Devotions

  • A Firm Foundation

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    Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.  Matthew 7:24-27 

    Insight

    For some, acceptance has the highest value. For others, they hope that their decisions will provide some level of security. The appearance of success, a sense of notoriety, a moment of peace or a feeling of stability. These are just a few of the things we hope we’ll experience as a result of the decisions we make. We are searching for a full life.

    Hope always has a focus – a place where we set our eyes. Hope is directional as it points us towards something. There is movement when it comes to hope. It encourages us to move in a direction that is either toward God or away from Him, but it always points us somewhere. One direction leads us to something that cannot sustain (hopes of this world) while the other is where fulfillment and life is found (hope of God).

    Decisions are hopeful and the weight of our hope needs a firm foundation. You have to decide what you will live for and then arrange you life to pursue it.  Often our foundation crumbles under the weight of the life we were made for. It is crucial we have a foundation strong enough to bear the weight of our hope.

    Our perspective of hope must develop past just feelings or received blessings. Seeing hope from a foundational standpoint occurs when you begin to widen the lens. Where you place your hope shines light on what you believe about God. If God is not trustworthy or has ‘failed’ you somehow, you will be less inclined to place your hope in Him.  Yet, if you see God as the supplier of our every need then you trust in His provision. Both perspectives of God reveal what our hope rests on.

    If what you see determines where you are headed then questions involving direction are also needed as we evaluate where we have placed our hope. When we need hope, where do we turn? When we face difficulty, is our initial reaction to turn to friends, family, or even our sheer willpower to get us through this stretch? What direction do our eyes turn when we are trying to make sense out of something life throws our way? Do we look to people, circumstances or other aspects of this life? Is seeking out wisdom even in the picture?

    Without having God’s Truth serve as our foundation, we find ourselves on shaky ground. Our hearts can easily be deceived and alter our perspective our decisions. Scripture talks about when we suppress the truth that we have a darken understanding, futile thinking and our hearts become hardened. Proverbs 17:24 says, “a discerning man keeps wisdom in view, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth.” Keeping wisdom in view is keeping God as your focus.

    In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus tells a parable that speaks of the importance of building a home on a solid foundation versus a house built on sand. The foundation becomes significant when the house begins to settle as it weathers the test of time. Eventually, the cracks in the foundation will cause the house built on sand to fall apart. The shifting sand cannot withhold the storms of life. There is no assurance, there is no rest and hope at best is fleeting. Experiencing a full life is impossible. What your hope is in reveals who or what you are building upon. The reliability of that foundation to support you is displayed through the way we live our lives.

    Only one foundation can provide rest and this is of great importance. Rest is the ability to be quiet and confident. It is dependent on trust and assurance, not on personal accomplishment or circumstances. Assurance and trusts are givens, resulting in rest when it comes to hope that is found in Jesus. Some may wonder why God is so concerned that we have hope. It is because without hope there can be no faith. In Hebrews 11:1, we read that faith is the substance of things hoped for. Faith springs out of hope.

    Reflection

    • If someone were to look at your life, where would they say your hope is placed?
    • Where do you turn when you need hope? 

    Prayer

    God, may I see the Truth as my firm foundation. May Your Word and Your will be the cornerstones that I build every decision upon. Thank you for providing me with unshakable hope. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • Worth And Willingness

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    But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9

    But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him. Romans 5:8 

    Insight

    For the past 17 years, I’ve been a freelance writer. There have been ups and downs in terms of billings, but overall it has been a great way to do what I love but still have the freedom to be with my family and take time off whenever I want.

    Lately, though, work has slowed down. I mean, really slowed down. I do what I know to do: prospect like crazy via LinkedIn and other modern ways of finding work. It’s almost humorous how it’s not getting the results I want. I feel like God is up to something, but He’s just winking at me and not telling me what yet.

    All of this has been testing my sense of self-worth. Apparently I am tying my income-producing ability to my value. My sweet husband reminds me that God values me no matter what my monthly billings add up to.

    We’re learning in the “Make Me Like You” series that God is always pulling us into true connection with Him and with others. He wants us to value ourselves the way He does: as saints because of what His Son has done for us. Yes, we are still sinners, but we are forgiven by the one true God and we are made pure because of Jesus’s blood.

