First off, I have some news that is exciting and opening a new door! You might notice a new "button" over on the right. I am now a blogger for Compassion International! The organization has a network of bloggers that dedicate their blog to writing about and advocating for children around the world. A few times a month we are given a new assignment and then we write. You don't have to be a sponsor of a child to join, just as long as you have a voice and want to use it! So, look for those posts in the future and for more information on Compassion or becoming a blogger just go to their website.
Now, onto today's post.
I recently started reading through the book of Ephesians. And by recently I mean I started when I was still in California and then stopped. The old excuse of, "I got too busy." Anyways, the Lord has brought me back to it and He couldn't have brought me back at any better time. I just got done reading chapter 1 and the Lord has already presented me with a challenge.
He is challenging me to be a better friend.
In chapter 1, verse 16 Paul writes, "I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers." The first thing that popped into my brain when I read this was that Paul was serious. He meant that wholeheartedly. How often do I ask my friends how their day is going or how they are doing and they quickly reply with, "good" or "okay" and then we are off on our tangents or gossip or even just walk away. How often do my friends and myself say "I'm fine" and actually mean it? I'm going to take a guess and say not often. I'm usually stressed about finding a job, student loans, my social life, my spiritual life, how I'm going to pay to fix my car... the list goes on. We aren't quick to say how we really feel. It's easier to say, "I'm okay," than it is to say, "Well. Today has been a real crappy day. My car wouldn't start, I was running late for work and got a speeding ticket, my boss wasn't satisfied with my work today, I forgot my lunch, and we ran out of toilet paper at the house." If that was the first thing out of our mouths when people asked how we were, they might slowly start to back away.
But why? Why is that our response? Why do we give shallow answers to our friends who are supposed to be there for us through it all? Why do we not allow for people to truly tell us how they are? Why are we afraid of their answers? Why are we afraid to be intentional? Why do we think we have to have all the answers?
Why am I not telling my friends that I have not stopped giving thanks for them and that I am praying for them daily? Or why do I say that I am, but I'm really not?
How are we going to be better, intentional friends if we are afraid to ask the hard questions?
I can't know how to help my friends and specifically pray for them if I don't ask. And how will they know that I am there to help if I don't tell them?
We have to ask.
So, that is exactly what I did. I made a list of people that the Lord had laid on my heart and I asked them. I asked my friends what were some concrete ways that I could be intentional in our friendship, how I could help them and encourage them, especially in their walks with Christ.
And let me tell you something. I was actually kind of scared. I didn't know what my friends were going to think or how they would respond. I didn't know if they would think I was crazy or just saying this to make noise and not mean anything. I know it is crazy to have those fears when talking with friends, but those were literally the thoughts going through my head.
I think something that happens a lot is that we feel like we are alone on our journey. That no one else could possibly be experiencing the same frustrations with work, the same stress that comes with unemployment, the same loneliness of feeling like there is no one around, the same struggles of being single, or the same feeling that the Lord's timing is annoying and not what we want it to be! Yet, the more that we talk with our friends, the more we find out this just isn't true. At least that is what I found out.
I didn't get responses from my friends immediately. Which of course, just kinda furthered my thoughts of them thinking I was completely crazy. Then, one friend answered, and another, and another. And what did I see? The ways in which they were struggling and asking for help were just the same for me. I wasn't alone.
They told me ways they wanted me to be intentional and ways I could pray for them. They opened up. They told me more than "fine." Just seeing that was enough for me, but they didn't stop there.
The most beautiful part to me? They asked me the same question. They asked how they could be intentional to me and how they could pray for me.
Community is hard.
Being in community is living close to people and asking the hard questions. It's being real and raw. It's wanting to know how people are really doing and finding out that we aren't perfect (surprise!). It's not walking away, even when you find out people aren't perfect. It's not walking away when things get hard. Community is walking over to your friend, your brother or sister in Christ, and putting an arm around them and telling them that you aren't going anywhere. Community is telling them that yes, you will be that annoying friend who asks you everyday if you've had some alone time with God. Community is letting out all your frustrations and crying over the day, month, or year that you've had. It's breaking down the walls. It's getting to your core. It's listening to your struggles and then finding real ways to climb over the wall. Community is there to encourage us. Community gives love, even when we don't deserve it. Community allows us to give thanks for our friends and to pray for them. Community points us toward Christ.
My friends and I took the first step; we asked the question and we answered honestly.
Now comes the hard part; actually being intentional with each other. Is it going to be hard? Yes, most definitely. Are we going to slip up sometimes? Of course. But the rewards are sure to be great.
The challenge for you? Ask your friends how you can help them. Then do it.
And if they ask you the same question? Answer honestly. Be real. Be you.
"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another -- and all the more as you see the Day approaching." -- Hebrews 10:24-25