Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Repost: Rending and Mending

A time to rend, and a time to sew…

                        Ecclesiastes 3.7

Imperfect Fits

My partner and I are obsessed with “Project Runway,” Bravo’s fashion designer competition. One of its trademark moments comes as time runs out. A designer transfers his/her creation from mannequin to model and discovers how imperfectly it’s sized. The outfit gets ripped apart and reconstructed for a more flattering fit. It’s a huge risk. The show milks the tension, suggesting the designer might face his/her judges empty-handed. But, in the end, it’s the right thing to do.

Life often poses similar challenges. Sometimes what looks so clever and pleasing in theory fizzles out in real life. It just doesn’t fit. We can keep what we’ve got, pretending we don’t notice how unflattering it is and hoping no one else—God most of all—sees the disaster we’ve fashioned. Or we can tear it apart and reconstruct it so it works. We may find there’s too much going on, too many unnecessary pieces complicating the design. On the other hand, we may learn previously eliminated parts contribute more than we first thought. Rending times and mending times are typically fraught with anxiety. But, in the end, fixing our mistakes is the right—the best—thing to do.

Over-Accessorizing

Parents and teachers encourage us to amass friends because being well-liked signals character. The notion carries forward as we grow up. How we get along with colleagues and neighbors plays a major factor in how we do on the job and in the community. Then, when we decide to follow Christ, we couple what we’re taught about popularity with His commandment to love everyone. Equating indiscriminate friendship with unconditional love can lead to trouble, however. We can over-accessorize our lives with friendships that detract from, rather than enhance, the godly image we want to convey.

“A man of many companions may come to ruin,” Solomon says in Proverbs 18.24. Seeking popularity exposes us to many hazards. It puts us in company and situations that bring us no good. For the sake of building and maintaining unfruitful friendships, we make concessions impeding our ability to freely express God’s love. It’s essential to distinguish tolerant love from friendly indulgence. They’re not the same. Love accepts people as they are without condemnation. Indulgence accepts what people do—an altogether different proposition. Leading friends to believe we're OK with unflattering attitudes and behaviors leaves us nowhere to stand when asked to join them. Friends who pressure us to participate in unacceptable activities aren’t true friends. They’re liabilities. They detract from our design. And, difficult though it may be, the time comes to rend their influence without rejecting them entirely as unfit to be loved.

Patching Things Up

In counterpoint to ridding ourselves of unprofitable friendships, we face an equally tough challenge: mending torn beneficial ones. Stubbornness, pride, jealousy, and other unnecessary weight we carry can fray good friendships until they burst their seams. But as we mature in Christ, much of what pushed them past their breaking points falls away. We slim down, if you will. Greater experience and knowledge alert us to how much these estranged friends added to us. Patching things up asks many things—honesty, humility, and courage chief among them. Yet it’s imperative because until these cast-aside friendships are mended, we won’t fully please God with our reconstructed lives.

After cautioning us against false friends, Solomon instantly admonishes us treasure true ones: “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” True friends never leave voluntarily; we send them away. We could rationalize not redressing the situation—what’s done is done, they’ve moved on, etc.—were it not for what Jesus teaches in Matthew 5.23-24: “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you… first go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Mending healthy friendships takes precedence over worship, while rending harmful ones alters compromise. “There’s a time to rend and a time to sew,” Solomon tells us. Both call for choices that ultimately decide how we’re judged on the runway.

How well we rend detracting friendships and mend enhancing ones determines the image we project on the runway.

(Tomorrow: Discretion and Discussion)

4 comments:

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

T,

I am trying to understand. But I do not seek to be popular or in demand. I do seek Gods voice, mercy, and forgiveness. Yet, I I feel he doesn't see me. That when I pray he hears me, but because of things I have done or not done, he turns away from me.

I have talked a bit to you about feeling like I am at a loss. I feel under constant worry and I have grown tired of it. The last nearly 8 years have been extremely hard and despite remembering the words, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." I don't feel stronger, I feel like giving up.

I try everyday, when will it get better?

Soft love,
T

Cuboid Master said...

Dearest T,

You don't know me. I'm just some anonymous women hiding behind a wombat photo until her son is ready to come out to his peers. Still, I would like to tell you that I have often felt as you do. I still do, at times. But last year, by God's Mercy, I figured out why I sometimes feel like God turns away:

Pride.

