The Best Kind of Friends

After motherhood, I quickly realized friendships were going to look different. With less time on my hands and an adjustment in priorities, I needed to find a way to allow room for life-giving friendships. But it’s hard to build a close circle. It takes years to figure out who stands the test of time and the test of character.

Living in a season of having to prioritize your time differently, forces intentionality in relationships. In addition to being women of character and integrity, there is one verse I hold to tightly when I think of the kind of ladies I want in my inner circle.

Romans 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

I’ll never forget the first time I took my kids to Disneyland. One of the best days ever! We celebrated my daughter’s birthday with a fun family weekend and came back beaming. I expected my friends to be happy for my family, I felt shocked when a couple of them clearly weren’t. That day I realized not all friendships are alike.

Some people know how to stand with you when life gets hard. They will pray for you, stand by your side, check on you daily, and love every minute of it. They thrive helping others go through tough times. A true gem of a friend does all that, but still rejoices when you rejoice. They mourn with you when times are tough and rejoice with you when times are better than ever. On the flip side, some friends only stick around during fair weather. Any sign of tough stuff sends them running.

It takes a special friend who holds your hand in the hospital but also claps their hands when you get a promotion. It’s rare gem who brings brownies before the funeral, and balloons before the book launch. She stands with you in the storm and in the celebration. She sends a text when she notices something’s wrong, and sends a text when she notices something’s right!

We need friends in our lives who know how to go low and high, and we need to be that kind of friend to others. Who are you rejoicing and mourning with today?

Are you Seeking the approval of God or of Man?

Do you worry about what other people think of you? Do you fear people’s reactions to your decisions? Do you often find yourself feeling guilty when you can’t be there for someone?

If you identify with those feelings, you are not alone. Many people struggle with people-pleasing. It comes subtly and twists the best of intentions. Getting rid of people-pleasing has been a huge lesson in my life, I  check my motives and heart daily to make sure I’m living for the approval of God rather than the approval of other people.

The Lord ministered to me in this area through a passage of scripture I’d read many times before. This time, I read it with a set of fresh eyes, able to see truths I hadn’t noticed before.

In 2 Kings 5:1-6 we find the wealthy army commander, Naaman, who was a leper seeking healing. Through a series of events, Naaman sought the prophet Elisha to find healing. Arriving at Elisha’s house, he was met by Elisha’s servant who delivered instructions on how to receive healing. The servant told Naaman to go wash in the Jordan seven times to be clean. Naaman was furious Elisha didn’t come to him directly and wave his hand over him to heal him. But his servants convinced him to give the advice a try. Naaman went away furious but still dipped in the Jordan as instructed, emerging with skin like a child, completely healed. Naaman came back to the prophet Elisha declaring there was no other God but in Israel and offering a generous gift to Elisha, but Elisha refused the gift.

In this passage of scripture I noted 5 significant aspects revealing Elisha as a God-pleaser rather than a people-pleaser:

  1. Elisha didn’t feel the need to be the one to deliver the message.

Elisha sent his servant to tell Naaman the instructions on healing. Too often times, we feel the need to be the hero of people’s stories. We want to be the ones to always show up and come to the rescue. Elisha raised up another leader and delegated the work of the ministry to that leader. I don’t know what line of work you are in, but in ministry, I can’t possibly be there for everyone. I’ve tried and exhausted myself. Especially as my church grows, I need to trust the leaders we’ve put in place to help shepherd the flock and help carry the load – none of us can do it alone. 

Many times we pray to God for help and guess how he answers that prayer? He sends someone in our life to help us, but often we refuse the help they offer. In humility, we need to accept people in our lives God brought to help carry our load.

2. Elisha didn’t give an explanation.

I used to send long explanations for why I couldn’t be somewhere. I wanted to say yes to every birthday party, bridal and baby shower, every volunteer opportunity, every playdate. If I couldn’t make it, in addition to a long explanation, I carried around backpack of guilt. I should have been there for that person. They really needed me. My husband helped me realize I don’t need to give an explanation for everything, nor do I need to feel guilty or apologize for prioritizing my family and times of rest.

