Sister to Sister: Bind Us Together

For several days now, I’ve been thinking about and praying for a righteous perspective about relationships…friendships…the sisterhood. Like most areas of living, if we can get HIS view into our own focus, we can get this right. After thinking and maybe even overthinking, I believe the age-old secret to preserving godly relationships is deeply embedded in the concept of agape, itself. And it really seems pretty simple to me.

I think there are two premises that are required for friendships that cannot be severed. It’s important to remember that BOTH premises must be central to BOTH parties in a relationship. It seems to me that, if they are, you have a friendship that can’t be annulled; a kinship that will never end. If they are not, the friendship is severely compromised.

The first premise is this: I will never intentionally offend you, unless I must offend you to obey God.

The second premise is this: I will never be offended by something you inadvertently do, unless it is sinful, and thus offends God. 

Perhaps this is an oversimplification, but it seems to me, that if BOTH parties in a relationship are willing and able to maintain BOTH of these premises, there will be no end to the “green pastures” through which he leads and protects us. Adherence to the first premise means that I will love you enough to do whatever it is that would keep you safe from insult or injury in my relationship with you, up to the point of offending my Lord. The second means I will love you enough to give you the benefit of the doubt when I am tempted to become offended, unless you are sinning in the offense.

I believe this is Biblical. The first premise is based on many passages, including I Corinthians 10:24.

Let no man seek His own, but every man another’s well-being.

The second premise finds a home in many places, too. Among them would be I Corinthians 13:4-7

Charity suffers long, and is kind; charity envies not; charity vaunts not itself, is not puffed up, Does not behave itself unseemly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; Rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

The first premise makes me pray “Lord please help me to be only an encouragement to this, my sister, and help me never to be a stumbling block to her in any way.  Let me show her always your grace and your light and place my own desires below her needs and desires.”

The second premise makes me pray “Lord, please help me to think the very best of this, my sister. Please help me to be longsuffering enough to know that she loves me and that she would never intentionally hurt me.”

If we both are thinking both ways, we can’t ever lose relationships over things that are less important than the gospel. I believe a great example of this is the relationship of Jonathan and David. Surely Jonathan placed his own desires below the needs of David as he risked his own life in the advancement of David, even against his own flesh and blood (I Samuel 20—premise 1). Surely David must have always been thinking only the best of Jonathan, even as Jonathan died fighting in the army of David’s own enemy, Saul. It is encouraging to see David’s memorial honoring of Jonathan even after he lost his life in service to Saul (II Samuel chapters 1&9—premise 2). 

I hope and believe I can rely on these Biblical principles to guide me to godly relationships…those relationships that can always promote unity and evangelism among and by His people today. 

Today I Was Uncle Billy…

 

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Happy Christmas Eve!

Today, as I write, it’s actually a couple of days before Christmas.  And today,  I was Uncle Billy from that very famous Christmas Eve story, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. (That’s our very favorite Colley Christmas movie.) I went to the bank early this afternoon to make a transaction for my father. I had neither deposit slip nor check.  It’s “customary” to bring those along.  I was glad when the bank clerk  said, “We know who you are.” Perhaps they know because I am the one who is forevermore trying to clean up a banking mess from afar…as in… “How can I quickly get enough money from his savings (in another bank) to his checking account without coming all the way from Huntsville to Jacksonville?” …or… “Does he have to personally come in to do this or can he just sign and send one of us?”  Somehow when you’re the oldest and probably the most forgetful (He’s the oldest and I’m the most forgetful) customer at an institution, they remember you. Today that was good.

So they did give me the two hundred dollars that Daddy wanted me to withdraw to finish out his Christmas (although from the looks of those 19 stockings and that pile of gifts under the tree, he should be done….And from the looks of those bruises he’s sporting from a recent fall at his grandson’s wedding, he is about done!).

Leaving the bank,  I zig-zagged all over Jacksonville doing his errands and mine for a couple of hours and then hurried home to check on him. He had been excited for me to go to the post office and check his mail. He loves to get Christmas cards. True to my absent-minded  form, when I got there, I’d forgotten to bring his box key, so I waited in line to ask my cousin, Robert, the postmaster, if he would get Dad’s mail for me. There were 4 or 5 cards for Grat, who lives in the little apartment part of Dad’s house, but none for Dad. So, when I got home, I hurried into the utility room to put Grat’s cards on the dryer for him. I did not want Dad to see them and ask if he got any cards.

Then I put up the refrigerated and frozen items. Then I went to the car to get Dad’s money. I remembered where I’d laid it, still in the bank envelope—the envelope that had a handwritten “Merry Christmas” in red ink on the outside— in the passenger seat. That’s where I was sure I’d laid it. But it wasn’t there!

I searched and re-searched all over the car, his house, the yard. Then I told Dad I needed to go back to town and check one more thing. In Uncle Billy style, I tried to think of every place I’d been. I talked to the cart patrols on both sides of Walmart. I asked at the service desk. I talked to the cashier at register 8. I looked under cars and on top of counters in restrooms. I went back to the bank thinking IF there was an honest person who had found the cash in the envelope that said “Compass Bank” that might be the place it would be left. But it was a couple of minutes after four o’clock and the bank was closed. So I came home once more and fixed Dad some pizza for supper. He asked me if I had thought to go to the bank. I did not tell him, “Yes, twice.” Instead I said, “Well, I do not have your money. I’m sorry. I will get it first thing in the morning. We still have two more days before Christmas.”

I got him settled in bed and told him I was going to run to town just one more time to check on just one more thing. This time I was thorough. The post office parking lot, the lot at McDonald’s, inside McDonald’s where the cashiers and the manager stared at me in disbelief to think that I would actually suggest that someone would relinquish cash for the sake of integrity. I knew the odds were not in my favor. I went to the square where I had been momentarily in the coffee shop, the drug store and the boutique. In between stops I was listening to a lesson from the Polishing the Pulpit thumb drive. I’m listening all the way through the 2015 lessons and, coincidentally, today’s lesson was one of my husband’s where he details the trial and crucifixion of my Lord. I really have a hard time listening to this lesson without crying. Today, though, it gave my weary spirit peace, while I wept. Every time I got back in the car, I thought, “This money is so inconsequential in the scheme of things. In fact, there was one very dark day in history that made, for me, all material things of very little consequence.”

I thought on this, but still, I went on to the bank parking lot and back home to retrace steps again in the yard. It was inconsequential, really, but it was not mine. Exhausted, I came back in the house where Grat was cooking his late supper. He was sympathetic when I told him I’d lost two hundred dollars. I was telling him about how I remembered having laid that envelope with the red “Merry Christmas”  in the seat beside me.

His eyebrows arched sharply. “I know where it is!” he said. “It was in the middle of that stack of Christmas cards on the dryer! I haven’t opened it, but I thought that was a sort of funny envelope for a Christmas card!” Just like Potter, Grat had gotten something extra in his stack of papers.

Isn’t it funny how holding something in your hand again that gave you absolutely no thrill a few hours earlier can give you a surge of excitement? I wanted to just kiss that red “Merry Christmas” and dance around with that envelope! I wanted to call my neighbors and say “Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I had lost” (Luke 15:9).

Maybe most of all, I was glad my friends, like Grat and all of you who take the time to read, are not like Mr. Potter (although I am like Uncle Billy). You are more like Clarence, the angel. I know that if I ever really do get in a jam, there are lots of you who’d rescue me (and some of you have!)  Merry Christmas to you all! God bless you as we all get ready to serve him in 2016.

“Remember, no man is a failure who has friends!” …Clarence, the angel.