Point to Ponder: I’m as close to God as I choose to be.
Question to Consider: What practical choices will I make today in order to grow closer to God?
Two things jump out at me from this collection: intimacy and trust. As Rick admits, “obedience” isn’t normally a part of our definition of friendship. Trust, however, most certainly is. And while I don’t expect friends to always obey me, I do at least trust them to admit when they know I’m right — and be honest with me when they don’t! Failure to do either eventually leads to a breakdown in trust, respect, and uiltimately intimacy.
From this perspective, it is crucial to realize that honesty comes before obedience (and that obedience is contingent on trust). Friendships go bad when they demand obedience in the absence of trust, which leads directly to a lack of honesty. Conversely, the most fertile ground for intimacy to develop is a thick layer of honesty — though it still requires the seed of truth and water of commitment.
I realized a little while ago that this is the one sure way to spark my temper. I like to think of myself as “slow to anger”, but that isn’t really true. A more accurate statement is that many behaviors which might annoy others don’t really bother me, as I am confident in my ability to handle them. However, if I ever feel that someone is trying to abuse my trust by dishonestly manipulating me, then watch out! My fuse may be well-hidden, but it isn’t very long.
Fortunately, though I may sometimes get loud when irritated, I never actually explode; instead, I soon get very quiet. I’ve learned (the hard way, unfortunately) that speaking when angry usually aggravates the situation. At the same time, I’ve learned (also the hard way) that anger never really goes away on its own. Time may scab all wounds, but it doesn’t heal them. Rather, I need to actively clean out the wound with repentance of the self-righteousness component of my anger, and forgiveness for any genuine wound that sparked legitimate anger.
Which ultimately gets back to issue of what God values most: authentic relationship and reconciliation, rather than mere superficial conformity. When we understand that our purpose to intimately connect with God’s character, we are free from the need to demand that others properly honor our character.
In fact, I’m starting to think that the fundamental sin isn’t so much selfishness or self-love (as there is at least a germ of validity in those attitudes), but “self-worship” — wanting everything to glory, honor, and authenticate our sense of self. Instead, we must acknowledge the reality that God’s character is the only one worthy of worship, and that pleasing Him is the only standard against which we can reliably judge right and wrong. And that we need to die to our need to please ourselves (or others!) — in order to be truly free to authentically love others (or ourselves!).
Whew. Being God’s friend is a lot harder than it sounds. As Mark Twain said, “Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.”
Prayer: God, I confess that it is my own imperfection that makes it hard to appreciate your perfection, and that I would rather bend my image of you to please me than vice versa. Father, help me to trust you enough to be honest with you, and be honest enough to discover that I can really trust you. It is hard even to imagine that you are truly strong enough, good enough, and loving enough to not just accept me as I am, but make me like you. Stretch my imagination through the acts and habits of worship, that I may enjoy the true blessedness and peace that only comes from being a genuine friend of God. I ask this in and by the name of Jesus, Amen.