    God also wants us to be willing to be real — not only with Him, but with our fellow earth dwellers. Authenticity and vulnerability bring us closer to each other and to God. When we share our struggles, our loads are lightened.

    Sometimes we have to wait for answers from a sovereign God who rules the universe but also finds time for every one of His children. We wait and we connect and we trust the process. God promises that we will become who we are meant to become. We can live in that amazing hope every day.

    Reflection

    • Where are you on the scale of your self-worth as well as your willingness to share authentically with others? What are your fears about showing your true self?
    • What would life be like if your self-worth and willingness to avail your true self to others where both at their peak?

    Prayer

    Dear Father in Heaven, Your love is a force that overwhelms us when we think about it. You redeemed us. You are with us. You will bring us home one day! Help us to acknowledge our relationship fears and trust You enough to live genuinely with our family and friends. Guide us to live in the “marvelous light” no matter what our circumstances. Amen. 

    PC3 writer Katy Davis wrote today’s devotional.

  • What’s Your Label?

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    Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:2-4

    Insight

    What’s the worst name someone called you? It might’ve been a parent, a spouse, a teacher, a friend who threw out this label. Most likely, you can remember the exact word or phrase, as well who said it, how it made you feel, and also how that label impacted you over the years. What was the label? Failure, over-achiever, addict, worthless, ordinary, fat, weird, screw-up? Stop for a moment and reflect on the labels you cling to and let define you.

    Sometimes we label ourselves based off of not what people say, but by their actions or lack thereof. I know I did. UNLOVABLE. This is a label I carried for years. It’s the label I’ll quickly pick back up if I’m not careful. You see my dad wasn’t in the picture. He never made time for me. And, because of that, I felt I wasn’t lovable and worthy of a person’s time.

    And how did I respond to this label? QUIET – I didn’t feel I was worth getting to know. WITHDRAWN – I didn’t want to put myself out there for fear of getting hurt again. PERFECTIONIST – I thought I had to prove my worth by succeeding. CYNICAL – I hesitated to trust people’s intentions.

    I don’t think I’m odd when it comes to the way I internalized my label. You see there is always a story behind the label. Something that drives our behavior and our actions. But, when we quickly write off people and place them in boxes, we lose sight of their story, and they continue carrying this label with them.

    The longer we accept the labels people place on us or we put on ourselves, it becomes easier to buy into the lie that these labels define us. Sometimes when we believe what everyone says about us, we will live it out. Labels drive the way we respond or interact with others. Labels influence the way we perceive the world and our part in it.

    The people within our reach cling to their labels, either placed on them by others or themselves. The shame that some of these labels hold has held them captive for years. Many have reluctantly embraced them and have lost hope. Some people use them as excuses.

    These titles try to tell us who we are and what we should do. Labels prove to be an ideal hiding place. They allow us to retreat into the safety of “that’s just who I am.” They can stick with us forever and can lead to self-fulfilling prophecies. They are deceptive and self-limiting by preventing us from moving forward. We go about our daily business, bruised, dented and beat up. We feel less than…about as valuable as one of those dented cans on the clearance rack.

    But, as believers, we have a message of hope. We have a different perspective to offer. We don’t want others just to let go of their labels. We want them to embrace a new identity. God’s love possesses the power to conquer any label. He can and will break the labels that have held all of us hostage. 2 Corinthians 5:17 reminds us that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, the new has come.”

    Reflection

    • What labels do you cling to and use to define yourself? How have these labels impacted you and your relationships over the years?
    • How do you think God feels about you labeling yourself in this way?

    Prayer

    God, as hard as it is for me to say, I’ve been holding on to specific labels for a long time. During the years, I’ve let them define me and shape my identity. When I look in the mirror, they are all I see. Today, when I glance in the mirror may I see myself as a new creation because that is what I am. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • Show Up

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    But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 1 John 1:7

    Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatains 6:2

    Insight

    Today is just ‘blah.’ Sorry, I know as a writer I should have the capability of being a bit more eloquent or descriptive, but this dreary, wet weather doesn’t deserve the effort.

