Check in with Your “Strong” Friends

We know who they are and know why we rely upon them. They are the cornerstones, the pillars, the anchors, the structural supports, and the baseboards. They are our strong friends. For one reason or another, they seem to weather any and all waves that are hurled in their direction through life and seem to remain standing as though nothing phases them. You know exactly who that person or persons are in your life and can probably list off many occasions when you’ve gone to them for advice, for support, or for encouragement. You’ve gone to them frequently, but when is the last time you’ve stopped to check in on them?

Strength manifests itself through a variety of means, and is marked with very specific characteristics. Your “strong” friends can likely be described through the same manner, and are identified by those very specific characteristics. Consistency, integrity, character, authority, and honesty are just a handful of descriptors that we commonly use in reference to our “strong” friends (particularly within Christian circles). Strong friends carry themselves in a particular manner, not as though they are trying to present themselves off as something they are not or as to mischaracterize themselves, but that is a result of their life experiences. Our perception of our strong friends is the beginning of a larger issue, because we overlook or forget that they are going through life just like you and I are. Chances are, your strong friend is exhausted. Chances are, you strong friend feels defeated. Chances are, your strong friend is teetering on the precipice of hopelessness. Chances are, your strong friend is being weighed down by a burdensome dilemma. Remember to check in with you strong friends!

Ultimately, let there be no illusion, each and everyone of us faces our own battles. The war against sin does not simply go away purely on strength or willpower. If that were the case, then why would we need a savior? Jesus Christ came, not to be a remedy or a treatment for temporary illness, as the ultimate cure for a curse that had no cure. In Jesus, sin’s perfect record for death was broken. Liberation came on the cross and hope flooded across the face of the Earth. However, in the midst of life, we all experiences seasons of abundance and seasons of drought. We stand triumphantly on top of the mountain and at other times trudging through the muck and the mire, all the while our eyes stand on the things of the Lord. We may not be without hope, but that does not mean that we’re struggling.

We were designed for community. When God first created Man, He created a helper from Man’s rib. Together, they formed the first community with God in the garden of Eden. Before that, God was in community with Himself as apart of the Trinity. Father, Son, and Spirit were in community with one another! We are no different in the fact that we are not solitary creatures. Your “strong” friends are apart of that community, and they may even be the one’s cultivating an environment in which community may flourish. In doing so, you might not even realize that they’re doing just that or that there may be things lying just under the surface. Your “strong” friends rely on you just as much as you rely upon them. That is the essence of Christian community, that we carry one another’s burdens, that we encourage one another, that we serve one another, and that we edify one another with dignity, honor, and grace.

None of us are meant to go about life alone. We may be put down our individual paths, but God created us to share in life with those He has placed around us. So, as you go about life, remember your strong friends need you too. Ask them how they’re doing. Offer them a word of affirmation. Listen to what they’re facing, and steward the fellowship and community that God created for us.

Two-Thousand Eighteen: A Reflection

When we think about how much we change over time, our memories typically fall on the monumental, tentpole events which rocked our tiny lives in the sea of life. For better or worse, these notable events oft time result in immediate action to be taken. We are forced to make changes because the environment around us has changed. Our circumstances have changed. We are forced to adapt to the seemingly ever-changing world around us. However most of the changes in our lives occur slowly over time. They are small, almost unremarkable things which go unnoticed or outright overlooked. We are the results of our choices and habits that we have formed. Thus, when I look back through my social media at the places I’ve been and the people around me, I cannot help but see where I’ve gone and where I’ve grown!

I started the year off in Atlanta, Georgia with 50 of my closest peers for a conference! I experienced, for a native Texan, the very arctic like eleven degree temperatures. I was able to visit Stone Mountain Park and watch my friends go “snow” tubing down an artificial hill. I was able to worship and learn with fifty thousand plus college students at the Passion conference. I experienced what usually happens on church trips: buses breaking down and extended hours of time on the side of the road. Honestly, these are some of the best memories because the focus is not on the situation but the people you spent it with.

I took part in many church events from discipleship groups, to camps, to lock-ins. I also left my job at Chick-fil-A and began working in ministry vocationally! I transferred from Seminary to Liberty University to finish up my undergraduate. I’ve made many new friends and have grown away from others as well. I’ve been humbled and been built up. I started getting into photography, and I adopted a husky for a week. I had two very close friends get married, and had others get engaged! I’ve seen God do many, many incredible things in my life and my friend’s lives! Now, I’m settling into my new job and preparing to go back to Passion in the next week or so.

All of these events mark different points in my life over the last year. Places, people, and times. But I’ve changed. Who I was at the beginning of this year is not too different than I am currently. But I am different. I less rough around the edges. I’m less critical of myself. I’m not resisting God’s calling on my life or am I trying to make it happen. My desires have grown more strong and my opportunities have gotten more substantial. I’m more aware of other’s feelings and emotions. I am able to more effectively use my knowledge of scripture in a way that others may be able to understand. I’m less hardheaded. I have friends who know me far better than they did and have learned that we are more similar to one another that we knew. I have people to call me out and to encourage me. To rebuke me and to offer wisdom. Something is different about me, something’s changed. My dependance on God has only grown more and more. My perspective is less cynical. I am less of who I once was.

