1 Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth 2 before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Awaken your might; come and save us.
3 Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.
4 How long, Lord God Almighty, will your anger smolder against the prayers of your people? 5 You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have made them drink tears by the bowlful. 6 You have made us an object of derision[b] to our neighbors, and our enemies mock us.
7 Restore us, God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved. [Psalm 80:1-7, NIV]
Relationships are about give and take. Some relationships are imbalanced all the time. Some relationships are imbalanced most of the time. And some relationships have an imbalance that switches back and forth between the people within the relationship. All of these things are a part of regular human relationships.
Our relationship with God is so different! From start to finish, He takes care of it all! He is sure to hear and restore and save us. But, God also feels. He gives and gives some more, even though He has given it all already. We have the relationship before us.
We have the gift of faith.
He loves and we can respond. Ultimately, He has provided the opportunity for choice to His creation. We can reject. We can turn away. But He holds tight.
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Psalm 139:1-6
I love being known on such a personal level. No matter what else is happening in my many relationships, this one is the most comprehensive. Who has traveled with me through it all? Who has been there, whether I have noticed, known, or cared — through every moment of my being?
It is incomprehensible to me. And yet sometimes I still contemplate it, even though He says it is too lofty for me to attain.
On most days I rest in God’s promise that He loves me, just as I am.
The initial “hellos” give way to more profound discussions. For some relationships, deep conversations can come quickly, particularly when time is short.
It could be there is just a short amount of time face-to-face due to busy lives but it could also be there is a terminal illness in the picture. Whatever the reason, peeling back the layers that may have been built up against the regular world and having conversations of substance are important.
Sometimes, when I meet someone, we dive deep right away. But, most often, it is over time that a relationship gains trust and leads to richer conversations. I enjoy discussing the deeper things; the challenges, the discoveries, but I am also good with the mundane and silly. Sometimes hanging in the deep for too long can get heavy and there is a need to take a break from it. But allowing time for relationships and discussions to deepen is important.
I know I am guilty of squeezing conversations into a short period of time. The lingering cups of coffee and opportunity to really get into some meaty discussions are set aside in favor of whatever I am in the midst of dealing with.
Have you made the time to peel back the layers of life to delve into deeper discussions?
16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. [2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, NIV]
Blessings to you as you make time and space for the important conversations!
I remember my mom taking us to the specialty shoe story because we all had wide feet and she believed in good shoes for growing feet. I am sure she had sticker shock every time she dragged us in there. The shoes had to fit us now but also be ready for us as we grew. Of course, it was anybody’s guess when the next growth spurt would happen and the hope was to be able to get several months out of the new footwear.
I always like to have a few different kinds of shoes, depending on my activity for the day. So I have my summer sandals, my zories, water shoes, walking shoes, dress up shoes, casual shoes for jeans, and rain boots. And I confess that I bought a pair of shoes because I thought they would be fun to wear in the summer with capris. Now I am embarrassed that I have listed off all those shoes; eight seems a little over the top!
Relationships can be similar to shoes. You likely have a number of them. Each relationship might have a different emphasis – one might be your walking buddy and one might be a work friend and one might be your “play” mate. Some fit in certain settings but not in every setting. And you might meet someone and hit it off immediately but after spending all day together you realize it isn’t a good fit after all. Or you find there isn’t any room to grow. Or they only like to party and you can’t do that all the time.
Chose your shoes and your relationships carefully. It is OK to be cautious on the front end and it is definitely OK to think it over if the relationship doesn’t seem to be a good fit. Others may try to warn you if it is obvious. And if that is what you hear, take heed. Every relationship takes time and energy. And not every relationship we find ourselves in is a good fit. That’s ok. In life there are many opportunities for healthy friendships but sometimes it takes time – trial and error, like trying on shoes at the shoe store.
The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. [Proverbs 12:26 NIV]
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. [Proverbs 17:17 NIV]
One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. [Proverbs 18:24 NIV]
Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. [Proverbs 27:6 NIV]
Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice. [Proverbs 27:9 NIV]
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. [John 15:12-14 NIV]
I pray the relationships you’re in help you grow and remind you that you are His treasure!
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
When I think of the word “mend” I think of sewing a button on a shirt or fixing a hole on a beloved shirt. We can also “mend fences” which can be quite literal but can also refer to restoring a relationship.