    Full transparent moment: after dropping the kids off at school, I had to fight the urge to head home, hop back in bed, pull the covers over my head and call in “sick.” The grey sky seemed to mimic my mood. With a lot on my mind and my heart, the task of adulting felt like too tall of an order for me.

    When things overwhelm me, I tend to retreat, shrink back and isolate. I need time to think and process on my own (and if I’m real honest…avoid altogether). Some might say “well…you’re a classic introvert,” and there’d be some validity to their assertion, but it doesn’t encompass the whole picture. More sociable doesn’t necessarily more open and transparent.

    Regardless of whether one is the life of the party or a wallflower next to the punch bowl, we all tend to handle life’s circumstances relying on our strength. We avoid being vulnerable and exposing our weaknesses, struggles and scars. We don’t want to be a burden or appear needy. So, we put the covers over our head and deal with everything on our own.

    Isolation only exasperates the problem. We get into our head and begin to weave together stories and tales about our circumstances. We justify and excuse. We reason we are the only ones facing these issues and that no one else We concoct worse case scenarios and sometimes settle for a life of “this is just how it’s going to be.” We place the whole world on our shoulders all while trying to keep a picture-perfect smile on our face.

    Something has to change. We need to get out of bed, face the day, and show up for one another.  We have to bring our WHOLE self to our relationships. But, please understand: vulnerability isn’t just to make our lives better and function more smoothly.

    Our vulnerability contributes to other people. The more we withhold, the more we limit the opportunities for other people to reflect Christ’s love, be the body of Christ, to encourage and to challenge. We need each other to learn, to grow and to become the man or woman God intended us to be.

    Reflection

    • What relationship do you need to “show up” for? How can you begin to bring your WHOLE self to this connection?

    Prayer

    God, thank you for today. Let me face it with a full heart, knowing You’ve put people in my life who love, care and support me. May I utilize the community You’ve provided me so that we can better reflect Your heart to the world around us. Allow my words and actions to encourage others to be transparent and vulnerable as well. In Your name, Jesus. Amen. 

  • Connection Corner

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    Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Ephesians 4:25-27

    Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:29-32

    Insight

    We all are master storytellers. Without even realizing it, we craft tales about the world around us and the part we play in it. We weave together narratives about the other person and their intentions. Whenever someone brings up a complicated subject, we go into storytelling mode to protect ourselves or to justify the reasons why we can disregard what they are saying. These stories influence our relationships in ways we can hardly imagine. Many of us define ourselves by our stories. They allow us to remain the victim, the hero or the casual bystander.

    Very rarely, if ever, do we take the time and possess the courage to look at our story. We don’t want to consider for a moment that our stories might be elaborate tales with very little truth found within. Our stories keep us from a connection. Our stories prohibit trust. Often, our stories fail to show compassion. Our tendency, when it comes to conflict, is usually to avoid. We attempt to keep the peace by covering up or overcompensating. Living in our own stories allows us to do just that. Sometimes the pool we are swimming in is the pool of our own story, and we are drowning.

    We are not alone in our attempts to tread water. Those around us are often just trying to keep their heads above water. We all need a life preserver to hold onto and drag us out of the current of our own story, which can only occur with acknowledging there is a bigger story than our own- God’s story. Realizing our need for grace should fuel the compassion we extend to others. Unless we provide a safe place for people to process and grow, our relationships will remain stuck.

    Trust is the linchpin to true connection. The erosion of trust leads to the erosion of safety. When someone refuses to listen or participate in a crucial conversation, it reveals they don’t feel safe with their surroundings. The foundation of trust crumbles as emotions and hostility reign. Emotions run raw when we are feeling isolated and disconnected from others.

    In his book, The Power of The Other, author and psychologist Dr. Henry Cloud states that every relationship resides in one of four corners of connection. The first corner is merely a lack of connection where one remains disconnected from everyone. Making your home in this corner leads to feelings of loneliness and depression. People choose this corner because they are afraid of getting burned yet again. If one ventures out from this place, they often head to the second corner, which is a bad connection. They reason that a bad relationship is better than no connection at all. Finding yourself in this place is to know anxiety. Your identity is wrapped up in how you perform and measure up to others. When things don’t go right, you feel judged and condemned.

