There are a things going on in my head right now, as usual. Thing 1 has to do with friendship, and Thing 2 revolves around the significance of children – how having them makes life valuable in different ways and at different stages of life.
I had an acquaintance read a social media post of mine, which she interpreted to be “raw and real.” I actually wouldn’t describe it that way, though the post was true. I guess, because I’ve shared those thoughts and experiences before… Processed them, publicly and in detail… So, the testimony feels more matter of fact to me now. But that’s the thing about our stories and about repetition: They and it (repetition) are (is) powerful.
I started thinking, because of this woman’s angst and reaching out to me: Friendship is very important, more than we think. And the process of choosing friends is weighty. We, ourselves, need to be what we want – good friends. But that is not a question of worthiness or needing to work toward anything. This acquaintance asked me if I had a particular prayer I prayed to help me with insecurity and achieving real friendships. My prayer was just for God to help me. Find them. To be happy. To smile.
My favorite Bible teacher says the discipline of the Lord is not reactionary or any form of death, because God is life-giving, and He is love. So, when bad things happen to us, it’s not that God is trying to teach us and needs that mess to be our classroom (though He will not let anything go to waste), and He’s not reacting to our sin (the consequence of sin being the death laid upon Jesus Christ at Golgotha). But we are constantly under the discipline of the Lord – that is, being discipled – taught to live according to what we’ve read in the Bible and what God the Holy Spirit wants us to know. The notion of discipline comes from the term, disciple, and if we look at how Jesus Christ treated His disciples, our religious and traditional thoughts about discipline don’t really align with His way: He didn’t correct with pain and illness. He was loving. He brought heavenly concepts within reach with parables. His discipline was not a whip that snapped His disciples back into a desired posture.
When I prayed for help, God discipled me in friendship. And I just began to understand things I’d never really understood before…and put them into practice. God the Holy Spirit was speaking into my life: About loyalty and honesty and consistency and investment and reliability and love (also known as patience, forgiveness or, grace) and being there for people – the way I wanted them to be there for me… The Discipleship of Friendship Process was harder than learning to ride a bike for me.
Because I had to realize that everyone upon whom you practice your new friendship skills is not 1) made to be the kind of friend you need or, 2) necessarily trained as you are in being an intentionally good friend. In my case anyway, God let me try out the tips I was downloading on folks that didn’t end up being part of what I’ve heard called “my tribe.” You don’t choose your tribe as much as it chooses you – because it suits you and satisfies you and allows you…to be you.
After the training wheels period, there’s a culling.
Definition of cull
culled; culling; culls
1 : to select from a group : choose culled the best passages from the poet’s work Damaged fruits are culled before the produce is shipped.
2 : to reduce or control the size of (something, such as a herd) by removal (as by hunting) of especially weaker animals; also : to hunt or kill (animals) as a means of population control The town issued hunting licenses in order to cull the deer population.
— culler noun
That was getting the training wheels off. I was shaky, but that was a maturing process, needed to grow. I had to decide that quality was more important than quantity…and live through the consequences (the quiet and the separation) of that time. I let some ships sail – a lot of ships sail. Meanwhile, I began to know what I was looking for. Most important, I stopped settling for less. I started listening to my heart when it told me that certain puzzle pieces just would not fit me, no matter how much I tried to smash them into place in my life.
The next lesson is one I’m still learning – how to have loving boundaries. Boundaries are expectations. You have them for yourself and require them from other people. I can’t tell you what they are, just like you can’t tell me. But believe me: Your heart knows.
I started thinking about all of this stuff regarding Thing 1 after I got the friendship message. The other thing in my head has to do with the death and grieving of: periods of time, seasons, and the aspects of roles. I started thinking about that a long time ago, and I’m still being forced to process it. Because God is telling me to walk forward in certain relationships – through rubble and through pain and disappointment. This literally brought me to my knees one night, crying with only one word to speak: “Jesus.” Over and over again, when I felt the need to pray or tell God something…I would only say “Jesus.” But as I write this, Thing 2 in my head has more structure.
I think: We need to have children in order to extend our short lives. Or, Having children extends some aspects of our short lives. And, If our children have children, that extends our lives. That’s why it’s unbearably sad to me to think of grandparents without a relationship with their grandchildren; it would be another form of death.
These are the kinds of things you think as you get older. Though death can come at any time, it doesn’t really begin to feel threatening until you see a gray hair and the physical challenges of age begin to kick in.
My favorite Bible teacher says things that happen aren’t necessarily spiritual. But I say, All things that we see come from things unseen (also known as spiritual things). And he says that death isn’t something to think of as spiritual either, but death is God’s enemy (I Corinthians 15:26; Revelation 20:14.) My only point in saying these things is: Death, in all its forms, is to be avoided by Christians – we who have been made alive and free through faith in the name of Jesus Christ.
That’s why, even when the family challenges arrive – the ones that encourage us in pride and self-righteousness to wall off the life that comes from connection – we have to pray. Even if it just to say, “Jesus,” over and over again. We have to listen for God the Holy Spirit to remind us of what we know of Jesus Christ and to teach us. We have to be fed from the life of Jesus Christ within us for love and wisdom. In that way, we get the next steps in our mission for this, broken, fallen part of life. Because even here, there is a narrow path of light to follow, and God will order our steps.
With relationships – whether in search of them or navigating the disasters they can become – my advice is to locate Jesus Christ. To let Him be our compass…