A friend of mine asked me over the summer how he could be a better friend.
Should someone ask you this question, unless they are asking about how they can be a good/better friend to you specifically ... DO NOT ANSWER IT! It's a trick. They don't mean it as a trick, but your ego means it as a trick. Although you (i.e. I) may feel you know all there is to know about being an awesome friend ... you (i.e. I) should not actually give voice to that particular feeling.
I, being ignorant of this self-destructive-ego-plot and tired and a wee bit prideful, answered his query as such: "You know what? I think you depend on your friends too much. You ask them to hold up too much of your identity. You need to find your strength in the Lord and not in your friends and not in yourself."
He walked out of the room. We haven't had a good conversation since then.
I could just slap myself for saying that. Perhaps it's true, but unless you are Jesus Christ Himself, you cannot say those things, especially not if (and I'm not saying he was) someone is asking you from a tender place of brokenness and vulnerability.
I realized tonight, that I was speaking to my friend of the speck in His eye looking through the lens of the plank in my own.
It struck me tonight that I am guilty of asking just as much, if not more, from my friends as that friend asks of his. I'm not saying it's bad to lean on your friends when you're down ... that's why God created us to live in community. Remember, it's not good for Man to be alone? That whole thing. But I am saying there are things that only Christ can do, that we sometimes ask other people to do.
Mine comes in this way: righteousness. I have been thinking for a long time that I am a bit of a legalist. And that I put my legalistic tendencies on my friends and acquaintances (as evidenced in my continual parting remark of "make good choices" ... it's cute and clever and funny for awhile, but eventually perhaps my friends just want to make whatever choices they want to make, even if they're not good ... and they should do that ... and I should still love them ... besides, who am I to know what is a good or bad choice? Some may be obvious, but most probably have a lot of gray areas.) And I strive pretty hard for righteousness, because I am a created rule-follower. Now, I'm more prone to break rules now than I used to be, but in general, if there are rules ... I follow them.
And for the most part, by God's grace, I do think that I strive pretty well toward righteousness. I screw up all the time, but I do pretty well.
But I think I ask, maybe not intentionally or obviously, the same sort of effort from my friends, and if they don't give that effort enough to satisfy me (because they don't want to, or they can't, or they don't understand, or value it, or they're too tired, or whatever) then I judge them (not always intentionally). This is a problem I think!
I don't think I do it intentionally almost ever, but I do not think I'm living in the marevlous light of Grace as much as I could be ... I sort of live in the shadows of Grace where I'm covered, but still mostly in charge of what's going on ... still sort of in control of my own thing ... expecting it of others as well.
Woe to my prideful heart!
I think I have been smothering my friends with my well-meaning, but slightly over-zealous love.
Sorry! I'll try to do better, to be better ... but wait, it's this trying that's the problem. Well, God and I will work on it.