It takes two to revive a relationship. Often one party is ready sooner than the other and needs to wait patiently for the other person to be in the space for rebuilding. I think it would be rare for two people at odds to both “throw down the hatchet” simulataneously but once both parties are open to restoration, God can work a beautiful, though often different, thing.
With fences, and relationships, if issues are addressed when smaller, things can be stabilized. But if there are many unhealthy situations that go unchecked over a period of time the day will surely come when the relationship cannot stand. Of course, there are some relationships that cannot and should not be mended. That takes a bit of thinking, praying, and wise counsel.
Life is short, so let’s mend fences where we can. God can help us discern which ones to restore and which ones to let go. And if you wish to repair something, remember, the other party may not share your desire just yet nor ever. Plant the seed. Extend the hand of peace. You are only responsible for your actions and that can lead you to peace even if the relationship is not one that can be restored. Even coming together to decide that the relationship is not healthy and won’t move forward is a mending of sorts and can leave you with peace.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord. [Romans 12:17-19 NIV]
“The Lord is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear?” Psalm 27:1
Psalm 27 has so much good stuff in it!
And still, even with knowing the truths that are there, at times I am still fearful. I think I dwell on too many “what ifs”. I cannot control the future. Even though there are times I wish I could, it is for the best that I can’t. The best I can do is control my responses to situations. Knowing that the Lord is my shelter, my fortress, my salvation, my light, and the stronghold of my life helps me put the “what ifs” into a proper perspective.
Recently, to every “what if” I have been trying to say “even if” instead and I recount the promises of God’s presence, perspective, and peace.
Psalm 27:5 says “For in the day of trouble…” and it reminds me that we all have days of trouble. Sometimes there are many days of “trouble” in a row. But “he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.”
There is no end to hardship in personal relationships, work situations, physical health, or the circumstances found in the world today because we live in a world full of sinners who make selfish choices. I have made quite a few sinful choices myself to the pain and detriment of myself and others. But God works in and through us and, often in spite of us to share His grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love to our hurting world!
“Hope for the Best. Expect the worst. Life is a play. We’re unrehearsed.” ― Mel Brooks.
It’s funny. You dream of a day, a meal, an experience, a career and it doesn’t turn out the way you expected AT ALL!
Sometimes we aim too low on our expectations and we are pleasantly surprised. Other times, and likely much more frequently, we expect too much from something or someone and it doesn’t happen the way we hoped.
Let the wailing and gnashing of teeth begin!
Expectations can be the death of a relationship (and sometimes that is ok) but a dose of reality is always important.
Take my most recent haircut, for example.
I always agonize when we relocate because it surely means two things: I need to find a new mechanic I can trust and I need to find a new person to cut my hair in a way that looks good on me.
Ugh on both points!
I have been avoiding a haircut since September when we moved. I did break down and get a trim in February but that is all I had the courage to do before yesterday. And by yesterday I was already way overdue for a haircut. I called in the morning and she could take me at 1:30 the same day. Wow! I was excited! I even had this photo as an example of the cut and style I was interested in.
Granted, I was not going to wear makeup and I was not dressed quite as fancy and I don’t have the same smile BUT this is what I walked out with:
I guess it is close, but not close enough to what I was hoping for. This experience reminded me of some important truths:
We are working with people who most often do not always see things from the same perspective or we have more confidence in them than is warranted.
And let’s take it a step further: We are dealing with people who have some deep wounds we don’t know about or they think have been healed or ____________ (fill in the blank)!
Working with human beings is pretty tricky stuff. When we are deep in a relationship with someone we sometimes experience some very difficult things with them. Other times we miss things that are very important for others because we are in the middle of our own stuff. All of that messes with expectations: yours, mine, and theirs.
Pay attention to your relational expectations. Even if they are truly justified and reasonable, sometimes the other party is not in the same book as you, let alone on the same page.
I do believe God’s grace covers a multitude of sins. I have a multitude of my own sins to worry about. So while I might want to stomp around being ‘justified’ about my irritations or aggravations I most often need to move along and let God work on me and my attitude. As I ponder His grace poured out on me and my life, it feels pretty stingy to withhold it from others.
Are you struggling with expectations today? How do you work through those times of disappointment when you or others have “dropped the ball” or intentionally challenged your hopes and dreams?
When I am in a good space, I tend to seek God on the matter. When I struggle with it the most it seems I have drifted a bit from God’s perspective.
