Bridge Over Troubled Water

A troubled heart is one weighed with worry, or guilt.  It is a heart that is not free to enjoy life because of concern and anxiety.  A troubled mind is one consumed with thoughts that distract and dismay.  A troubled soul is one that is not right with God, and also man.  Troubles are caused by many things — and they affect each of us differently.  Often our troubles cease to simply be happening to us, but become us.  We become so consumed with our troubles that we become rather troublesome ourselves.

I have been a troublesome friend in the past.  I was conceited and contentious, always insisting on my own opinion as correct.  I was proud and selfish, seeking only my own gain and others’ attention.  I never let lie — I pursued, and prodded, and pushed with tongue and action.  I put up a facade of security, but deep down, I was very insecure.  I took out this trouble on all those who had the unfortunate circumstance of crossing paths with me. 

These habits of my lifestyle are not stowed in the archives of my ‘testimony’, meant to make you all marvel at how I have conquered them.  Yesterday I revived several of these vices in my own home.  I failed.  So I think:  why did I fail?  Why did I become troublesome?  I realized that it is because I let the troubles be my thermometer of emotion.  Rather than cast them on Christ, I held them close to my heart, which in turn made my heart a dark and dank place to venture.

Even in my troublesome nature, there have been friends who have endured.  These are the friends who somehow built a bridge over my troubles and crossed from their heart to mine, giving when I wasn’t worth giving to.  When I was angry, and ready to burn any bridge in sight, they built one anyway — because they are true friends.  They don’t depend on my emotions, my troubles, to dictate their own.  They love no matter what.

As I see my own actions, and then view theirs, I can see what sacrifices these people made in their friendship, or family relationship, to me.   Even while they let me rage and crash like a hurricane-ridden sea, they had the courage to build a bridge to me, and keep a connection — even when I have been less of a friend, daughter, or sister I could have been.

Those closest to us know when to build the bridge, even when we are emotionally disraught.  Their love is unconditional, and their faith, enduring.  I only hope I can be like them in the smallest way.

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When the Circle is Empty

I have had several comments on the posts about girl friends from ladies who are at a time in their lives where their circle of friends is very small — or even nonexistent.  For these women, going out for coffee isn’t always possible.  The facts are, we all will probably have a time in our lives where our circle of friends is empty.

When I was twelve our family had a circle of friends that were very close.  We had been friends for years through our church.  Yet when we moved to another church, our friends went a different direction.  We didn’t see them so often.  Now they are still our friends, but not nearly so close as they were before.  Following were three years where my friend base wasn’t that big.

During those three years, however, we joined the drama group for girls I have mentioned, and through that group, I made an entirely new circle of friends.  These were girls of all ages, while before they had been mostly younger than me.  The friends from those years are the friends that are closest to me now.  Also, when we began going to the church we attend currently, I met more girls and guys my age who became part of my circle.  But in order to reach this time of fullness in friendship, my circle had to be empty first.

Sometimes God takes certain things from us to keep Him as our first priority.  While it can be hard not having what it seems all other women and girls have — a great group of girlfriends — God is not allowing it arbitrarily.  He knows the longings of your heart. 

I had one girl write me with an opposite problem:  she had all girl friends, and no guy friends.  While I would definitely say that girls need to be your best friends, no matter what age you are, but girls can get petty and small at times, and in these times guy friends are refreshing.  She wanted to know if it was a natural desire to want to have young men as friends.  It is!  Titus was advised by Paul to treat the young women as sisters, and the young men as brothers — but he was not advised to avoid them.  As I said before, having young men friends will help you understand how they think when you enter the courtship age.  For this particular girl, her desire was to expand her friend base in gender.  God knows that desire just like any other woman’s — and in His time, He will fulfill it.

Married women often say (and I believe they should) that their husband is their best friend.  When you are married, guy friends are unadvisable unless it is a ‘couple friend’, as in, two couples that are friends with each other.  Obviously, my mother does not have male friends just to chat with like she does my dad.  HE is her priority.  However, they do couple dates quite often with their friends.  She also has a few great girl friends she goes out with now and then.  But she doesn’t find her security in them, because if she did, when they left or had to move like our first circle, she would be crushed.  My father and God have to be her foremost friends, just like they have to be ours.

