It’s funny how God works… sometimes He’ll put you through a situation or allow it to manifest itself in your life with a divine purpose behind it in order to teach you a lesson or grow your faith. Yesterday I had one of those moments. I’ve been involved with my sweet, wonderful, I-cannot-say-enough-great-things-about-them women’s Bible study, which meets every Tuesday for almost 2 1/2 hours (it feels more like 3). Most of the women have a few years on me, but generally its a great age range, and perfect for the kind of mentor-mentee relationships to develop with the women who lead each small group and their participants.
We’ve been walking through Beth Moore’s Children of the Day study on 1 & 2 Thessalonians – two of the most beautifully uplifting books in the New Testament in my opinion – and today’s message really hit home for me, the Madness & the Gladness of having deep, personal relationships.
This is not meant to be only about romantic relationships… yes, those can bend us, twist us, or even break us with pain caused to our hearts, but this is first & foremost about friendships.
We so deeply need friendships, but there comes a real cost from investing our hearts and time in them.
Beth pointed out that even when you have a child, or come to love a child as your own, that love that you feel is often so deep that it literally hurts your heart just looking at them! My son, who’s only 4 years old, just experienced this himself the other day when we were watching a video about the baby developing at 28 weeks (his baby brother), he suddenly said, “Mommy, he’s so sweet it’s making me want to cry!”
He loves his brother (or the idea of him) so much already, just seeing a baby moving around in the womb touched his little heart, and made him want to cry. Love does that!
Just the fact that love can hurt when nothing is going wrong tells us that the act of loving someone is so powerful, and leaves us open to being hurt. When a relationship is going badly, the pain can be heart-wrenching and “maddening.” Beth pointed out that to love is to be vulnerable, that sharing your faith with them is ultimately sharing your life and experiences with them, [and if you want to read more of my own thoughts on living vulnerably, click here]. She showed us the Latin word it comes from, vulnerare, literally means to wound. Our definition of vulnerable today, is “capable of being physically or emotionally wounded; and being open to attack or damage, easily able to wound.”
We are called to have these kind of deep, involved relationships with people – God wants us to be vulnerable in these relationships, but everyone has probably had that experience of pouring themselves into another, only to have it turn back on you… pouring hours of energy and love into another, and at the end to find out that it just doesn’t always work.
Beth talked about the “evaporating illusion of control,” or the fact that we just simply cannot control our relationships. We absolutely cannot control other people, we can’t make them behave, make them acknowledge bad behavior, or even make them apologize… although we may try!! I’ve seen this many times in many different kinds of relationships ranging from women friends, to my husband, and to my son – but the worst experiences I’ve had personally though, have always been through women friends. No ex-boyfriend or male has ever wounded me as much as I’ve been wounded by fellow creatures of my own sex… and as a result, its made me extremely cautious in trusting other women – really trusting them enough to be vulnerable with them. Its something I’ll probably always have to push myself in, and continue to work on.
It does not matter how much you love someone, it will not always keep them from gossiping about you to others, revealing your secrets, betraying your trust in them, or simply not returning the same amount of love that you have for them. In first Thessalonians, Paul describes his love being so deep for the believers there, that he was anxious to hear how they were still doing (after having many persecutions, and him being hindered from able to physically see them). Paul wanted to know if his labor (of love) had been in vain, had everything he had so faithfully worked for in them – trying to pour himself out for them, and set an example – not worked. Had they chosen to go back to their old ways of dealing in the flesh, or have they grown in their faith and has his work in their life at all paid off?
This idea of trying to love someone, to help them grow, to encourage them and try to have a deep, meaningful relationship, and then it all being for vain is part of the “madness” of having involved relationships. Its maddening to put yourself out there, being open and vulnerable, and try to love someone who does not love you in the same way back, or ruthlessly questions that love because to them somehow it isn’t enough. This is what we’re called to do, and it can be heart-wrenching and horrible!
I also should point out that some of the absolute BEST experiences I’ve had in having deeply personal, and involved relationships, have also been with women friends. These have been so beautiful, so vulnerable, and deep, that they are practically at the same level of intimacy as with my husband! They also just SO important for one’s growth and development into being a better woman, and being more of who God made you to be.
I’ve had times where I could go to one or two of them for counsel or guidance with a problem in my life that I didn’t quite see how I should best handle, and it was in those times that I could trust these few women enough to 1) love me no matter what and 2) tell me the Truth about my own actions and the actions of others, holding me accountable to who they (and I) know I should be. It may initially be painful to see in myself something that is yucky or detrimental to my life and relationships, but the alternative of NOT having someone to point those things out for me, is much worse – it would lead me to continue living in an unhealthy manner, damaging my own life and the lives of those I interact with.
Friendships like these are like having diamonds or rubies or gold available to you…
and if you have one of these relationships, do not let them go!
The “pure reciprocity” as Beth Moore called it, of that beautiful feeling when you know that they care just as much about you, as you do about them, is just so peaceful and relaxing… it’s truly the reason and purpose of God wanting us to have deep, personal relationships at all! I could even argue that appreciating these relationships is a lot easier when you’ve gone through some bad ones, or felt the horrible pain of laboring or seeking after someone sometimes for years, in vain. It’s just not the same if you haven’t experienced a friend who failed at reciprocity.
The bad experiences (the Madness), even the sum of them altogether, pay off in the end if you have experienced the Gladness and joy of having faithful relationships. For all the times that it just does – not – work – out, to know at the end there are still good outcomes, makes loving others deeply (despite the cost) still SO worth it. God doesn’t want us to give up on having deeply personal relationships. Satan, however, is trying to get you to give up on relationships, because these truly healthy, good ones, are CRUCIAL to our faith and our joy in life… our ability to reach others around us and live life abundantly.
No matter how many times it hasn’t worked out or you feel desperately like your labor was in vain, don’t let it hinder you. In all that pain and hurting, there will “come a healing.”
“May the Lord cause you to increase and overflow with love for one another and for everyone, just as we also do for you!”
1 Thessalonians 3:12
(All quotes and inspiration from Beth Moore’s Children of the Day 2014)