A Younger Sheree Learned a Few Things….

Over the past couple of days I’ve been talking about being well known in a culture where isolation and independence are celebrated while biblical relationships are too often defined by Sunday morning greetings rather than sharing real life together.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is relationships can become an idol — especially to us girls. (I’m humbled by and grateful for the guys who frequent this blog, and perhaps this post applies to you, too.)

I have six adorable granddaughters. Watching them relate to each other and to other little girls is pure joy. I more often hear “Are you ok?” or “I’m sorry” or “That’s ok, it was an accident” from them than from my grandsons. Many little girls define their best friend as whoever they just sat next to in Sunday School. The little ladies in our church flock to the babies and toddlers to help, hold, play and cuddle while the boys typically chase each other around the room or create guns with pens or pointy fingers.

Years ago as a young wife I remember picking up the phone to call a friend after a conflict with Benny. I wanted counsel…and sympathy. While it was fine for me to reach out to a friend, some months later I noticed this was becoming a pattern. Rather than prayerfully go back to my husband to resolve our conflict biblically, I turned to friends for support and advice. With a partial motive of genuinely wanting the perspective of a godly friend to help me get things right with Benny, over time the Lord revealed a pattern of wanting sympathy more than godliness. .

Wait — am I contradicting myself? In a blog series on being well known why am I warning against being well known?

There was nothing wrong with me reaching out to my friends when I was hurting, confused or needed advice. And honesty doesn’t always equal gossip. (More on that tomorrow.) The problem was I was looking to them for things I needed to work out with the Lord and my husband, and using friendship as an excuse to subtly whine. Talking to my friends was much easier than reaching for God or hashing things out with Benny! They listened; asked questions; expressed empathy; identified with my struggles and temptations; and offered gentle counsel. Girl talk left me feeling heard and understood in a different way than many of my interactions with my husband. It was during those years that I discovered men are from Mars and women are from Venus. While Benny and I have grown considerably in our communication since those early years, I still often find it easier to connect heart to heart with the girls. Gender does make a difference in communication!

God has designed us to love people and to benefit greatly from our social circles. But being well known doesn’t mean finding more comfort in people — even family members — than in God. It also doesn’t excuse dumping on a fried when relational tension creeps up in our lives. I watch people rush from relationship to relationship looking for significance, value, friendship and affection — and have done so myself! — when God’s offer of relationship stands as the only source of timeless love.

The fact is this: we are completely well known by God. He made us; personally constructed our appearance and personality; gave us both limitations and gifts; decided if we would love or hate strawberries or sports or prefer the mountains or the beach; and then died so we could know Him back. No one will ever love us so powerfully yet tenderly.

What a friend we have in Jesus.

Idols aren’t just little statues that sit in the homes of religious non-Christians. As Ken Sande says:

“Most of us think of an idol as a statue of wood, stone, or metal worshiped by pagan people. But the concept is much broader and far more personal than that. An idol is anything apart from God that we depend on to be happy, fulfilled, or secure. In biblical terms it is something other than God that we set our heart on (Luke 12:29), that motivates us (1 Corinthians 4:5), that masters and rules us (Psalm 119:133; Ephesians 5:5), or that we trust, fear, or serve (Isaiah 42:17; Matthew 6:24; Luke 12:4-5). In short, it is something we love and pursue in place of God (see Philippians 3:19).”

People can be our idols and pursuit of friendship can easily become “something we love and pursue in place of God.”

Has God been stirring your heart to be more well known? Guess what, you ARE! He knows you best and loves you most of everyone anywhere. He knows how your jaw clenches when you’re inwardly angry before a selfish word comes out of your mouth. He knows your temptations and anticipates when you’ll be lonely or jealous or anxious long before you do. He helps, strengthens and protects you when you don’t even realize it and even when you think you chose to do right all by yourself.

And when you fail or reject or push Him away because someone else seems more available or fun or loving, He doesn’t pull back but continues to stay close with patient pursuit.

I pray that you feel not just well known today…but well loved.

P.S.  If you would like to read more about the subject of idolatry you can read the article I quoted from here.

A Providential Surprise

Yesterday I talked about how delays can turn even good desires into sinful cravings in my heart.

Delay + Desire = Demand.

This simple equation helps me to discern what’s going on in my heart when things don’t happen my way or on my timetable. But why is it that I can sometimes respond to delays with patience and grace, while other times I become irritable, self-pitying or resentful?

My sister-in-law, Jackie, is pictured here with four of my Little People. She started babysitting their Mommy when Jaime was 3 months old! We have really enjoyed our visit with her and my niece and nephews.

Last night my house was full of family and friends visiting with vacationing relatives from Virginia. Two of my grandsons were interacting in the playroom and I heard one say to the other, “Ok, you can have it.” Why was that comment noteworthy to me? Because it was an exchange between Sam and Issac, the brothers whose spirited conflict on vacation resulted in Issac body- slamming his older brother in an angry rage. Their amiable interaction last night reminded me of my own fickle responses to situations: one time I’m kind and self-controlled while a similar circumstance days later finds my heart churning up sin.

This may not be the case with you, but I’m increasingly finding that the difference for me comes back to what desires are influencing my heart.

I was recently praying for someone I love and sensed the Lord nudging me to cultivate more of a heart of servanthood toward her. A couple of days later I had planned to get through some items on my growing task list when she reached out to ask if I could spend the afternoon helping her get ready for an upcoming event. I typically love spontaneity — except when I’ve made made plans that are important to me like crossing things off my task list! I wanted to suggest we wait since the event was over a week away. But God had kindly prepared my heart. I knew the test of obedience to Him would come and when it did I was excited about the opportunity to set aside my plans for her as an expression of my love.

The next day, though, I was complaining to myself about her lack of appreciation. Why didn’t she thank me for spending those unplanned hours serving her? Did my overture of love and sacrifice go completely unnoticed? Wow. Only a really selfish person could be this ungrateful. “I’ll think twice before I set my own plans completely aside if it’s just gonna feed this kind of selfishness,” I humf’d.

What happend to my gratefulness to God for giving me the opportunity to respond to His prompting? Where did my desire to serve and express love go? Why did a situation that started out God and others-centered quickly morph into such me-centeredness?

I found out during the following days that my desire to obey and please God wasn’t as strong as the desire for appreciation. If obeying God had been the stronger motivation I may have noticed the lack of gratitude, but it wouldn’t have grabbed hold of my heart so strongly. Once my mind started focusing on not feeling appreciated rather than on the joy of serving, the desire for gratitude revealed itself as the ruling one in my heart.

I was surprised but grateful.

God revealing this to me didn’t trivialize the genuine joy I experienced in setting aside my plans for someone I love. However, it did alert me to this Delay + Desire = Demand pattern in my heart. A pattern I want to continue to see changed with His help.

One of my weekend activities was a birthday party for the son of my like-a-daughter, Canada. Such a fun day!

Musing over this pattern helped me prepare for a busy weekend that included numerous demands on my time and energy. So far I’m not struggling with feeling unappreciated! I went into the weekend anticipating both the desire and the potential delay of it being met to avoid silently demanding that others fulfill the desire…or incur my unspoken self-pity.  Smile.

Today my heart is full of thanks to God for the wonderful opportunity to serve  so many this weekend. But I’m going to remain on guard to make sure the next delay isn’t my own self-pity.

Aren’t you grateful that God loves flawed and broken people who are still in the process of change? What peace it brings to know that even my Delay + Desire = Demand pattern isn’t too much for Him! The gospel promises that He will complete the work He began when He saved me and that no pattern of sin on my part is greater than His mighty power to continue to save me from myself.