I can attribute all of these things to God who has orchestrated everything together. I do not find it a coincidence that I’m surrounded by the friends that I have or the ministry we are apart of. I am not surprised by the challenges I’ve faced or the crazy life changes that have occurred. All that I have has been given to me by God’s blessing! My job, my family, my health, my friends, my ministry, etc. has call come by God’s hand and timing! I must admit that I am grateful for all that God has done in my life because I am so incredibly different to who I was not too long ago. My life has been entirely transformed because of God and I am free! I am more fulfilled in life because of God! I am satisfied through God because He has provided exactly what I need and I trust that He will continue to provide and lead my life. I also trust and know that the desires that God has placed on my heart will come to pass in His timing! All I have to do is to move when He says move and to wait while He says to wait.

If I can leave this at this, I have been saved by God! I have been changed by God. He started a work in me and I will follow Him all the days of my life.

My dear friends,

I want you to know just how thankful I am for you. For how much you’ve impacted my life and have been a blessing to me. All the encouragement you’ve given me this year, the high fives, the hugs, the laughter, and the shared meals. You mean a great deal to me, so much so that I cannot find the words to express my love and affection for you. Y’all have had such a positive impact on my life, and I know that God brought us all together so that we may be a beacon of light in the darkness! Thank you for sharing in ministry with me, ministering to me, and for loving me! This year has been incredible for no particular reason other than that God is so good! I love y’all all so, so much! I honestly wouldn’t know what to do without y’all! Thank you for being part of my life!

Sincerely,
Terren

Being Loved: Affirmation

Y’all, it has been a busy month. After nearly three months of writing at least one post a week, I’ve been away from this website for nearly four weeks. To quote perpetual troublemaker Farris Bueller, “life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” I’ve not written for lack of topics or ideas, but rather because I’ve been elsewhere. At work, serving at church, attending rehearsals, having game nights, spending a week sick with a sinus infection, etc. Life has been full of things vying for my attention. However, I am back with something to write about. Allowing people to love on myself and to build me up.

I love loving on people! Words of affirmation are one of the ways in which I love on people, however… I’m not very good at allowing people to love on me in the same way. A friend of mine paid me a compliment at lunch yesterday with some peers, and I did not accept it properly. It’s odd to try to explain, but I definitely did not fully allow this person to love on me. Why? I don’t know. I’m awkward sometimes. Anyway, I was thinking about it after I got home from lunch and felt convicted. I had robbed someone the joy of building me up. Of speaking into my life. I felt bad, because I enjoy loving people. Weirdly.

Before I stepped up and took on my faith as my own, I despised people. I hated them. I had no love for anyone. Myself included. God, in His sometimes ironic ways, changed my life and set me on a new path. One of the ways in which God changed me was by instilling within me a desire to love people. To genuinely love them. To speak life into others and to build them up. So when I poorly received somebody else’s love, I felt foolish. I was wrong, even though I did not outright wrong someone. I was wrong for not being willing to allow someone to build me up.

So this evening at rehearsal, I apologized to this person because I was in the wrong. They totally understood and made sure to let me know that I had nothing to apologize for. Through this conversation, we noted how odd it can be to accept someone else’s affirmation when we’re accustomed to being to one giving out affirmation. Honestly y’all, it really is odd. Like when you’re the person people come to for advice and how you feel like an alien when you’re having to ask others for advice. It feels like something isn’t fitting properly. Like a glove too big or small for your hand or a shoe that is too small. It’s awkward! Throughout the course of the night however, as this rehearsal continued, I could only thing about how much I love all of the people around me. The community God has placed me within.

From the people that I’ve known for years, to the strangers walking in the door for the first time. I love each and every one of them for different reasons. Sometimes for reasons I do not know, but still feel nonetheless. There are some I know intimately, whose company is vital in keeping me inline, and those who I am still attempting to get to know on a deeper level. Some I hardly know at all, but I seek ways to love them irregardless. Whether through a game of four square with invisible lines at the front of the auditorium, laughter over a game of cucumber at IHOP, over serious discussions in small groups, and so forth I seek to love people. But what I need to improve at, is allowing people to love me. To not have my guard so high up that I keep people out. To not steal the joy from others who are sharing God’s love with me.

Some lessons have to be learned through reflection. From seeing where we are in the wrong. I’m thankful that I can see that I need to improve here, and am willing to work on it. I hope this post makes some sense, as I’m really rambling here. Having abstract thoughts make writing a tad difficult, but I’m writing anyway. Thank you for reading, and as always:

 

Grace and Peace,

Terren-It-Up