3. Elisha wasn’t afraid of Naaman’s response.

Naaman got angry and enraged because Elisha’s method disappointed him. Well, here is a truth which never gets old: We can’t please everyone. We will disappoint people. We won’t always do things the way others want us to. Sometimes, people will get angry or critical, but we can’t let the fear of people’s response stop us from obeying God’s direction. We have to continue to do what God calls us to do, regardless of how it might be perceived. Naaman was momentarily angry, but when he finally listened to the instructions, he received healing and made a declaration about the one true God. Sometimes people will react a certain way in the moment, but will later praise God for the results.

4. Elisha’s method brought glory to God and not to himself.

If Elisha were to lay his hands on the man directly, Naaman could have went back and declared what a powerful prophet Elisha was, one with incredibly healing powers. Instead, Elisha’s instructions made it so Elisha wasn’t present when the healing took place. Naaman later said, “Now I know there is no other God in Israel.” This isn’t to say we can’t pray for people’s healing, or lay our hands on them directly (I do all the time), that’s not the point. The point is to examine our motives and our methods. Do our methods bring glory to God or ourselves?

5. Elisha didn’t want the credit.

Elisha’s refusal of the gift Naaman offered was significant, it meant he did want to take credit for the healing. He wanted it clear it was not him who performed a miracle, it was God. People-pleasing is a pride issue. It seeks credit from man rather than obedience to God.

 

One of the verses I now try to live by is Galatians 1:10 “Am I now seeking the approval of God or of man? If I were seeking the approval of man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Living to please God (instead of people) keeps my pride in check and reminds me who I’m doing it for and who I’m pointing others to. It also strengthens my family, snuffs out fear, and gives me peace and endurance to run the race I’m called to. Burn-out isn’t an option – I’m in this for the long haul, enjoying the journey and keeping my eyes on Him. I hope you’ll join me in daily asking the powerful question from Galatians: Am I now seeking the approval of God or of man?

 

Are you an Achiever-Believer?

I went to great lengths to find this picture of my old table!

 

I felt the grooves of the soft wood on the palms of my hand, as I decided whether or not to purchase the table. “It’s hard to find handmade tables like this anymore,” The owner said. “After the industrial revolution, many craftsman went out of business. Each table used to be unique with it’s own carved details and imperfections, like this one. But society became more concerned about quantity and uniformity. Since machines were more efficient, here we are.” The owner explained the craftsman of the table was a famous artist from Italy. I wasn’t sure he was telling the truth (it was a craigslist purchase after all), but the story touched my heart and the table was beautiful.

For years, I held on to this impractical table. It was a sticky, soft wood – impossible to clean for a mom with three kids. It was like putting your dinner plate on a layer of maple syrup every night. And it was heavy (you need a team to move it heavy).  But I loved that table. I loved the grooves and waves of the wood that peeked through the dark stain, and the industrial bolts underneath. Mostly, I loved the story behind it and the idea of supporting a craftsman who loved his work.

I have a book on personality types and I am the “The Achiever.” I see a little achiever in my son too, always looking for the next task, the next responsibility, the next goal to reach. In school, the achiever in me piled up straight A’s, extracurricular activities, awards and benchmarks to success. I viewed love as something to be earned.

In college, I became a Christian and everything changed. I encountered God, I encountered His love. I learned His love is unconditional – not based on my performance, my efforts or achievements. I encountered a God who wanted to be with me, not for what I could do for Him.

A simple truth still refreshes my soul: God is after my heart not my output.

I didn’t have my eye on the handmade table because of it’s industrious capacity, I had my eye on it because it’s a piece of art. Intention and passion shine through the design of the table. It’s unique, made by a creator who cares about the details.

Ephesians 2:10 says,For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

For my fellow achiever-believers, we need these truths breathed into our lives. If not, we become consumed doing work for God while missing out on spending time with God. We are loved for our form, not our function. Our Father, the great craftsman, delights in being with us. He doesn’t form us into His image in assembly line fashion. He takes pleasure in the process and invites us to enjoy the process too. Yes, we are created to do good work, but first we must remember we are His work.

My son has been making school lunches lately. He made lunches for two weeks straight even though I never asked him to. Monday he woke up late, I made lunches and didn’t think anything of it. On the way home from school he said, “I’m so sorry I didn’t make lunches this morning, Mom. I was really tired.”

I looked at my achiever son and brushed his hair out of his face. I told him not to apologize, that I never expected him to pack lunches for me.

Then I spoke words to him every achiever needs to hear:

“I love you for who you are, not what you do.”