As for my hair, I just have to wait for it to grow out. I suspect that strategy of waiting (and praying) works well with a multitude of unmet expectations. I trust that God will work it out even when I can’t possibly see the solution.
Compromise happens at work, at home, in friendships, at church, and driving during rush hour…you have a place you are trying to get to and someone barrels in with their plan. Do you cause an accident or let them merge?
Everyone must be willing to compromise in some areas but determining when it is appropriate is so tricky! There are also times when compromise shouldn’t happen and that is equally as important. Some personalities love to be in charge and being willing to concede is extraordinarily painful for them but all the more necessary. Other personalities so desire peace (or acceptance, etc.) that they are open to compromising too much and that can cause problems. Who you are and who you are dealing with are very important things to consider in this business of compromise in addition to “the compromise” itself.
Does your compromise actually stand in the way of what you hope to achieve? Are there fears and regrets in the middle of the compromise? Are you surrendering your better judgement or core values? Some things are really not that important and other things can change the course of your life…forever.
So what if you find yourself in a situation where you have compromised a little too much, are experiencing regret, and are having a difficult time getting back to “the line in the sand” you had previously established? Maybe establishing “the line” wasn’t important previously but as you grow and mature you see the benefit from having a boundary. Ponder the situation. Pray about the situation. If your heart is restless, I would guess that the compromise you struggle with is probably more than should have been surrendered. Sometimes you can ask yourself “How do I wish this situation looked right now?” and that might give you a clue to what you should be working towards. Have you talked it over with a trusted and wise friend? Have you visited with a trained counselor?
Boundaries can change over time and there are times they definitely should. Consider a parent who is in charge of their child’s every day. Typically, the day will come when that child moves away. Has the parent given them wings to fly when the time comes by allowing the child (young adult, adult) increasing opportunity to make decisions and grow in being responsible for themselves? This is tricky business for parents but it can also be difficult at work, as you volunteer, and in many other relationships. Too much compromise can lead to regret and anger and an unsettling feeling. Too little compromise can lead to relationship challenges.
Pray for those you see compromising too much. Pray for those who are too often unyielding to ideas that don’t come from their own mind. Both extremes have their challenges. Spend some time thinking about your life and your compromises. If you are struggling with regret, seek God’s forgiveness. If you are struggling with anger, seek God’s peace.
Over the course of life there are so many friendships we experience–some are an amazing source of love and grace and laughter on this bumpy road of life and some leave incredibly deep wounds.
If you decide to take a few moments to contemplate old, expired, and difficult friendships be sure to take along a big bucket of grace to dump over the entire situation.
As you survey your lifetime of friendships, a few may stand out. The painful friendships are precious in their own way–maybe the relationship didn’t survive but hopefully there were some lessons learned by both parties. It is tricky business to have two people in relationship with one another because everyone has their own issues. Believe me, I have mine and I am willing to bet you have yours. Those frictional friendships often help us understand more about ourselves if we can step back and look at them with an introspective eye. (I know, introspective eye sounds a little weird). At any rate, sometimes a big chunk of time might need to go by before you can look back at a friendship and consider what was going on there. If you find yourself wondering to a time period with a painful friendship, I pray you are willing to see God and His perspective and be able to experience His peace.
When I was younger, I loved to push the limit and see how close to the line I could come. I used to resent boundaries and consider them a challenge to overtake. Can you relate? Amazingly enough, I have kids who do the very same thing. It must be a part of that sinful, human nature.
I have learned many difficult lessons in life because I overstepped boundaries, didn’t enforce boundaries, and ignored boundaries. I am still learning, often the hard way. Boundaries are important in marriage, parenting, friendships, work relationships and are more than just a benefit.
Boundaries are a blessing.
Consider that God has placed boundaries around you for your protection–He tells you to stay away from certain things so you will be pure. God wants you to be safe from sin and danger and He helps you to do that by telling you things to avoid. He wants you to heed His words, for your blessing and benefit.
And wouldn’t it be great if we had no boundaries for God?
Allowed Him access to every dark corner of our lives?
Recognized that He supersedes physical boundaries by being omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent?
1 Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.
2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” 3 I say of the holy people who are in the land, “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.” 4 Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more. I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods or take up their names on my lips.
5 LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. 6The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. 7 I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. 8 I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, 10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful[b] one see decay. 11 You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.