Lately I’ve been trying to understand the balance of being Christ-like while still taking care of myself. I’m gonna be honest, it’s super difficult.
I have never been one to struggle with trusting people. I assume everyone is good and isn’t out to intentionally harm me. Sometimes, I am horribly mistaken. It hasn’t been until recently that someone started pointing out to me when I’m being taken advantage of or when I’m being bullied. It’s kind of nice because I am so incredibly oblivious to it, and it’s nice to know that I have friends who are looking out for me.
However, it also makes me frustrated with myself for being naïve and needing someone to defend me all the time. It would be great if I could just know when I’m being manipulated or bullied and defend myself, ya know? Prove that I’m not a fool! Then I start to think of what that looks like…
I currently have people in my life who bully me or manipulate me. I’m starting to become aware when someone talks about me behind my back and acts like we’re best friends to my face. Knowing these things, is exhausting. I thought it would be nice, that I could defend myself and prove that I am strong, but all it does is drain me.
I have 2 levels of friendship, every single person I know fits into one of these levels: “best friend” and “acquaintance.” If we are good friends then we are best friends and everything that is mine is yours (except when I make nachos). I may not be great at keeping in touch with you, but when I see you it will be like no time has passed at all.
If I don’t know you, or don’t know you well, then you are my acquaintance. I will smile at you and say hello, I will engage you in conversation, but I will feel more awkward being myself around you and will keep things pretty surface level. As soon as an acquaintance shows interest in being a friend, they move into the best friend category. It’s pretty simple really.
As of late, I am starting to form this new level in my heart of “people I don’t like very much.” The people in this category are those who I have witnessed intentionally hurt me. People who probably have been bullying or manipulating me all along and I’m starting to notice.
I hate having this level. It is hard for me to make eye contact with people on this level, and I feel like I just don’t want to be present when they are around. I find ways to leave the room or avoid conversation because I know I will not be able to hide the fact that they are not on the best friend level.
As these situations have come up I have been struggling. I am struggling with how I should deal with these feelings. I mean, these people are mean, so I shouldn’t put myself in their company and just submit to their actions! But I want to continue to be gracious and kind despite their lack of the virtues. How am I supposed to do that? How am I supposed to willingly put myself in a position of vulnerability with people who take advantage of that for their own gain?
When I was a teenager I would pray for certain characteristics. I *really* lacked patience, so I prayed for patience, I constantly prayed for wisdom and that God would fill me with the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And in case, the first two times weren’t enough, I prayed for patience again. I prayed that God would show me how to love people the way he loves them and to always be able to forgive.
Now, in this situation, I am praying that God shows me how to continue forward with these people. I pray that God would show me how to love them and be kind and gracious towards them, while still guarding my heart.
Last week I heard the song “Hosanna” and there is a lyric that says, “Show me how to love like you have loved me.” When I sang this line I immediately thought of these people and again struggled with the idea of what that looks like. In order to love them, I need to be genuine, be myself around them, and that opens me up to so much hurt!
Today is Good Friday.
On Good Friday we often hear the story of how Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice and died for all of us. However, today, as I heard this story for the thousandth time, I heard a different message.
We go through scene after scene and we hear stories about how Jesus was mistreated, how he didn’t deserve the pain he faced, and how he bore it all for us. But today, I heard a message of forgiveness.
- In Luke 22:14-17 Jesus has communion with his disciples. Not only that, He says, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you.” Fully aware that his disciples are about to betray him, Jesus fellowships with them and desires to be with them.
- In Luke 22:31-32 Jesus predicts Simon Peter’s betrayal and says that he is praying for him.
- In Matthew 26:47 Jesus, fully aware of Judas’ betrayal, lets Judas kiss his cheek. Knowing that kissing his cheek is a sign of friendship, and Judas is being anything but a friend, Jesus still lets him kiss him. Not only that, but he responds with “Friend, do what you came for.” Wait a sec, he still calls him friend?!
- In Luke 22:49-51 Peter cuts off the ear of one of the high priest’s trying to arrest Jesus. Jesus heals him.
- Matthew 27:15-26 is the story of the crowd requesting that Pilate release Barabbas instead of Jesus. Everybody talks about how awful Barabbas was, and how the crowd hated Jesus so much that they would rather have an innocent man crucified than a murderer. But today as I heard this story, I heard a story of forgiveness, of Jesus giving his life so that a murder could have a second chance.
It is easy to look at this story and think that Jesus was just sitting there suffering at the hand of men, but Jesus could have stopped it at any time. Which means, Jesus was actively forgiving and bearing the suffering that these people were pouring on him. It is hard to cope with the idea that murderers can go to heaven too, but Jesus accepting the crucifixion instead of Barabbas shows that he died so that a murderer could live.
As you continue to read the crucifixion story people were basically like a mob on a witch hunt, like the kind you see in movies. These people were awful. They mocked Jesus, tried to make him look like a fool by placing a crown of thorns on his head and calling him names, they completely tortured him. And in Luke 23:34 Jesus says, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
It is so easy to read this story and just see Jesus as the hero who died for us, but he did so much more. Even in his death, he was exemplifying the kind of life that he calls us to. People suck, but Jesus continually forgave them, fellowshipped with them, prayed for them, healed them, died for them, and called them friend.
May I remember that as I respond to the way that I am treated.