Ecclesiastes says there is a season for everything. Even though the trials of this life grow our character, I would dare say not many of us sign up for the times of pain and mourning. We much prefer when the sun is shining and the cool, fall breeze is awakening our souls to the beauty around us. Scripture also tells us that beauty comes from ashes. Ashes. To get to ashes, there must be burning. loss. pain. Relationships affect our seasons and walls burn down. And if we let God have the ashes of broken relationships, He can make something beautiful.
Friendships are beautiful and altogether created by our Creator for us. Then why are they so difficult and painful at times? The short answer is that we live in a fallen world and we are all sinful people. But that answer doesn't comfort me or stop my tears when brokenness steals a friend. I am not all smiles when life takes unexpected turns, leaving me reeling and wondering if I am lovable.
I have been known to be a nomad of sorts, my family moving a lot as a child and several times as an adult. I don't have anyone that I've known since 1st grade as my friend. I have walked away from people, knowing not all relationships "make it". Ah, but some do... There really are adult, Christian friendships that live outside of time and location. Thankfully, I have known the joy of such friendships. I still do. I also know the sting of goodbye, of being someone's memory.
When, in an indescribably difficult time in my life, a remarkable and dear friend shattered my heart in an indescribable way, I wasn't sure what to think about friendship anymore. There wasn't outright betrayal. There wasn't a fight. She just walked away. Removed me. Her explanation was vague, at best, despite my effort to get to the core of whatever was wrong. It wasn't me, it was her. I had been dumped. There wasn't just a drifting apart...I have experienced the waxing and waning of friendships through seasons and moving. No, this was quite different than drifting. This was purposeful. She told me she loved me and always would and was glad I had been a part of her life. Had. Had.
Suddenly someone that had both rejoiced and mourned alongside me purposely referred to me in the past tense. I was crushed, confused, angry, lonely. Seeds of insecurity began to grow, watered by the false sense that everyone would leave me. That the friendship was never real (It SO was). That I wasn't a good friend. That none of my friendships were real. That, at any moment I could be crushed again and I should distance myself before I got hurt again. That I must have done something very wrong and hurt her even when she said I definitely did not.
I don't know what happened. At times, I still long for a satisfactory explanation. At times, I envision us reuniting with hugs and tears. And, while the confusion does still sting when I am reminded that I am the only one she chose to walk away from, this painful journey has brought me nearer to my Jesus. She pointed me to Jesus as friends and the wounding of my soul when she walked away caused me to seek Him more. The friend I lost was certainly His hands and feet to me. I don't understand why but I do know God was present in both our friendship and our breakup. That's beauty from ashes.
Relationships are hard. Period. Cry your heart out hard. Are they worth it? Yes! Do I still wonder which one of my friends will dump me next? Occasionally. I certainly didn't expect the loss I had. Are some friendships better ended than pursued? Occasionally. There are also the friendships worth fighting for. The friend that you call even when she hasn't called you in forever. The friend that you pray for because you know they are hurting but they can't or won't share. The friend that loves you when you are unlovable. The friend that sticks closer than a brother. The friend that points you to Jesus. And, oh, sweet reader...if you have been wounded by a follower of Jesus, maybe even one who used to point you to Him, know that there is a Friend in Jesus. He knows your pain. He will bind your broken heart. He is near! He will never leave you. He will never forsake you. Ultimately He can and will use every part of our journey to bring us closer to Himself. To refine us. To show us that He is all we need. Yes, he put us here on this earth and created relationships for His glory but our relationship with Him is the conduit through which He blesses others.
Be a blessing. Be a friend. It is going to be messy. We are going to be hurt and we are going to hurt others. Risk it. Humble yourself. Serve others. Love the unlovable. Seek the lost and hurting. Walk with them. Be the hands and feet of Jesus when a friend needs you.
I don't always like His ways or the seasons I find myself in but, you see, I have seen beauty turn into ashes more than once.
So, when I have ashes before me, I give them to the Healer and Lover of my soul. For out of them...beauty...He is glorified
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom fro the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion - to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of he LORD for the display of his splendor. Isaiah 61:1-3
Now, travel with me to Luke, chapter 4 and to Nazareth a couple thousand years ago and imagine the sound the scroll makes as the Word made flesh Himself unrolls it to read from the passage in Isaiah...do you have chills yet? He tells the hearers that He was there to fulfill all of this. Oh, friend, let us not become weary in doing good. Let us not believe the lies the enemy hurls into our minds. Let us not allow broken relationships or anything else to keep us from living filled with the Spirit that has conquered the grave and offered us freedom