Tuesday, October 21, 2008

a note to a friend

Here's a good litmus test. Do you see these friends growing in their Christian walk because of your witness in their life? Or is it a thing where Rebecca gets to dump all of her stuff on you and then you get to struggle with the weight of it all week? "Come to me, all you who are weak and heavy laden." Do you ever think that He is talking about you?

No, witnessing and encouraging aren't always supposed to make you feel sunshine and roses, but shouldn't it be a situation where you're encouraging them and they're encouraging you? Notice that the Bible says, "bear one another's burdens. "Bear ONE ANOTHER'S burdens." Not, you bear everyone's burdens and they go on with their day feeling fine. How is that an example of the Body of Christ in action?

What if only one person worked in the nursery (sorry, I guess this is closest to my experience), and the rest of the people said, "Well, it seems like Jenny is doing a good job! She always arrives on time and the kids are happy with her. Oh, Bob! You're new? Well, we're over capacity already, but I'm sure Jenny won't mind another little child in there. Not Jenny! She's a good Christian servant. Man, she really serves the Lord with a pure heart! She's so happy about it! Say, Jenny, would you mind terribly doing tonight's service, too? We're unavailable because my husband is off work and we want to spend some time as a family!" And Jenny is nodding all the way, just smoldering inside.

We are ordered in the Bible to hold each other accountable, to spur one another on to perform love and good deeds. Notice again, the mandate is for ALL members of the church, not just poor Jenny.

The book Boundaries takes a look at boundaries through the perspective of God and His word. (Does this sound like a book report?) Look at how God has created boundaries for us in every area of life. After going through the truth project I see this to be so true! The marriage relationship is certainly exclusive. It has boundaries. There are boundaries in the relationship between Christ and His church (and the marriage setup reflects that). The are boundaries in the parent and child relationship. So many parents don't feel qualified to set boundaries, so they don't. How much heartache could be avoided if they would just take their rightful place and tell their children there are limits?

Suddenly we are here, plopped down into the background of the 21st century, and we're expected not to have boundaries. We are not allowed to say, "This is not something I am willing to do." That, you see, would be too selfish.

One of my very best friends introduced all of this to me. When she started setting boundaries, even in our relationship, I was hurt and confused. I didn't know what she was doing. I have since realized that she needed to set those limits to be a healthy and whole person. We went out to visit them lately, and she told us she could do 3 or 4 nights of having us at the house. At first I thought, "Why can't she do longer?" And then I realized that she was telling us what she was capable of. What worked for her. She spent so much of her life NOT doing that that she finally reached her breaking point and decided she needed to make some changes. Our relationship is better for it.

When I started setting healthy boundaries, I went through a period where I became incredibly angry. The book warns about that. You finally realize that God has given you the power to make these types of decisions. You realize that people have been stopmping all over your boundary lines. Why? You have never set them! You are scurrying to erect the fences that your lack of direction and focus have blown down.

Gosh, I sound like a really generic version of Max Lucado.

God starts to give you the tools to do some major pruning - to be kind to all, but only to let those into your close circle people who have shown themselves to be people who will build you up, to spur you on, to encourage you.

This doesn't mean we can't work with the lost or those who are so in need of God's love. Jesus made himself available to all people. But he didn't chase after them. He was open, He still is. But He only invested heavily in those who wanted Him, who wanted the change. The Pharisees? They were so stuck in knocking Him down or in proving Him wrong that He let them go.
A large amount of today's population is very resistant to seeing a friend grow and change in these ways. They find it intimidating. They won't work to encourage you while you are changing, but they work to tear you down.

Let's say your little son or daughter is now 16. He has made friends who are all nice guys, but they're dabbling more and more into drugs. They claim they think he's a wonderful influence on them, but they don't use any of his influence to change in positive ways. What would you tell him to do?"

"But Mom, I'm supposed to be a light to them. How can I show them Jesus' light if I'm not hanging out with them?" How will you answer him? Well, isn't there truth in what he is saying? Shouldn't he repeatedly hang out with these guys? What would you tell him?

This wasn't the free and abundant life that God promised you and I. I was shackled by the demands of people who were about as interested in my spiritual growth as I was in the KC Chiefs game. :)

I'm not gonna lie to you. It's been painful and hard. I have been collosally lonely at times. I desire so strongly these strong, solid friendships, and finding trustworthy women who can spur me on, and I them, has been hard. I think about when my phone was ringing off the hook and I had a play date every day. But those friendships were so shallow and I was never truly encouraged.
You can be exclusive in your friendships, dear friend! It seems to me that even Jesus chose Peter, James and John as His most trusted friends. All of the disciples played a role in His life, to help fulfill the ultimate purpose, but they were the most trusted.

