To be intimate with others is to reveal our innermost selves to them, including our emotions, thoughts and desires. For such deep sharing of the soul and spirit to occur, people must respect and trust each other. ... In a world controlled by sin, however, to choose to be intimate is to choose to be hurt. Yet Jesus calls us to this kind of intimacy with Him and with one another.
~Kenneth A. Schmidt~
Growing up I was a loner. I didn't really connect with a lot of people. Part of it was extreme shyness (although that is hard to believe now). Part of it was geographic since we lived out of town, on the farm and there were no other little girls my age "running-to-play-with" distance. But mostly, it was fear. I didn't want to find out I didn't fit in, so I didn't try that much. So it came as a huge surprise to me my Freshman year of High School to finally make that kind of friend. He (yes, he) and I were home ec partners and buddies for the first few weeks. He treated me like a little sister. Then, there was a tragic accident that killed two fellow students. He was in the car that the other two had hit. We were suddenly bound together in a real way. We talked about "real" things that most high school students aren't having to talk about yet. We shared our hopes for the futures. We cried together. When things were rough at home (and what teenager doesn't experience rough times at home) we talked about that. We gave each other advice. We laughed together. We cut class together. We criticized each other's choices in dates. We argued. We forgave. Even when we were both away at college and beyond, we would talk on the phone and be the sounding board for the other's frustrations. It was a total friendship--heart, mind and soul. Since he knew more about what made me tick than even I did (must have been the counselor in him) and I knew more about him that most people, we assumed that nothing could change the friendship. It was almost a "You will always be my friend, you know too much" situation.
But something did change it. Slowly it got eroded. Then in a what could have easily been explained but was instead just handled callously situation, he hurt not only my feelings but the feelings of someone close to me. That person, trying to protect me, issued some harsh words to my friend. I was told of the interaction after the fact. I believed firmly that my friend and I would move forward--after all we had been friends for ten years at this point. I trusted in the friendship. And he totally betrayed it. I was devastated. I had given a part of me to someone and after holding it tenderly for years he gave it away, seemingly with little thought.
I was thinking about this friend as I read the quote by Mr. Schmidt. I don't know anything about the context of this quote, but I feel it. The intimacy that comes in relationships make us vulnerable. The world we live in causes us to receive pain from those we love, and to cause pain to those we love. (Sadly, I can tell more than one story where I was the betrayer, not the betrayed. I'm not proud of that fact, but it is the reality of living in a fallen world. We have to admit it when we are the betrayer, ask for forgiveness and try again.) Fourteen years after this story took place, I can still feel the stab of how much it hurt when my friend betrayed. Not a stab of anger or resentment, but a recognition that it happened and it hurt.
Last night, I was privileged to attend a concert by Michael Card at my church. As he sang these words:
Only a friend can betray a friend,
A stranger has nothing to gain.
And only a friend comes close enough
To ever cause so much pain.
I again thought of this quote. Only when we are close and vulnerable can we be betrayed. But as the Schmidt quote continues, ultimately we are not called to this kind of intimacy with just the people around us--we are called to this intimacy with God Himself in Jesus. And although He will never betray us or abandon us, often we feel that stab of pain because we are expecting Him to act one way and instead He acts another or because we have allowed sin to so separate us we feel abandoned. We must remember that He is steadfast in nature and will not betray us. But, we are fickle. We betray Him over and over. And in the intimacy of the relationship, that does bring Him pain. I find that the more I reflect on this theme, the more I find that I need to confess where I betray Him, where I've pained Him. I need to confess the "big" things when I choose blatant rebellion over following His word. I need to confess the other things as well--neglecting my time with Him because I can do it "later", reflecting Him in a way to others (especially my children) that totally misrepresents who He is and denying His unmistakable hold on my life to try and chase things that are not my best.
In my relationship with God, I am never the betrayed but I am often the betrayer. That thought humbles me. It drives me to my knees. And I pray it keeps me there, confessing my fickleness and learning in the intimacy of the Savior to not betray Him or others.
The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name will trust in you,
for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:9-10
I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread. Psalm 37:25
But I'll never throw them out,
never abandon or disown them.
Do you think I'd withdraw my holy promise?
or take back words I'd already spoken? Psalm 89:33-34 (The Message)
Father, forgive me for betraying you. Forgive me for putting my selfish desires before your plans. Forgive me for ignoring our relationship to chase things that are vaporous at best. I recognize that because You have sought intimacy with me that when I do these things I cause you pain. Forgive me. And in my earthly relationships, help me to forgive when I am betrayed and help me to not betray those who have allowed me close enough to pain them. In Jesus' name, because his sacrifice covers all my sin, Amen.
This week's hostess for In Other Words is Bonnie. Please visit her place and read some of the reflections on this quote. I promise you, you will be blessed.