Monday, May 20, 2013

The Gift of Friendship

In friendship...we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years' difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another...the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting--any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you," can truly say to every group of Christian friends, "Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another." The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.” 

                                                                                     C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The God of More Chances

Those of you who know my husband and me know that we are eagerly awaiting a new family member: an Australian Labradoodle puppy, expected to come home in the middle of June.  It was a long winter around here.  We lost our Standard Poodle prematurely, and the grey winter months often seemed to reflect my emotional state.  It was very, very hard to say good-bye to an extraordinary pet.  It was also difficult to acknowledge that while Daisy was truly extraordinary, she was also a considerable challenge.  Adopted by us at fourteen months, she came with a boatload of insecurities and bad habits.  Our best efforts at rehabilitation brought unremarkable results.  Thus the appeal of a puppy—we get another chance at raising a dog who will be an integral member of the family and a gracious hostess to guests.  Or, as my husband puts it, “Now we won’t have anyone to blame but ourselves.”

Do you remember the childhood practice of “do-overs?”  If something didn’t go quite right, or there was a disagreement over play protocol, a do-over was in order.  A do-over was a simple strategy to get something right.  But less simple is the powerful truth that underlies the do-over: second chances reflect who God is—His love and mercy, and His desire for our wholeness. 

God is a God of second chances; and third, and fourth…. When the Apostle Peter asked Jesus how many times he was supposed to forgive an offending brother and offered a generous proposal of seven times (Matthew 18:21), Jesus responded with His “seventy times seven” answer (Matthew 18:22).  Since we are sinners in a sinful world, we will need forgiveness, over and over.  As we walk in faith, we will be given the opportunity to forgive others, over and over. 

In my counseling ministry, I often suggest a do-over strategy for adults: the “instant un-replay.”  In our interactions with one another, we will invariably experience conflict born out of the sin and selfishness of ourselves and others.  Such conflicts, while unpleasant, offer us an opportunity to experience spiritual redemption and relational healing and growth.  Rather than running down an “I’m right/you’re wrong” track, we can ask for an instant un-replay.  We can humble ourselves and try again (and perhaps again) to communicate and receive communication in a way that promotes God’s work in us and through us.  Of course, an apology, when appropriate, is a great way to initiate an instant un-replay.

Receiving God’s extra chances and offering extra chances to others are powerful ways to experience and share the nature of God and reflect His redemptive work.  It also builds deep, trusting, intimate relationships that are deeply satisfying.  I, for one, need many chances, and I would be delighted to offer you the same.