Why Can’t We Be Friends?

Most people wish there was more passion in their marriage.

And, I’m not just talking about sex.

We wish for a return of the goosebumps, the increased heart rate, the involuntary smile when our other crosses our mind.

And we want to see the same response in their eyes.

And when it isn’t there, we blame.

We chalk it up to faults in the other person, in ourselves, the demands of our day to day, the fragility of love.

I was talking to God about it the other day.  I have a list of “blames” that sound like self-deprecation but really are just my way of blaming Him.  And after going through my liturgy, He surprised me by asking this question.

“Why can’t we be friends?”

I contrast my ideals for a perfect marriage with my relationship with my kids.  I never really think about a greater passion for them. 

The other night my boys got together with me to watch football.  We ate pizza.  Talked a bit. Turned on the game.  One fell asleep.  The other two were on their phones most of the time.  We just had fun hanging out.

Hold on!

Is God saying, or am I saying, that the way to a better relationship is to just not set the “bar” so high?  Don’t expect anything?  Don’t even try for intimacy?

Nope.

I think what He is getting at is that we need to pursue presence first.  Passion and purpose will follow.  Don’t blame, but let faults draw us toward each other’s needs. Reject distance and all forms of self-defense, considering the other worthy of our sacrifice.

And every day…

Do it again…

That’s Not Him

A very dear friend of mine died last week.  The viewing was Monday and I was able to go.  I didn’t want to go, it is so hard to say goodbye.  I knew I should though.

As I stood in the line waiting to walk past the casket, I noticed the beautiful flowers, the pictures of my friend, the family chatting with loved ones.  It was beautiful.  Strangely enough, I noticed how handsome my friend was, in pictures.  I never noticed before.  I guess some of us are obtuse that way.

As I got closer, I caught glimpses of the body that lay there.  I then started trying to get a better look at the same time as I was trying not to look.  The person I saw lying there did not look like my friend.

You see, the person I knew was not a smiley type person.  He just had the power to make you smile.  He was not bubbly or exuberant, he just made you feel warm and loved by his presence.  He noticed things and remembered things that let you know you were cared for.

I found none of those things in the visage resting before me.  That somber, lifeless countenance did not compare with the friend I knew and loved.

Inside my heart I cried, “that’s not him.”

Now I know it was his body.  I said my goodbyes and knew that I would not see my friend again this side of eternity.  But I was right, too.  That body was not him.  This flesh and bone that clothes me, is not me.  With Jesus, I am eternal.  In Him, clothed in His righteousness, I am holy.  We who call on His name become something more, something greater than our outer form.

In this, we have hope.  Hope that is greater than our sorrow, greater than the unknown, greater than anything we face.

Reality Check

He stood off to the side with his pal, though, for the life of him, he had no idea what he was doing there.  He was no criminal, no gangster or thug.  He certainly was no cop, no undercover narcotics officer, no remote affiliation to the DEA.  He was just a man.

They had the initial meeting an hour ago and now stood waiting, reminiscing over times from childhood, when they had last seen each other, when they had last been friends.  By chance, just meeting again on this day, at the worst, or maybe the best moment.

Two goons came up and stood before them.  “Mr. Dozer wants to talk wit you,” was all they said but they were looking at him, not his friend, not the armed policeman.  They were talking to him.  The guns in their hands allowed for no argument.

With quaking heart and watery knees he followed, coming to stand before the leader.  Sinister malice poured from the man wh stared at him now.

“You got your choice.  See we don’t know you, don’t know why your here.  That makes me nervous.  So you get to choose.  I can kill you now or you can take a test.  You pass the test, I let you in my gang.”

As he spoke, the two thugs were handed clubs.

“We’ll give you a chance, you don’t have to ace this.  But every wrong answer is going to cost you.”  They all smiled, the thugs tapping their clubs meaningfully.

He knew he would be caught if he answered wrongly.  He knew that he didn’t know enough to answer correctly.  Good chance that he was dead, no matter what.  So he did the only thing he could think of.

He sent up a silent prayer.  Then, reached out and grabbed a handful of hair from the man before him.  He pulled downward as hard as he could and kneed his enemy in the face.  Then, in one fluid movement, he drove his elbow into the bas of the man’s skull and killed him.  It took two seconds, at most.

Then, as the shock of what happened held them, he turned and walked away, seeming to disappear before their eyes.

My story is intended to remind you of two things.  With our enemy, there are no right answers, you cannot escape him, cannot outwit him.  He is really only interested in hurting you.  But, as the strength of Jesus, His resurrection power, flows through us, we can defeat our enemy and his schemes.  We can walk away untouched because of the life that is in us.  We don’t need to be afraid.  

We need to fight.

David and Joab

When David was young, and not king yet, he surrounded himself with some people who are described in the bible as distressed, in debt or discontented.  One of these was a guy by the name of Joab, the son of Zeruiah.  Truly we have a case study in friendships, relationships, in this man.

Why did David let him be in charge of the army?  Why did David not ever deal with this murderer until the end of his life?  Why do we look over gross character flaws in others to salve the consequences of our own sin?

Let’s look at a list:

Joab murdered Abner, the commander of Israel’s army.  He did it, supposedly, to avenge his brother’s death at the hands of Abner.  It should be noted that Joab’s brother was trying to kill Abner and Abner was just defending himself but at least we can understand this one.  Joab assisted in the murder of Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba.  David wanted to cover his indiscretion with this woman and Joab complies.  The one person in the kingdom who could have stood up to the king and done what is right. Joab murdered David’s son, Absalom, against the express wishes of his king.  David wanted to grant mercy to his rebellious son, evidence of a weak and bewildered heart.  Joab wanted him dead, multiple stab wounds from the spears of many but ordered and initiated by Joab.  I kind of get this one too, Absalom was bad news.  And finally, Joab murders the innocent Amasa, expressing friendship through a greeting kiss and then stabbing him in the abdomen so that his intestines spill out.  He further shows his cruelty by leaving Amasa to die a slow painful death, “wallowing in his blood,” the bible says.  And still David did nothing.

Then on his death bed, David finally wants to deal with things.  “Don’t let his gray head go down in peace.”  And Joab, himself, is then murdered in the temple.  Tragedy, sorrow, buried hatred.

This is not the intent of friends, partners in ministry, fellow soldiers in the Kingdom.  And yet, if we look at those we work with, how many fall into this category.  The ones we gossip with, the ones we share secret bitterness, hidden sin.  All the while, we hate them and they hate us.

You can’t always choose who is on staff with you.  We are a part of a body and the parts are chosen by the Master Designer.  We get to choose how well we function, what input we will have into the body.  Whether we will draw from the resources of the cells around us, or contribute our resources.

A cancerous cell needs to be removed.  A heart of bitterness should be dealt with.  Hatred, sin, selfishness are tools that satan would use to divide us, to thwart what God wants to do.  Things that cause disunity, anything that works to tear us apart, should be eradicated.

And let love, real, honest, heartbreaking, heart-healing love lead us as we work together.