Another thing - Jesus expected action from people. "Go and sin no more, " he said to the prostitute. I guess the thing you have to decide is this: are you willing to go through the pain and loneliness that making these decisions will bring? Or is it just a minor annoyance? For me, it was so bad that action was required. People will get mad. People will be confused. People will not understand why you are cutting them off at the pass. You try to explain, they get defensive. It will get worse before it gets better.

You, though, friend, will be SO much better off for it. You WILL find those relationships that sustain you, that encourage new growth and life in you. I am seeking those relationships out, and it brings tears to my eyes to think of those friends who love me even more for having made my needs known.

These friends can come from anywhere, at any time! Some of my most surprising friendships have been people I have met ON THE INTERNET or people I have grown up with. Two are my two cousins, people who seem to know me better than I know myself at times. People who know when I just need to shut off the computer and get out of the house. People who just ENCOURAGE me. And I hope I do the same for them.

Another is my sister in law, and amazing, amazing girl. Some others from my church. I have asked Scott for special time in the evenings every once in awhile where I can just go out and be refreshed with a girlfriend. It's so great. Let go and let God surprise you!

I can't believe I'm 29 and trying to figure this stuff out. It's SO hard not judging your worth based on how many friends you have. Do you ever notice that people judge their value in terms of quantity? Number of friends, salary, amount of activities they are involved in outside the house.

I think you are in strong need of a detox. You need to sit down with that dear husband of yours and write down what things are most important to you, to him, and to you both as a couple. You need to have those hard conversations you've been putting off.


kelly jeanie said...

This is such a great post. You seem like such an amazing friend, and good for you for setting those boundaries. I constantly measure my self-worth based on my few friends, and it's not good. I am afraid though that as much as I want to have a friend like the person you're describing, I don't know how to be that friend, and I don't know how to fix it.

Thanks for keeping your blog public and constantly giving me something to think about.

Sanctus said...

Hmmmm...Sand and Water. Brings back memories, doesn't it? Didn't we sit in your room one night and listen to this entire CD?

Rachel D. said...

I pray I am one of these friends to you because you are a great encouragement to me. : ) Thanks for always being there for me, friend. I am looking forward to our "grown-up" time on Thursday.

just1 said...

IT'S TRUE!!! I've had a similar experience. I am realizing (and I'm even older than you) that God's best for me doesn't mean going out with myriads of friends every day and being involved in every activity under the sun! See taday's post on my blog. I'm still learning . . .

Jess said...

Your honesty and introspection is always thought-provoking to read. I met you on the internet, I hope that bodes well for me and I am not Rebecca or Jenny. :-) :-)

Anonymous said...

It has been an adjustment for our circle of friends and even our family since having the boys. They don't get why we can't run and meet them out for lunch somewhere at noon because it screws Charlie up the rest of the day since he naps from noon to 3 each day. They don't seem to get why the once punctual couple is now perpetually running behind and lugging baby gear and snotty kids like pack mules everywhere we go (when we are able to go that is -- that magical elusive time when they have both had their naps, are well fed, etc). My friends don't get why I can't meet them out every Monday for a few beers and Monday Night Football.

We were sort of the circle social chairmen for so long because we could always go, and now those same friends act like they can't do anything because we didn't organize it for them, or that they never get to see us anymore. This even though they know where we are -- at home taking care of babies. We don't care if folks come to us -- so much easier than us lugging the kids to them.

At age 38, I have had to learn to set boundaries around my family so that we are together, engaged with one another, not frazzled with one another all the time, etc. A big part of that has been cutting back our friend time and even pruning our friends back to those who are where we are now. I honestly rarely miss the pre-child days, and I think our friends miss it more than us, even though they are happy for us. Age doesn't matter -- you never stop learning on this stuff.


Anonymous said...

i understand boundaries. they are healthy and needed. but it is selfish to completely forget about another friend's feelings...one of those friends you cut loose.
it's one thing to explain it to them. to have the boundaries talk. it's another thing to just stop communicating. an unhealthy friendship is only unhealthy, in my opinion, when lines of communication are not open. for one person to see that boundaries need to be set and to not say something to the other person is completely forgetting that there are 2 people involved in a relationship...in a friendship. and that while one might need to set boundaries, it should be a mutually talked about thing.

Pipsylou said...

Sanctus - you are SO right. Every time I hear this song I think of you, and your obsession to get the cd after we heard it on ER. Sometimes I miss those college days...

and then sometimes, NOT! :)

Jennifer F. said...

Aaaah, this post is just what I needed to read today. Thank you so much for sharing! I think I really need to focus on boundaries right now, and this was just the prompting I needed.