letting people in
Perhaps the most exciting moment of my entire life was when I prayed with my mother to receive Jesus Christ into my life as a young boy. I remember what I felt in that moment as Jesus came in. I felt that I had somebody with me. I felt excited. I felt like I had a new friend. I felt new on the inside. I knew that I was changed! Jesus is definitely the most important person that I have ever let into my life. The memory of that moment in the back of my family’s wood paneled oldsmoblie station wagon is still rich and full, like an italian roasted french pressed cup of coffee, and I am so thankful to my mother for continuing to paint the picture of that momen for me as I grow older. Revelation 3:19b-20 says, “So be earnest, and repent. Here I am. I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” Such a perfect picture of the moment when Jesus and I sat down to our first meal together. We’ve been spending time together ever since. Certainly there have been seasons of of struggle as our relationship hit dry spells. Other times have been full and sweeet as our relationship blossomed and developed.
I have learned though that it is not only my relationship with Jesus Christ that sustains me today. People continue to play a huge role in my growth and development as a follower of Jesus Christ, as a husband, as a son, as a brother, as a friend, and as a man of God in full-time student ministry. One of my life verses as a young person growing up in Eastern Iowa was Proverbs 17:17, which says, A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity!” When I mention the word, friend, you probably have a number of names that immediately pop in your head. You probably think about some people in your life who you trust, people who have been there for you, and people who build you up and encourage you. Others of you may think about people who have left you when you needed them most. They have left you with a feeling of abandonment and sorrow. They have caused you to close up and to not let other people in. You think of the people in your life who have not loved you at all times and have not been there for you at your crucial junctures of life. I can relate to that feeling of losing a friend. In high school I lost my best friend who was my accountability in Christ and my favorite person to hang out with. He chose a different path in life, one that shocked me. It was also a path that left the Lord and me out. I still deal with intense feelings of loss from that broken friendship.
Although I pray for and hope that friends who come my way will stay around and always be trustworthy, you and I both know that it does not always work out that way. The main reason for that is the reality of our humanity. One of my favorite movies of all time, “RUDY,” has a scene in it where a priest (Father Cavanaugh) looks at RUDY who is looking for answers and a new path in life and says to him, “Son, in 35 years of religious study I have come up with two hard incontrovertible facts: There is a God, and I’m not Him.” I love this quote! So many times we fill our lives with expectations of perfection! We expect perfection in our studies, in our workplace, in our family, and in our FRIENDSHIPS! We expect PEOPLE to provide a level of closeness for us that only God can achieve. Only a relationship with Jesus Christ is perfect, for the person of Christ is without fault, error, or blemish. People, even those who are closest to us, will let us down. Some that will result in the loss of a friendship, others that will result in hurt and a need for re-building and forgiveness. Our friendships cannot fill the place of Christ in our lives. They can be Christ to us by loving the way he loved and setting a great example to follow. But they cannot take HIS place. There is a God, and I’m not Him!
I want to encourage you all today to continue to be open to letting people into your lives. The easy thing to do is stick with what you have. What you have right now may be a lot, and it may be not much at all. But we have never arrived until we come into GLORY. Our need in life for friendships, strong relationships, and encouragement will never fade. Look first to Christ through a personal relationship with him. Look second to HIS people. Let people in, even when it is hard. Resolve to talk to and allow people to see your heart. For it is when we open up and let people in that our lives can be lifted up, challenged, and encouraged. It is when we let people in that laughter abounds and joy reigns. It is when we let people in that we can be changed forever.