    If the individual doesn’t retreat to the first corner, they will reside in the third corner or better known as pseudo-connection. This place is infamous for being the land of comfort, escapism, and addiction. People set up shop to mask all their pain even if it only provides temporary relief. The last corner is where we all desire to call home. It is the land of real connection where you are loved and accepted just as you are. It doesn’t mean that conflict doesn’t exist, but when you reside here you can hear and confront difficult things knowing you are safe. In our relationships, we must move to the fourth corner and be the type of person who shows compassion and grace.

    Reflection

    • There are four corners of connection: (1) no connection (2) bad connection (3) pseudo connection (4) real connection. In the relationships that hold the most influence on your life, what corner are you residing in and how is your current connection level influencing your growth?

    Prayer

    God, help me to confront the false stories I tell myself. Open my eyes to how I enable these narratives to dictate my actions and words as well as the depth of my relationships. May I pursue true connection with others and provide a compassionate environment for individuals to feel safe enough to reveal their true self. My desire is to honor You in my relationships. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • Olly, Olly, Oxen Free!

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    Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. PROVERBS 29:25

    Insight

    Olly Olly Oxen Free! This expression is familiar to anyone who has spent anytime on a playground. It is used in children’s games to signal that the game is over. Seeing a group of children play hide and seek is charming. However, watching grown men and woman still playing this game is nothing but depressing. The sad truth is that there are some of us who are still hiding behind that bush waiting for someone, anyone, to make that call: Olly, Olly, Oxen Free!

    The game is the same, we’ve just come up with different hiding places and we have perfected the craft of disappearing. True spiritual friendships will never take place if we remain hidden behind our jobs, fake appearances, social status, or pat Christian answers. The game of hide and seek will continue on from sun up to sun down. Somebody has to have the courage to make the call: Olly, Olly, Oxen Free! It only takes one person who is willing to lay down their agenda for others to realize they can come out of hiding.  There is no longer the pressure to hide and deal with shame, struggles and sin on your own.

    Most friendships don’t get to the point where vulnerability and transparency take root.  We’re too afraid of abandoning our pride or acknowledging our fear of being known. Instead, we settle for projecting an image and keeping people at a distance. We construct walls and largely go at it alone.

    This isolation goes against our hard wiring as humans. We were made to connect with one another. The critical component of connection is vulnerability. Researcher Brene Brown has devoted the past decade to the study of human interactions and the power of human connections. From her research, she concluded, “You can’t connect if you are not seen.”

    When we take this academic research and relate it to faith and friendships, we realize that we have to be willing to acknowledge our shame, brokenness, struggles and insecurities to others. We have to possess the courage to admit that we are a work in progress and that God is shaping us into His image.  So, pause for a moment and consider this question: What secrets do you keep to hide your insecurities? The question isn’t whether you have them (we all do); it is how do you conceal them?

    This is where the Gospel truly lays the foundation for friendships. Due to the cross and God’s grace, we are free from all those things that push us to hide. Sin, shame and guilt are no more.

    Reflection

    •  What secrets do you keep to hide your insecurities and shame?

    Prayer

    God, may I not hide my true self from others. Instead of masking my weakness, allow me to admit my faults and shortcomings to those who care about me. My prayer is that we would have a common vision to reflect Your heart and push each other to this picture. In Your name, Jesus. Amen. 

  • Calling All Pleasers

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    Obviously, Im not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christs servant. Galatians 1:10

    No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and His love is brought to full expression in us. 1 John 4:12 

    Insight

    The other night a neighbor knocked on our door. He wanted my husband’s help moving a refrigerator. My husband wasn’t home, so I started to say that I could help ~ overlooking the fact that I have lower-back issues. My daughter, who was nearby, shot me a look that said, “Mom, what are you thinking?!”

    Fortunately, I came to my senses and declined lifting any massive appliances that night. Still, it’s a revealer of my people-pleasing nature.

    In our current series on relationships called “Make You Like Me,” I key on the word “like.” If I can make sure you like me, we can be friends. If I think I’ve displeased you in any way, I might quietly freak out.

