I’ve made a new friend recently. That’s not altogether unusual… I think we all continue to acquire friendships throughout our lives as we engage in new activities or jobs; relocate to new communities or finally have a conversation with someone we had as an acquaintance for many years. But making this new friend is something rather special. Something that taught me again that…
- God’s Way Works
Several months ago I attended a ministry meeting at church. During the meeting the group facilitator asked a question and I gave a heartfelt answer stemming from my personal experience and relationship with God. Within moments a woman sitting next to me intervened. She said for those in the group who had not had the “spiritual experiences” I had, she needed to restate the answer… give an answer she felt was more suitable to the group. Her comments stung! They felt critical, sarcastic and embarrassing. And I was confused… this woman had never actually met me. Why was she so critical of what I had said? She didn’t even know me. If I could have escaped the room I would have run and hid.
I ruminated on the words the woman said for several days. The incident had taken me by surprise. I was also frustrated because I had been so shocked by her comments I no longer remembered what I had said that sparked them. Had I really been so obnoxious about my “spiritual experiences” that a round “put down” was called for? Why did someone who didn’t even know me lash out… especially at a ministry meeting in front of a group of people?
- God’s Instructions
As I listening to God’s still small voice I wanted to ignore Him. I felt hurt and angry. But His instructions were so clear and direct and compelling…
“Go on interacting with her just as if nothing had ever happened. There’s more going on than you see… trust me, forgive and treat her as a friend.”
I wondered at the time about going to her… sharing with her that her words had offended me, possibly asking what it was all about. Doesn’t the Word instruct us to go to the other person when we are offended? But that was not what I felt God was telling me to do in this case… he wanted forgiveness without explanation or confrontation of any kind. His instructions said to let go of the offense and release any hard feelings I had toward this person. He wanted me to be ready to greet her warmly, as if she had not given me any occasion to complain about her; to treat her kindly as if she had not injured me… He reminded me that is how He treats me when He forgives me. It was a tall request God was asking… one I was not sure I could fulfill.
It was a couple of weeks before I saw the woman again at church… I thought to slip by her and act as though I never saw her… but the catch in my spirit said, “NO… go greet her!” I complied and greeted her warmly then moved on. Nothing happened; it didn’t fix anything. Her words still stung but I reminded myself of God’s instructions… “Just as if nothing had ever happened… treat her as a friend!” Time went by… I refused to nurse the offense as much as I actually wanted to. The Lord had just been so clear, so compelling and somehow at the same time comforting. So I put the offense out of my mind… “Just as if nothing had ever happened.”
Fast forward several months…
I had occasion to spend several days in close proximity with this nice lady… and that’s exactly what she was – Nice! We chatted and got to know each other… found we had some things in common. In the next couple weeks I invited her to my home and we talked and prayed together… found even more common ground and I experienced the powerful ways God uses this new friend to minister to others, including me. I asked God, “What’s up with this? She’s really nice! I want her as a friend for many years to come Lord!”
- A real, biblical friendship is born…
Just a few weeks ago I finally shared with my friend the struggle I had with our first encounter. Honest and tender feelings were talked about; prayed about; forgiveness was cemented in my heart. I openly admitted that in the time since the incident I realized that deep down I knew my friend had not meant to be critical or in any way hurtful… it was my bruised and defensive ego that had gotten offended when it really didn’t need to be. My friend openly admitted that sarcasm is a problem she struggles with… she was quick to ask forgiveness and I felt her deep sorrow for what had happened. We both understood that we have a real spiritual enemy out there and from the first time we met he did not want this relationship to happen. But now the victory was ours. We walked away from each other full of peace and joy.
So I have a new, wonderful and precious friend. And in my heart and in my mind… Nothing ever happened!
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Col 3:12-14
Father God I thank you for my precious friend and her soft and caring heart. I thank you for your instructions… for your comfort and for your love. Show me when my bruised and defensive ego chooses offense over forgiveness. Continue to teach me to forgive as you have forgiven me… pure, simple forgiveness just as if nothing had ever happened. And above all help me to put on love, which binds us together in perfect harmony. Without You Lord just think of the friendship I would have missed.