Friend Friday: Mates in the Mess

I have this friend (I wish she lived next-door). She’s not able to E-mail often now, but when she does I love to read them, and writing back can take hours. I go through her mail, usually finding at least 5 things to respond to. 1 or 2 of them take some thought, and a very long paragraph! Last week she wrote: “I don’t want a boyfriend now … Ok; I want one, but don’t want him to be a part of my mess”, and she listed some of her struggles.

That made me think, and I asked her a question. “If someone will love you in your mess, and not abandon you, surely that’s better than having someone who’ll only love you when things go well?”

Maybe you’ve had a health-problem for a long time and hate to think you’d be a burden. Maybe you’re unemployed, and feel you might struggle for things to talk about. Or maybe you look at others around you who seem to have it all together (or at least, more together than you do), and you can’t see yourself making somebody happy; surely another person would be a better candidate.

I deliberately picked those 3 so I could write truthfully that if you’ve struggled with any of them, you’re not on your own, but can I encourage you to think about this for a minute? If you’ll only allow yourself to be blessed once you’ve reached that goal of perfection, how long might that take! Instead, will you dare to let people in to your mess? I’m not just talking here about romance, but friendships too. There are plenty who’ll stand by you when life is good; far fewer will find ways to show you love even in the difficulties. These are true friends.

Do you have any stories about true friends? People you’ve let in to your mess? I’d love to hear them in the comments.

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Not Another Problem?

Have you ever thought: I really don’t feel up to listening to that person’s problems. Am I selfish? My first inclination would have been to say no, definitely not. It’s all right to have time for ourselves now and then, when into my mind came the Hero – yes I’m talking about Jesus.

Jesus’ relative, John the Baptist, had recently been beheaded. Jesus went off to a remote place. No doubt He wanted time to grieve, but crowds followed Him. Seeing His disciples, there must have been the temptation to say: “Send them away. I need to be alone”, but no, Jesus had compassion on them. He healed their sick. When it grew late, the disciples wondered about food, and so followed the feeding of five thousand men, plus women and children.

So, should we be like Jesus – always ready to give, even when we’re hurting ourselves? I thought a bit more about Jesus, and I realised He never gave out until He’d first received from His Father. Before appointing the twelve apostles, He prayed all night (Luke 6:12-13). Before walking on water, He prayed by Himself on a mountain (Matthew 14:23-25).

I want to include this quote from a friend, because it’s been in my head all day. “Praising God will seriously damage your problems!” True, and it’s also true that when you have other people’s problems and your own to think about, you can sometimes feel overwhelmed. When you do, you need to take that time to stop and pray and let God strengthen you. Nothing selfish about that! And, if you also decide to give Him praise right in the middle of your circumstances, even better!

My Thoughts on Whitney

Uncannily, last night and early this morning, I had a Whitney Houston song I hadn’t heard for ages in my head. Then I find out on Facebook this morning that she’s passed away at the age of 48. As I read about her life, what a sad story it was. She starts singing in church in her teens; goes into the pop industry; black people treat her as a traitor because she reaches white audiences; abusive marriage; use of drugs … and then the powerful voice she once had isn’t there anymore. She can’t hit the notes she used to hit effortlessly. Some of her audience walked out of her last concerts, unimpressed. And one of the saddest parts? She had a daughter, Bobbi Kristina, in 1993 – a daughter who would now be 18/19 – a daughter who’s lost her mum and will never be able to relate to her as an adult. It needn’t have happened.

This teenaged girl started singing in the church, started doing what she was made to do – using her powerful voice to bring glory to God, but I think things went downhill long before her use of drugs. Her very first hit single is all about adultery. And the song I had in my head?
“We believe that children are our future;
“Treat them well and let them lead the way;
“Show them all the beauty they possess inside” – a harmless song you might think, and of course I would advocate having a positive attitude towards children, but it goes on:
“Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all”. Really? Didn’t Jesus say first to love God with all your heart, and secondly to love others as you love yourself? This is why my taste in music has changed. As I’ve got to know God, I’ve wanted more and more to listen to words that reflect His priorities.

If Whitney had kept using her voice to glorify the Lord, she would have sung powerful songs, and wouldn’t have had to go through the heartache she did. She could have fostered the belief that children were important, and been with her children into adulthood – talking to them and watching them fulfil their dreams. Maybe she could have been a youth-worker or something similar.

Sometimes people look at God and think He’s a killjoy. If I’m honest, I probably have too in the past, and yet living without Him, can we be truly happy? God is a Father who wants the best for us. I believe if He restricts us, it’s for our good, and because He wants to teach us more about Himself.

Father, Your kingdom come, because under Your rule, we’re really free.