True encouragement can’t take place in isolation.” Matt Mashburn
A people person who pulls away from people.
A person who has been hurt, wronged, and wounded by others’ actions or words.
A person who would like hide in a cave away from everyone.
What do all these things have in common?
They are all at times me…and maybe even sometimes you too.
No, you would probably never admit it out loud, but if you were looking deep down into your heart, you might see that it’s true. It wasn’t until church one Sunday that I discovered these things about myself. As I feverishly wrote down notes from the sermon (which you can listen to here, on 7/28/13 with the same message title) it struck me that he was talking about me…and to top it off, that “he” was actually my husband.
He and I had not talked about his sermon that day, which is rare since we usually do, so the frankness of his message hit me even harder when the reality of his words started to sink in. As a people person who has been in ministry for over ten years it was funny to me that this actually rang true in this season of my life.
Let’s dig into his sermon a little bit and see what we can uncover together.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV)
Chances are you’ve heard this verse before in the context of going to church, which is true and important, but one of the incredible gifts the Bible has to offer is that it is multi-faceted and has many layers to it. When you peel back this verse a few layers you can see He is trying to show us something more.
When God tells us to consider how we can stir up one another to love and good works, it should not be just a passing thought. We are to spend time seriously contemplating how we can help each other to express love and do good. I would say that we should be strategic about helping the people God has put in our lives to love and do good works.
As Christians we need community.
We aren’t supposed to do life on our own, tucked away in our safe little bubble. Our community is our spouse, family, church, neighbors and those in our world. We don’t always get to pick who is a part of our community, but we can start to be strategic and purposeful about how we interact in these relationships.
What if you began to look at your relationships through the lens of sanctification? What does that mean? It is a big scary word, but it has a simple meaning. When we are saved, God begins a process of sanctification in our lives which is basically a process of making us more like Him. That process is not complete until we are with Him one day in Heaven. So if that is true and our relationships are a vehicle for God to do that, then what does that mean when it comes to our preconceptions about our relationships?
In our marriages; we have gotten so focused on what we need to get out of the relationship, and how our needs are not being met. We may have spent our whole married life focused on getting our own needs fulfilled. But what if God intended our marriage to grow us closer to Him? And not only to grow us closer to Him but to use us to grow our spouse closer to him? Maybe God is trying to show you something that will bring you both closer to Him through a difficulty He has allowed in your lives.
In our friendships; If relationships are the context for sanctification, then how does that shape our friendships? Do we work hard enough at the ones we have? Have we bailed on some we should not have bailed on? Should we raise the bar as we enter into new ones? Should we exit some that are not fulfilling this purpose for either party?
Your relationships are there to draw you closer to God.
So, why is it that we start to pull away and draw inward?
Quite simply we get hurt, and let’s face it, it’s not fun. The sting of rejection, the misunderstanding in choice of actions or words of friends can be enough to send us into a quiet little cave all by ourselves. The hard part is this…that we aren’t supposed to run away from it when it starts to get tough, but lean into it and see what it is that God is trying to show us through it.
It’s not always fun nor is it easy, but taking the time to look at these relationships through a new lens will help us redefine our approach to them. So, it’s time to come out of our caves and stick our necks out a bit. God is using these relationships to make us more like Him, and that is far better than anything we could do on our own.
A special thank you to my husband, Pastor Matt Mashburn, for sharing his notes and thoughts with me. To listen to the entire sermon, A New Lens For Relationships, click here.