So I was recently in an argument with a friend. Someone I have known for a long time. A person I love so very much. She was wanting to make a decision that I didn't think was a great idea. I, being a fixer, told her not to do it. Loving her TOO much, I waved my arms real big, yelled words of caution - all in love. And in the process I eventually communicated, unknowingly, that my love for her was conditional. The question was posed to me, "what if it all falls apart, will you still be here?"
That question has undone me for months.
It has made me reexamine what I think about grace & love & my faith.
As that question has haunted me, some books have fallen in my lap & people have crossed my path & sermons have spoken directly to me. I have another friend who always reminds me that books always find me, not the other way around. The books I have read have reminded me how lavish the Father's love is for me. That He never waited for me to get it together before He loved me. And if that's true - then what is it that keeps me from loving people so completely?
You see, when I was in that argument, I believed I was so very right & I voiced it on several occasions...not believing that I was being anything other than a good friend, speaking the truth in love. But what I had done was come face to face with the ugly pharisaical part of me that told her that my love for her was conditional on her getting it "right" - believing that I had gotten it right. Which is a lie.
Throughout the Bible there is much talk about caring for the widow, the orphaned, the sick, the poor, those in prison. And when I think about the common denominator in all those things...they are without something. Without their spouse, without a family, without health, without money, without food, without freedom. They are without obvious things. Some of those things they are without are results of their own actions & others are not. When you are without obvious things, it is not hard to admit your need or at least your loss. I wonder if a reason God cares so much that we be able to engage & live among & be with people who are so obviously without, is that if we are not able to it can serve as a reminder that we have forgotten.....
that we, too, are without. We, too, are so imperfect. We, too, without the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross....are without a Father, a spouse, without health, without parents, without freedom.......we are nothing apart from that Sacrifice.
But I've gotten off a track a little. That's normal for me.
I have been reminded of a story from the Bible throughout this process that I am still struggling through & it's from the Old Testament in the book of Joshua. Joshua is about to take the city of Jericho and as he neared the city, a man stood in front of him with a sword & Joshua asks the question, "are you for us or against us?"
Or from my perspective, 'are you for me or against me?'
That question digs into me & the reason is that in many of my arguments I scream & yell & say things that I shouldn't say all in the "name of the Lord" - because I believe that I am in agreement with Him, therefore, I am His messenger of sorts to stop people from making bad decisions.
Not that helping people make right decisions is wrong.....another post for another day. But, rather, do I believe ... do I really really believe that God is in charge - that He is not caught off guard & that when our disagreements divide us it is because we have maybe lost sight of His ultimate good right-making. His good judgment. And just because I may be "right" about an issue doesn't mean that the way I loved or didn't love through it will be right.
Now the answer that the man with the sword gave was this......the second part of his answer defines who he is....he is the commander of the army of the Lord. The 1st part of his answer to the question "are you for us or against us?" is......"neither".
I am quick to make this whole life story about me.
And instead, God is really for Himself.
His grander plan.
His bigger purpose.
And the Pharisees were the ones who got all wrapped up in keeping the laws & the rules in order to earn their right standing with God. And understanding grace is not a license to do whatever you want. But when someone really gets grace, which I am beginning to really understand.....finally after a long season of trying to get it right & asking those around me to please do the same. Then they understand that the love of the Father is so great & response is natural. The response will be to just join Him. To rest in knowing that His love, His opinion, His will is the only thing that matters.
And as painful as that can be sometimes.....it's part of laying my life down. My expectations. My dreams. My ideas of right & wrong. My comfort. My right to be right.
It's stretching me into crazy great places. And though I know the stretching will continue......and I know I will stumble along the way....am I grateful that I am able to learn through even the hard circumstances?