I have been a little bit of an emotional wreck lately. This morning, after only getting about 5 hours of sleep, I just wanted to pull the covers back over my head and close myself off to all that I needed to do and all of the things that are weighing on me. So I actually did get back in bed for a minute…and that is just about how long it was. Maybe four and a half minutes. But rest will just have to wait until later because I have something on my mind. If I don’t do something about the thoughts that want out, I will continue to lay there but not rest nor get anything done…or I will WILL myself to sleep and when I wake up I will have forgotten what I wanted to say.
I didn’t want to forget.
The verse that came to me today is: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:12
What does that look like? I know what it looked like in Jesus’ case. His literal flesh and blood and breath…but did it mean more too? And what could be more than THAT?
Some people may have friends that they see every day…talk to on the phone everyday…go to lunch with, vacation with, hang out with on the weekends. That isn’t how I am. I am not a loner…I love people. I just don’t usually NEED people around. In fact, quite the opposite is true. I was never part of any one clique. It was never a difficult decision for me to say “no” to going out with a group or going to a party if it wasn’t something that I wanted to do. I didn’t feel like I was missing out if I wasn’t right in the middle of the action.
But then I grew up and needed outlets. Friend “outlets” became a book club, a dinner clubs, cocktail clubs…every now and then a Bible study might be thrown in there for good measure… to re-balance the scale. But who are my friends? My true friends? I thought I knew, but a big re-evaluation occurred…as a friend said, a”sifting out”. After the shake up of my divorce there were very few friends left in the sifter!
But one of the true friends left came by yesterday. She stopped to drop off her daughter for a play date with my daughter…I hadn’t had a shower…was in fact completely disheveled from trying to get a little necessary but pointless ( because it never lasts ten minutes) cleaning done. I wasn’t expecting a visit…I did not expect to see my friend. The usual playdate routine includes a drop off and the sound of burning rubber. But this friend came to the door and was of course invited inside. I stopped my unproductive cleaning and we had a glass of water and we sat and we talked for two hours. It felt like ten minutes. What does it mean to “lay down your life for a friend?” Could it also mean stop…stop the unnecessary things that you are doing and be present and listen? I am not patting myself on the back, just so you know. She is every bit as much a blessing to me as I am to her if not more so.
What kind of meaningful connections, how deep could our friendships be, if we lay down our life for a friend?
That’s how it is with true friends.
My best friends include a girl that I have known since I first knew myself. She has been in my life for my entire life. She lives in another state and I do not see her or talk to her nearly often enough…but when we do get together we are the children, the girls, the women that we were and that we are and nothing has changed between us. A life has gone on…living has been done…but we are Judi and Christy. We love each other. She lays down her life for me. I would hazard to bet that she would lay down her literal life for me too…and I would her.
It is the same for Heather. We didn’t even like each other when we were kids…but we had the same experiences…school, church, choir, choir tours…and we learned to appreciate each other and as we matured we begin to see the beauty in each other. We have loved each other through family strife, heart aches, marriages, babies, divorces. She is not near to me in physical proximity either…but again, when we are together we are the same as we ever were.
The same with Kristie. The same with a handful of other people from my past. Is a handful of people a lot to show for almost 43 years of living? For some people it may not be…but I feel like the luckiest person in the world.
This has been a weird, weird week. If you have ever read my blog before you will know that I may look like I am, but I am not terribly healthy. I eat junk. I exercise sporadically. I don’t get nearly enough sleep…Well, that has to change. I want 43 and 20 more years of living. Healthy, Happy, Productive living.
So this is what I promised myself that I would do after being inspired by my parents…beginning this Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, I am going to begin the Daniel Fast. It is a three-week fast with no caffeine, no sweets, no meat, no dairy, no leavened bread, no processed food….basically the foods that are allowed are: fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, whole grains without yeast… and water. I am going to do this fast through Easter.
I fervently hope I do not die…but I desperately need to strengthen my spirit and depend on God. It may sound like an extreme thing to do…it does to me too. But I NEED to get out of my habits that are not helping me and may very well be harming me. I am going to have to learn to trust and listen intently. I need guidance and I need to hear God’s voice. I need to stop and start afresh. I am not going to just TRY the Daniel Fast, I am committed. This is going to be hard for me. I could use your prayers.
Amazing how when a person begins to turn toward the right direction and starts moving in the right direction, how the momentum picks up! First, I had decided to make a huge commitment over the Lenten holiday to strengthen my relationship with God by fasting, then I decided to go to the YMCA for the first time in FOREVER to strengthen my body…and a few days later I stumble across on old friend…from the days of Judi and choir tour and childhood when things were simple and I knew every single minute of every single day that I was in God’s hands. And this friend is a minister now…and his church is only a few miles away from my new house. Amazing. Truly amazing.
From the past 25 years I have very few friends that I would consider not just of the acquaintance variety. But yesterday as my REAL friend that I have known now for 6 years and I shared our heart, we concluded that the past is not always really past. Sometimes people that we knew remain in our lives as touch stones to remind us of who we were …and bring us back to who we were meant to be.
When I was in Kindergarten at Alpha Elementary School in Morristown, Tennessee our principal sang a song that I will not forget: “Children have the answers to the problems of this world, but their little minds we cannot understand. If we could share the innocence of a little boy or girl we could learn to love our fellow-man.” Isn’t that precious? Isn’t that true?
IF we are VERY VERY VERY lucky we had the kind of childhood where we learned important lessons…and we had people in our lives that really really KNEW us then…knew our hearts before we were afraid to share them or before we had built up protective walls around them. I would say that we are BLESSED to be in those people’s presence again, no matter how infrequently. With them we know that we are SEEN. That our true person…all of our possibilities and hopes and dreams are still seen…and encouraged. We can lay down the burden of our years at the door and enter…our REAL self with a REAL friend that we know will take care of us.
I have been saying “HELP!” to God again recently. I know anxious feelings and sadness and questions about the unknown will always be a part of the frail and weak human part of who we are. But in a very short amount of time…over the past few days my “Help!” prayers have become “Thanks!” prayers again and even “Wow!” prayers.
Back to the verse, and the thought… painful sifting is done in our life so that all is left is the pure gold…the valuable and meaningful and real. Likewise in the same verse I quoted from above, John 15 begins:
“I am the true vine,and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
And then John 10: 11-18:
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
We are here to sacrifice our lives for others…to put others first…to listen…to SEE to KNOW to encourage to pray for. To be a friend, a brother or a sister…not an aquintance. I feel so blessed right now, and I am thankful. Life is not to be moved through at a break-neck pace. Where do we think we are going anyway? Only God knows that ultimately…so let’s make it count for ourselves and for the people around us. Thank you, people who are around me. “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” ~The HELP. Ironic? I don’t think so. You is SOOOO important. More than you may ever know.
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; 4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand; 6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; 8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
And sometimes God’s special helpers…earthly angels watch over us… they are also called true friends.