A while ago I saw the picture above on my Instagram feed. It was just one more nudge in a series that God has been giving me about the seasonality of friendships. I had to ask myself "is this true?"
I have been really struggling about whether or not to write this post because a lot of my blog readers are my friends and I wasn't ready for the calls about whether or not I planned on getting rid of them. But here I am being bold and brave and honest (and I'm bracing myself for the fallout). During a recent fast, which I will post on soon I promise, I felt God telling me to really examine my friendships. This wasn't the first time I'd gotten this message; but I'm stubborn and it takes a lot for me to actually like someone so I really didn't want to do it. But then I was reminded that life isn't about being comfortable or things being easy.
To find your life, you must lose your life—and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 10:39 (VOICE)
What does it mean to lose my life for Christ in the realm of friendship? The first and obvious answer was to get rid of friends that cause me to be un-Christlike (I think that's a word). Now I have friends that practice other religions and friends that claim to be Christians and act like anything but. Does this mean I should never speak to them again? No! Jesus Himself befriended those that the religious society of the times shunned. The issue comes when we let those friends influence our decisions or worldview in a way that goes against the teachings of the Bible. So I wiped away the hypothetical sweat from my brow as relief set in over the fact that I'm doing a pretty good job at remaining counter cultural while loving people that don't know Jesus. Box One, checked.
Another way to lose my life is by examining whether my godly friendships are growing me or if they are becoming a crutch/an idol.
First let's talk about growth. It is totally possible to surround yourself with people that go to church and even love God but if they aren't chasing after Him at the same rate as you there will be times that your views will conflict. (I might feel myself getting a little nervous again y'all) It's important to examine the people you allow to speak into your life. Sometimes that means not discussing certain areas, like finance or relationships, with just anyone. A good rule of thumb is if they aren't where you want to be (and probably past that point) you shouldn't go to them for advice. There is a lot to be said for learning from other people's mistakes but if they haven't moved in a positive direction after their fall then take the initial warning to heart but don't seek them out to guide you on decision making. Personally this has been really hard because there are people I love and trust that I want to share everything with but in protection of how God is growing me I often have to stop before I end up in a place where I'm asking "what do you think". Box Two, skipped (for now).
Looking at the crutch or idolatry aspect brought on by godly friendships is another thing. When you are in true godly community these people see you at your worst. They know your struggles and watch you grow. So often times they can be the biggest crutch on the road to growth because they are constantly acknowledging how far you've come. Encouragement and affirmation is a great thing but be careful that the group isn't justifying your current decisions based on your past self (or their investment in you). Friends should be going to The Word for instruction not just your history. The idolatry piece comes in when friends become your God. Do you pick up the phone and call your friend first thing when you have a problem or do you stop and pray? Our actions show where our heart truly is. If you're spending more time in coffee shops talking with your friends than you are in your Bible there might be a problem. For me idolatry always seemed like an ancient idea involving bowing down to a statue. But as I've grown I have learned it's really a state of your heart where you seek out approval, things, or people more than God. Box Three, does a half check count?
So now we get to the point where that sweat I previously wiped away (while at Box One) has reappeared. I think; what questions do I need to ask while revaluating my friendships? How do I know where I just need to put up boundaries or where I completely (and lovingly) need to cut people off? There's not a one size fits all answer. I've been spending time in prayer reflecting on each and every individual in my life. Offering the relationships up to God and allowing Him to remove them as He sees fit. This could mean I end up alone but that's ok because when I come to the end of myself that's where I find Him.