I sometimes feel my transgressions are so horrific, so monstrous, that I will never be worthy of His love. Yet all the while I pridefully focused on myself and the "enormity" of my crimes, God persistently offers His love to me. In the form of His Son, Jesus Christ, He says, "I forgive you."

When I am depressed, I become so focused on myself and the "importance" of my sins that I forget to open my heart to God. It's strange how both vaingloriousness and depression are self-centered acts, and yet they are. More importantly, both keep me from enjoying the stream of God's love.

I have a suggestion. Forgive me if it sounds stupid or redundant. I simply ask that you sit somewhere quiet, somewhere safe, and close your eyes. Listen to yourself breathe deeply. Feel grateful for your breathe. And then, when you're ready, simply ask God, "Please open my heart to you."

You are just as precious as every other human being on the planet. It is obvious that you are a sensitive soul. As such, I know without asking that you believe God is available to everyone ... except you. You are a part of everyone. His love is available to you, too. Just ask for it. It is always there.

I will pray upon you when I meditate.

God bless you,

Da' Cube

Tim said...

Lovely T,

It's obvious you outgrew vain pursuits like popularity long ago. Yet the principle--simplifying our lives by removing ugly, complicated influences and repairing torn relationships that enhance them--still applies. So I'm compelled to ask, While you've physically moved from harmful people in your past, have you let their influences linger?

Here's how I learned to shake off similar problems. When darkness tries to overtake me, I first identify its origin. Finding it comes from a person or place I left behind, I realize it's "phantom pain" like that amputees often feel years after the diseased limb is removed. (Gruesome analogy--sorry.)

A quick story: In my early 20's I fell for a brilliant, slightly older man (30's) who dazzled me, confused me, physically and mentally abused me, and vanished, leaving me nothing but humiliation and bills (all of his and a many of my own for ER visits and psychotherapy brought on by his cruelty). When he left I let him go. But I still trip over emotions that never existed before he showed up. Knowing it's phantom pain caused by a cruel sociopath enables me to rip it up and toss it before it reattaches to me. It's ugly, unmanageable, outdated--nothing I'll ever wear again.

So where is God in all this? Honestly, T, I can't see Him or feel Him either in these dark moments. But I know He's there and can hear Him, regardless what I don't see or feel. He always says: "You weren't made for this garbage. You don't wear old rags. Get rid of it right now and do what I told you to do--trust Me, help others, shine My light and love."

Sometimes like a willful child I answer, "In a minute...". My hatred for this thing is so intense, a part of me wants to wrestle with it until I defeat it on my own. But my Father knows I can't beat it alone and like the firm, loving Parent He is, He says, "Now means now! Let it go!"

My sweet sister, I urge you to let go of influences from people and places you left long ago. They only detract from your stunning resemblance to your Maker. These rags (old or new) weigh you down--burdened with needless complexity. God never made you for this. He fashioned you with His own hand, breathed His own life into you, and gave You His own name.

Whether or not you ever feel Him--as you once did or even at all--changes none of this. Feelings interfere with faith. They're unreliable, deceptive. Faith governs us to believe what's true and good and reject what's false and filthy. Here's a link to Philippians 4.4-9. I ask you to read it until you've internalized it and reach for it when feelings and doubt try to control your mind and faith.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Philippians%204:4-9;&version=31;

And one last thing: That bit about what doesn't kill you makes you stronger? It sounds nice but it's not Scriptural. The Word says we survive by accepting--nay, boasting--in our weakness so God's power can work in us. (2 Corinthians 12.9)

As grueling as the last 8 years have been, you've been/are much stronger than you feel. What else explains your endurance? You don't feel strong because it's not your strength. You've been kept and carried solely by God. Your weakness makes His power perfect. Because of this, I'd wager you're the strongest person you know.

Whether you feel Him or not, having come this far is enough to know He's beside you, committed to bring you out of this wilderness, providing His power to drive you forward. This is hardly where and when to try and make it on your own. Right now, there's nowhere better for you to be than where you are, a place of complete trust and reliance on God's power. I know the road's been hard, but no way will you reach a point where it smoothes out any quicker or safer than trusting God to get you there.

T, know I love you, care for you, and hold you constantly in my thoughts and prayers,

Peace and light always,
t

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

Thank you both

T