    On the other hand, if I were a “presser” I’d want to make you like ME; in other words, conform to my ways. My relationships would be marked by conflict and tension.

    “Pleaser” relationships tend to have these characteristics:

    • Constant congeniality
    • Absence of discomfort
    • Withholding the truth in the name of being nice
    • Surface conversations where the pleaser is always validated

    Well, that is convicting. Over the past two weeks, we’ve begun to define relationships as “the framework where we can express and experience love,” and love as “a force that breathes worth and value into someone else.” But how can I express and experience worth and value if I’m overly focused on not rocking the boat? Sometimes the boat needs to be rocked for good reasons.

    For the pleasers out there, here’s the bottom line: we cannot truly love if we’re always aiming to be liked. Instead, we need to be still and allow God to breathe worth and value into our souls. It’s only on the firm foundation of God’s never-ending, unconditional love that we can love others authentically and build true intimacy.

    Reflection

    • Do you tend to be a people pleaser or a people presser?
    • In which relationship(s) can you ask God to work within you to start changing that dynamic?

    Prayer

    Dear Father in Heaven, some of us tend to be pleasers, while others tend to be pressers. Yet You love us all anyway. Help us to see our value because of who we are in Jesus, who gave everything so we can express love to others in ways that are pleasing to You. Amen.

    PC3 writer Katy Davis wrote today’s devotional.

  • Lost In The Woods

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    Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out. Proverbs 10:9

    Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Proverbs 4:26

    One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24

    Insight

    Growing up in western Maryland part of the middle school curriculum involved an overnight experience to learn more about nature and science. We bunked in cabins in the middle of nowhere, ate horrible food, got stung by a bunch of mosquitos and attempted to avoid the poison ivy.

    On the final day of camp, groups of students, along with a teacher, headed into the woods with only a compass, a map, and a sheet of directions. The goal of the expedition: to arrive in time for a celebratory cookout at a local park.

    My ragtag gang started our journey full of hope only to see that slowly dwindle as the minutes and hours went by. Impatience and frustration turned into fear and worry when the trees got thicker, the trails disappeared, and daylight began to fade. And since it was pre-historic days (a.k.a. the early 90s), we couldn’t call for help, utilize a GPS, or even post an Instagram story about the whole ordeal.

    Someone finally spoke up and gave a voice to what we were all thinking: WE’RE LOST! We had no clue how we got there, and we had no earthly idea of how to get ourselves out. Our already agitated hearts began to race when we heard a rustling in the woods.

    Suddenly, a group of burly men appeared, perplexed to see a bunch of middle school students. Those gentlemen were Secret Service agents and they informed us that we had somehow managed to get so lost that we were on the edge of Camp David, the vacation home for the President of the United States. They escorted us off the property and led us to the park for a cookout that had long since been over.

    When I reflect on the need for support and redemptive relationships, this childhood memory often comes to mind. At one time or another, we all lose our way. Our response to life’s circumstances pushes us off course. We travel down unintended trails through slight missteps, justifications, or ignoring the warning signs of our heart altogether. We get enticed by particular views, and our feet wander off the path that leads to humility and integrity.

    By the time we look up and assess our surroundings, we wonder how we got into this predicament. We never meant to arrive at a place where we can’t see the forest through the trees. Sometimes our stubbornness and determination cause us to put our heads down and continue to push forward thinking that by our strength, self-will, and wisdom we can find our way out.

    Just like my middle school group desperately required a rescuer, so does each one of us need someone to keep us on course and point us toward the path of redemption, restoration, and transformation. Looking to the life of Christ serves as our compass and True North. But it is also critical that we surround ourselves with individuals who are on the same journey to reflect His heart and character through their words and actions.  Together, we can walk those well-worn trails leading us to the full and freeing life Christ promises us.

    Reflection

    • Are there places where your life has gone off-course? Who knows, cares and can support you through this situation?

    Prayer

    God, help me to see those places where my feet have wandered off in a direction where danger, hurt, and confusion reside. Let me be honest and transparent about my circumstances not only to You but also to those who I know have my best interest at heart. May I walk with integrity and purpose. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • Before Honor

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    Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honor. Proverbs 15:33

    Insight

    What we do must flow out of who we are. Our significance comes not from our ability, status, or achievements, but from an encounter with God’s grace and mercy. Holding this mindset keeps us humble, and humility provides a proper perspective on the way we engage our relationships and what we demand out of them.

