One of the most fascinating, and incredibly challenging, exercises I have ever engaged in is studying the names of God. Throughout scripture Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit are referenced in a number of ways. We see great comforter, shelter, healer, helper. Most familiar would likely be Father. I learned very early, from a wise teacher, that my interpretation of who God is was likely influenced by my attitude and feelings of my own earthly father. That my perception of my father here, impacted my view of my eternal Father in heaven.
I certainly have been on the receiving end of God’s grace, His mercy, His provision, His endless patience and certainly His love. With having such an absent father of my own, I truly thought I was given the gift of a blank canvas when painting an imagine of who God my Father is. That as I grew to know the LORD, I really did not have much to characteristically tether him to my own father. I saw people wrestle with this in both positive and negative lights. For those who had a positive example of what a healthy father looked like it almost seemed “easier” for them to accept God for all of his names of encouragement and embrace those reflective of his corrective nature. Those who had the polar opposite saw God as this black hand. A condemning, demanding, unforgiving God. I listened to prayers from others as they would try and claw their way out of the pit of lies of who God was. I, on the other hand, was cruising into my relationship with a license of freedom. That without prior experience(s) from my earthly father influencing my opinions and feelings, I was certain this was one part of my walk that I may have just nailed. However, the longer I walked and the more I was awakened to the reality that a blank canvas is exactly that- blank.
I have held tightly to friendships my entire life. There is something about friendships that perils in comparison to all other things. I have seen God’s favor for me in this way. Let me be clear in that there are relationships where I have hurt others. Relationships that I would give anything to make right; and have certainly tried. Words that I have said that I wish to take back and things that I know cannot be undone. I lived in a place of regret with those for a very long time.
However, through God’s grace I have been able to make peace with those skeletons. I no longer have to peek inside of the closet to take an inventory; making sure they are all there and slam it shut quickly so none escape. I have called each of them to light, and pray over them still to this very day.
Some of my dearest friends are not believers; not people of peace. I have some that are seekers, some that are prodigals, some that absolutely reject the gospel in its entirety. I was told by my dearest friend once that I, “have a burden for lost sheep.” How I have handled that burden has been more of a circus act than one of missional finesse by onlookers I am sure; mildly entertaining and some ‘numbers’ are have just been downright disastrous. So it’s me and the sheep, this side of heaven. A modern day shepherd. The most unglorified, lowly job one can assume. Yet I find passion here. In the messy. In the pursuit of lost spirits. In the ears that have yet to be tuned to the good news of Jesus. For hearts that have God sized holes that are waiting for the messengers that hold the pieces sent by the Holy Spirit to restore and renew. In the intimate conversations on porches with sweet tea, and in parking lots with strangers is where I find my fervency ignite. I am thankful for those who have been assigned pulpits and more socially acceptable platforms for spreading the gospel. Yet, for some reason, mine is just in the everyday and the mundane.
I cannot say that I had had a true heartbreak from a friend until age 32. My friendships were the greatest when I played the comparison game with myself and others. Foolishly thinking that I was blessed with these relationships because I “deserved” them. I “earned” them. That as I lived a life to serve others, the natural byproduct was healthy fruit being bore. When I encountered my first experience with what it felt like to be betrayed by a friend I was not ready. I was not ready, because this was not my plan. These were not the prayers I had prayed for this friend. A prodigal child. A daughter of the most High King who has had a perverted version of what taking up your cross and following Jesus means. Exposure to shallow Christianity for much of her life, and a personality that does not allow for gentle redirection and instruction. I felt inappropriately responsible for her salvation and spiritual growth for the last decade, and the LORD had to show me. Show me several things through this experience. First and foremost, that just because I think something does not make it right. That even through prayer if it is not aligned with God’s will, it is prayer in the flesh and completely null and void. That unless I first turn to Christ and ask for what my participation in His plan may look like, I am operating independent of Him and that is not a place I want to be found; playing Jesus.
The greatest revelation I found in this recent experience, was that another name for Jesus is ‘friend’. In all of the names mentioned earlier, and over 300 found in scripture, ‘friend’ is not one that I actually understood. I would certainly claim that Jesus was my friend up until this point. In many respects, I think I did believe that. Yet I could not honestly say I could see myself worthy of being His friend. The lie I was believing. In running to Him, I found myself in a position where He was beside me. Sitting with me in my tears and hurt was my friend; Jesus. Reminding me that while we are in the flesh, we will all be subject to sin. We all just happen to wear it differently. Some wear it a little more outwardly; which can I get an amen for these people because it truly takes so much of the shock factor out when they surface! Yet regardless, that the best friend I will ever have, the best friend we all will ever have, is found in Christ alone. That He is always for us, He is always calling us higher, he is never slanderous or selfish. He loves with a love that our heart cries for. That night I will never forget as I was praying aloud Psalm 63 over and over, I then began closing my eyes and whispering the bits and pieces He knew my heart needed to hear until I fell asleep. Like a gentle lullaby His words caressed my heart. Wrapped up the pieces of my spirit that felt shattered, and afforded my weary heart rest that it was starved for. What a friend we have in Jesus. This now has an entirely new meaning in my world.