Walking through life with people – sharing in the day to day.
Several years ago we went to San Diego for three weeks to visit my family. While there, I kept thinking about my new friend, I missed her and felt the Spirit nudging me to call her and let her know. So I did – turns out she had been wanting to give me a call because she missed me as well, but her husband was teasing her about leaving me alone on vacation. That moment on the phone was a connection point for us – this realization that we really had a friendship here we both valued.
I remember clearly, after I got off the phone, the Spirit saying to me, “Jesus was a friend of sinners. I love this. I want more of this in your life. This is a crucial piece in you becoming more like Christ.”
I can be pretty dense. I’ve read Scripture my whole life… it sounds good in my head and I think I have an understanding, but really I don’t know how God expects it to look in the nitty gritty of my daily life. How does God envision these truths playing out in my life? So, for several days after that moment on the phone with my friend, the Spirit gave me some new definitions for what He wants it to look like for me to be “a friend of sinners.” Two ideas stuck:
- First, in a real friendship, you live enough life together that if one of you were to go away on vacation, you would look forward to getting together when you got home… in other words, you would miss each other.
- And second, if I am a true friend to someone and they feel loved by me, when asked who their closest friends are, I would be named among them.
Now, this happens pretty easily for us with Christian friends, but not so easy with those that are not yet part of God’s family.
During that time, God gave me a vision that by this time next year, He would love for me to have four or five people at that level of friendship in my life… people that do not yet know Him. It didn’t feel condemning or even convicting in any way – it felt more like He was giving me a little glimpse into His dream for my life in the near future. Though it seemed really clear at the time, as the months passed, I kinda forgot about this conversation between me and God.
Then, the following year, we were in San Diego for 2 1/2 weeks for my sister’s wedding, and towards the end of our time there, I was texting an unbelieving friend back home to say hi, and it all came rushing back… these conversations I had had with the Lord over a year earlier. I realized that during vacation I had been in touch with a handful of my unbelieving friends, mostly through texting. My eyes filled with tears and I realized that by God’s grace, He had brought me into more authentic friendships with women who I earnestly hope will know Him someday. And He emphasized to me how pleasing this was to Him! It has been exciting for me to experience deep friendships opening up opportunities to share Gospel truth. I think part of this is because there is a level of trust built, but part of it is just that you are walking through life with people – sharing in the day to day.
I asked the Lord to help me understand what processes have led me into these quality friendships with unbelievers. Three things came to mind…
First, PURSUIT. I thought back to how each of these friendships developed and realized with each of these women, I really pursued them with God’s help. Almost like the Spirit just kept nagging me and nagging me about certain people until I would give in… leave that pile of laundry that really needs to be folded, find your phone, and call her (again, for the umpteenth time) to see if she wants to get together. Each of these friendships required a lot of pursuit on my part on the front end, but after the friendship was stronger, it became mutual. God reminded me of how He pursued me and continues to do so daily. When we do this with others, it is a picture of what He is like.
Second, SACRIFICE. It takes sacrificing of our time and our lives so unbelievers can be a huge priority. I hesitate to even use the word “sacrifice”, because one of the rewards of mission (people coming to faith in Christ) is a joy so great that it reminds me of the crazy kind of joy Todd and I have felt each time our babies were born… so the joy far outweighs the sacrifice. And yet, in my life, true mission really feels like sacrifice much of the time. For one thing, there is the hard work, before and after, of having people in our home. It also affects our calendar and especially our weekends – it has been a growing process but also very encouraging for me to see we now often plan our weekends around when our non-believing friends can get together. We make sure we have time just as a family as well, but we tend to structure it around mission. It might also require the pure giving of time in some way.
For instance, months ago I started doing laundry each week for a friend and her three kids. I loved serving her, but I had to be willing to give a little extra time to laundry! Also, when I make it a priority to spend time with unbelievers during my week, I have less time to hang out with believing friends. That is just the reality of time. If I’m not really intentional, then all of my social time can end up with Christian friends. Though this may not seem like a big deal, but if our days and weeks continue on like that, then all of the sudden it will be thirty years from now and we’ll realize our only real friendships are with believers and we’re only mere acquaintances with unbelievers. That would be a tragedy!
Third, LOVE. It is easy for me to have deep love for my brothers and sisters in Christ, but it isn’t always so easy to experience it with others. But, I have noticed that as these friendships have grown, I have been surprised by the love that has grown in me towards these friends – I believe God has poured this into my heart as I have been obedient to mission in my life. I smile sometimes when I think of how different I am than some of my friends (i.e. – I’m not exactly a pot head like one of my friends), and it reminds me that this is God’s doing in my heart!
Will you pray about these ideas and ask what the Spirit would say to you? Ask Him to show you how He wants to make unbelievers a greater priority in your life. I have been asking for years and still ask God to break my heart for lost people (literally, I ask Him to bring me to tears over their lostness apart from Him) – to make my heart so much more like His towards those that don’t yet know Him. And, to help me to really live this out in the uniqueness of my personality and gifting, and in my marriage and family.