On the topic of friends is family.  I used to be desperate for friends while totally ignoring the fact that I had sisters.  Granted, I LIVE with my sisters, and not with my friends.  Sisters don’t always get along!  As time has gone on, however, we have become much better buddies.  There can still be some friction since we are very, very different.  For instance, Ella is the tomboy, lumberjack-gone-girly type; Autumn is the funky-layered-laugh-a-lot-   didn’tthinkthatwouldgotogether type, and I am the prissy-ultrafeminine-don’t-break-a-nail-type.  Somehow, we all ended up in the same house.  Yet your family is the first friend base you should have before all others.  Outside friends come after;  blood is thicker than water, you know.

Thus, there may be a time when you will not have the friend base you wish for.  Instead of evaluating yourself or your life in view of the number of friends you have, use this time to learn what it means for the Lord to be your best friend.  If you are married, then the Lord and your husband become your best friends.  There will still be a desire for girl friends who can understand certain things from a feminine perspective, but God will fulfill the desires of those who delight in Him (Ps. 37:4).  Trust your best Friend to fill your circle, and it won’t feel so empty anymore.

The ‘Good’ Kind of Party

When I went downstate to spend a weekend with a friend who was at college, she told me how some other students in her apartment complex were constantly inviting her and her roomate over for ‘a party’.  They never quite defined what ‘party’ meant.  From the thumps, shouts, and raucous laughter my friend rightfully inferred that it was the kind of party she didn’t want to be at.  “Why can’t people just party the GOOD way?!” She exclaimed to me.  “WE know how to party down in godliness!”

This isn’t exactly an astounding, controversial or life-changing topic.  It’s the topic of Fun.  However, fun is a part of life too, and how we go about having it directly affects us and our witness.  How can we have a good time without sacrificing our walk with God?  It’s very possible.  But it comes down to what you want.

The world advertises a specific kind of fun to us, saying that if we aren’t doing these specific things, then truly, we aren’t having fun at all.  The world’s definition of fun is, from a Christian perspective:  “sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft… fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like…” (Galatians 5:19-21).  These things come wrapped up in neat, pretty little packages — like cocktail parties, ‘romantic’ nights out that escalate to greater proportions, clubs and groups that dabble in cults or witchcraft, and ‘harmless’ visits to bars and nightclubs.  To our world, these things are just part of life.  Yet for the Christian, these are representative of the life they left behind. 

For Christian girls and boys, usually homeschooled, doing these things is the last thing on their minds.  It wouldn’t even occur to you to go to a bar, much less to attend a drinking frenzy on a beach somewhere.  For the Christian, the problem comes from compromise.  We can’t just say “I don’t drink” and call it good. Our commitment requires us to go deeper in evaluating what we do and where we go.

I have been invited to parties where they would be drinking.  I have been places where drinking was taking place.  Being in the presence of drinking does not motivate me to join in, but at the same time, if I were endorsing the goings-on with my presence, then perhaps the better choice would be to leave.  This is not simply for my sake, and my reputation, but also for my witness.  People judge Christians by their actions — if we seem to be compromising a life of purity for the sake of a good time, our representation of Christ is sullied.

This post is not about drinking.  Drinking is just one of those widely accepted aspects of our culture that is too often taken too far.  Alcohol in and of itself is not evil:  it is not a ‘demon in a bottle’.  But we must ask ourselves:  who is my God?  Can I give up drinking this at a party even if I look like the stick-in-the-mud?  Can I give up anything so that God is truly God in my life?

It could be drinking; it could be an occultic game; it could be a questionable relationship; it could be gossip — it could be anything that feels like fun!  In that moment we have decision to make.  Do we sacrifice Christ on the crucifix of Good Times, or do we allow Him to reign over every circumstance?  It is perfectly possible to have a wonderful time with friends without turning our backs on the grace of God.  I will discuss how to ‘party down in godliness’ in my next post!