and I couldn’t understand how God would take away one of my most cherished friendships. She was closer than a sister to me. We had been through everything together.
In God’s goodness and mercy, He removed something from me that I would have never remove myself. And in doing that, He showed me truly where I had been holding that relationship. I hadn’t realized it until it was removed that I had cherished that one relationship more than I cherished my relationship with God. That was the root reason why I was so upset and heartbroken that our friendship was gone. I had put expectations on this relationship that no one but Jesus could fulfill. Instead of running to God, I would pick up the phone and run to my friend. Instead of quieting my spirit and intentionally listening for God’s leading, direction or seeking His word, I would ask my friend what she thought. She wasn’t meant to carry the load that was only meant for God to carry.
God was so faithful to do an overhaul in my heart. To be honest, it took a couple of years. I must be a slow learner. I had unhealthy ideals of what a godly relationship looked like. I expected my friend to be perfect. To not let me down. To always be there for me. To help me in a time of need. Do you see the theme here? Me. Me. Me. Guess what ladies? None of our friends will ever love us perfectly. Not even the one dearest friend you have right now. No relationship is exempt from the repercussions of our sin nature, and no relationship was meant to bring you ultimate joy and fulfillment aside from Christ. We are a broken people in a broken world. I guaranteed I will disappoint you, and that you will disappoint me. But if we both have Jesus, then we already have ALL that we need.
Now we know that God is FOR relationships! He has created us in this manner and this is a beautiful blessing that we can enjoy this side of heaven, as we keep it in proper perspective. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
So how then do we love perfectly imperfect and keep our relationships in proper order? Matthew 6:33-34b says “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. ‘Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Are we seeking our God first and being eternally minded with these relationships here on earth? Paul also wrote, ‘Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:12-15)
I literally laughed out loud when I read that we are to bear with one another as fellow believers. How many times do we say “just bear with me here”!? We know that we are still learning and growing and we so desperately desire that others would bear with us as we learn and grow. But are we willing to extend the same grace? Are we willing to bear with them when they are unbearable? Are we forgiving like Christ who has forgiven us? Are we loving unconditionally and holding these things loosely as we rest in our King?
That desire to be fully known and fully loved can ONLY be fulfilled through our God. He DID love us perfectly. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) He loved us unto death. He gave His life for us so that we might live! We can live confidently and take the risk to love unconditionally because of the great love that was given to us. We can boldly love with compassionate hearts, with kindness, with meekness, and patience because He is in us and is changing us from one degree of glory to the next. As we find our ultimate joy and fulfillment in our God and find Him as our very BEST friend, it frees us up from expectations, requirements, or demands that we might otherwise put on others.
I am happy to say that God in His mercy and grace has restored this old friendship of mine after years of heart work. He did a mighty work in the both of us that I don’t think would have otherwise happened. He gave me these verses in Isaiah as I had been tempted to long for the old times to remind me of where we are headed. “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:18-19 ESV) He has been faithful to make a new way in this friendship. A healthier and more lovely way as we both seek Him first. He has also been faithful to equip me with tools for healthier relationships now and in the future. I wouldn’t trade any of the heartache or tears for what I’ve learned as He made me refocused, solely dependent on Him as he redirected my wayward heart.
These relationship idols can so easily happen in a friendship, in a marriage, in relationship with our children, etc. as we look for fulfillment and purpose in these gifts instead of looking for fulfillment in the Gift Giver. What expectations have you put on the relationships in your life? Do you have a relationship that may need to be rechecked? Have you asked God to show you where you hold this relationship in light of your relationship with Him? Have you possibly held this relationship in an unhealthy manner with unhealthy demands? May you truly find your ultimate joy and fulfillment in our loving Lord and be free to love others in a healthy way because of the great love He has for us.
The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the LORD always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.