Sometimes, a little bit of journalling, reading, study, and thought go further than others. Thinking through a few thoughts from Marcos' Wednesday sermon on "When Friendship Hurts," I stumbled onto one brief Bible verse that may as well have already been highlighted for me:
2 Corinthians 12:20
For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be.
That's Paul speaking to the Corinthians - friends in one regard or another. Paul addressed them to encourage their spiritual growth and spoke from a vantagepoint of realizing his weaknesses over his strengths. There's a lot of ways to read that single sentence, though ... especially the second half. Depending on which theologian you most frequent yourself with, you might read that as Paul's lament that the Corinthians might not see Paul (righteous apostle that he is) as worth their respect due to a lack of maturity and understanding on the part of the Corinthians. Maybe. Or it could also be in keeping with Paul's rather humility-laden speech in that he realizes he may have his own shortcomings that may lead to him genuinely falling short in the eyes of the Corinthians after their spiritual growth. My guess is that there's some truth in both views.
With the extra free time that the holiday weekend affords me, I've spent a fair amount of it reflecting on the multitude of various friendships that I've been fortunate enough to collect over time. Perhaps ironically, I've done so while savoring my temporary time as a hermit crab, alone from others. Yancey's excerpt was a great lead-off on that front.
One central point deserves to be made openly from the thoughts being woven together. That of testing our gifts.
In my case, how much of myself I trust in the hands of others has always been a challenge. It's one thing to be a natural introvert, but I'd argue it's something else entirely to realize that God may just as well have been training some of us for our entire lives to succeed wildly as such. But to be an introvert does not negate the need for community. It just makes it a challenge - a very different one for us, I suppose.
I'm accustomed to solitude. Heck, I revel in it at times. When I first set foot in Lakewood, I sensed that rebuilding my relationship with Christ would help build stronger relationships with friends and other acquaintances. One slight problem, though - and this is where Yancey's point is incredibly relevant. Our existing friendships are often a means by which we relate to Christ. Just as fatherhood is. Just as a number of other things might be that I haven't had to rethink over time. The significance of this realization is that it may be just as important to work on our more earthly relationships as a means of strengthening our heavenly relationship.
For the better part of the last two years or more, I've sensed that God occassionally nudges me out of my comfort zone in order to grow in new ways. I've had to work while hunched over the laptop in a creative mode. I've had to work as a leader of others - sometimes professionally, sometimes over volunteers. I've had to work with a variety of clients of every type of personality that you can name. In every way, those tangents have helped develop new gifts, new talents, and new opportunities.
And yet, I suspect I may not be alone in always trusting those gifts to the fullest. A little later in that same book of the Bible, we get the following from Paul:
2 Corinthians 13:5-6
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you - unless of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.
A big part of trusting those gifts we've been given is to test them. Sometimes, it may seem like getting a new car & there's nothing holding us back from testing those gifts (especially if the stereo system has 300+ watts). Sometimes, however, we're reluctant to test the gifts we've been given. That's when it's time to just snap to and try it. Once. And then again. And over and over if necessary.
I say that in the spirit of revitalizing friendships and other relationships in my own life, but I'm sure there's scores of more opportunity to apply this lesson. Like Yancey, I have friends that encompass a broad spectrum of sharing, trust, and respect. The difficulty is in nurturing those relationsips we most wish to see grow ... while casting aside the worries, concerns, and fears from those relationships that teach us an occassionally cruel lesson. Besides, I was never afraid of a little test in school, or with a car that had a loud stereo. So why back down now?