    We experience liberation from the burden of maintaining an image, from seeking the approval of others, and from other forms of self-importance. Our audience narrows to the only essential and all-important audience of ONE. We are free to glorify God by reaching out, serving others and giving of ourselves.

    When we display humility, we act according to God’s original design for us. It places us in a posture where our hearts remain teachable (Psalm 25:4-6). When we look through Scripture, we notice those that are humble find God’s favor (Isaiah 66:2), experience His grace (James 4:6) and are exalted by Him (Proverbs 15:33).

    Humility is for our good. It keeps us grounded in reality by preventing us from operating out of distorted and exaggerated opinions of ourselves. Cultivating humility comes from seeing God as God and who we are in relationship to Him. It hinges on our willingness to accept the grace and blessings that come from what Christ did on our behalf.

    As humility defines our steps, His glory shines through our words and actions. Any place or relationship we are trusted with or given influence stands as an opportunity where we can honor Him.

    We are exalted when our faith meets God’s faithfulness. Being exalted is never about one’s efforts, but instead about faith and obedience. Faith pleases God and to please Him should be our aim in all things. This takes place through a bended knee, a posture of humility and submission that abandons our will for His own.

    Reflection

    • In what relationships are you currently struggling with humility
    • How does humility help frame the perspective we have on our relationships?

    Prayer

    God, I’m humbled that You are willing to use me to make Your name known. Help me to exalt Your name through the way I go about my day today. May I use the time I have to glorify You. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • Competing Agendas

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    Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

    Insight

    When we hesitate, resist or flat out refuse to open up to others, it speaks to a level of trust that is missing. Anytime distrust is present we start erecting walls around our heart and lives to limit people from getting too close. We do this to protect ourselves from disappointment and threats that might endanger our heart.  The cost of concealment is great. It has the power to choke out the life of a relationship.

    The foundation of a relational framework is trust.  Sadly, our capacity to trust without hesitation disappeared.  Sin broke our nature to trust. As a result, we instinctively fight to meet our own needs by any means necessary. We enter our connections with an agenda and, as a result, people become pawns in the game. It becomes survival of the fittest.  Our self-promotion at the expense of others is understood and even justified when distrust reigns rampant. Beneath everything, lies the proud spirit of independence that is our foolish response to the terror of being alone.

    Everyone has a personal agenda. Some are stronger than others.  Some are more devious than others.  But in any given relationship, there are competing agendas, which is why spiritual community fueled by God’s love requires us to die to the advancement of our kingdom and instead come to reside with His Kingdom.  

    No matter how hard we try, our “me first” approach to relationships fail to lead us to our desired goal. Instead, we just create more conflict, strife and the cycle of distrust continues. We don’t become ourselves by advancing ourselves at the expense of another. We become ourselves by denying ourselves and embracing a way that is much different. 

    Intimacy requires the safety of love. Intimacy isn’t the absence of conflict, but rather a safe place to resolve it.  Contrary to popular belief, love is far from easy. It can be difficult and demanding. It involves risk and vulnerability. It entails perseverance, determination, and grit.  Relationships are not efficient, and neither are people. But, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t invest, encourage, and support others.  

    We must feel safe enough to allow ourselves to be seen, known and still loved. Our relationships will only grow as deep as we are willing to avail ourselves to others. We’re invited into a way of living and a way of relating.  This changes the way we view a relationship.  They are not a means to an end, they are a way in which we exchange ourselves.  Our capacity to give love to others hinges on our capacity to receive God’s love for ourselves.

    Reflection

    • What agenda do you tend to bring towards your connections with others? Why do you approach your relationships in this way?  

    Prayer

    Lord, give me the courage to address areas where my actions or words have caused others to distrust or be defensive. Help me to realize that when I fight for my agenda I push others away in the process. May I pursue true connections with those around me – realtionships that are defined by humility and love. Break down those walls around my heart.  In Your name, Jesus. Amen.