I vividly remember the day when my son came toddling into my room proudly brandishing a steak knife. The look on his face said he was so pleased with himself for moving the kitchen furniture in such a way to allow him to climb up on the counter to take this desired toy from the knife block. When my husband swiftly snatched it out of his hand, he was devastated. And angry. And he wasted no time communicating that. Loudly. He didn’t understand! Why would his father take something that he loved from him? Why wasn’t his father being good to him?
While that knife in his hand was unsafe then, my son now uses it quite well. Not only has he grown in coordination and wisdom since that memorable day, but under the guidance of his father and me, he’s learned to use the steak knife properly and safely. Instead of the toy he once saw it to be, he now knows this is a tool to use to accomplish his goals.
Through these months of social distancing, I’ve identified with that child crying that his unsafe toy was taken away. But let me backup to give you more context.
1 Samuel 12:24a, “Only fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart,” was given to me as my prayer verse for 2020.This concept, fear the Lord and serve Him only, has excited my heart. As I’ve looked more into it, I’ve connected with the explanation that fearing God is a wholehearted commitment to Him, loving Him more than anything in the world.
That includes loving Him more than my comfort, more than control, more than the approval of others.
None of those things are necessarily bad as long as I keep them in the proper place. As long as I know how to properly handle them. Lamentably, it’s been hard for me to identify when they are creeping into positions that are actually superseding Him. When my time and attention are devoted to getting my blessing, my feelings of safety, from them and not looking straight to God to meet my every need. That’s when they get dangerous- that’s when they become my idols.
When the shelter-in-place order began, I was suddenly isolated from the social group that encouraged me and brought me life. So I started leaning more into a fabulous online community to give me the social interaction that my soul needs for health. It was a place for me to invest in others, to exercise that giving, sacrificial part of myself. Actually, I was leaning too far into it. But I didn’t see it until I was rejected by part of that community. My reaction was not normal. Migraines, panic attacks, and unrestful sleep full of nightmares are not healthy responses when someone says they don’t want to be a part of your social group anymore!
I cried out to God, “Why does this hurt so bad?!?” Gently, He responded, “Because you made pleasing these people your god. Your sacrifices for these people were an act of worship that you were doing to attain their pleasure. And it hurts to be rejected by your god even more than it hurts to be rejected by your friends.”
What a loving Father I have, to snatch the knife I was so pleased with out of my possession! Who knows how long I would have taken to realize that these relationships were threatening my ability to fear God and serve Him faithfully if I hadn’t been rejected and come to Him with my deep hurt!
As I have talked to God more about this, His answer to the problem hasn’t been for me to reject these friendships. Instead, He’s asked me to focus more on Him. To make sure I am prioritizing my time spent with Him. For example, even though all the children in my house all the time makes it impossible for me to have “quiet time”, I’m reading my Bible in the morning despite multiple interruptions. Instead of problem solving how I can please people better, I’m filling the spare moments in my mind with songs of worship. I’m praying for these friends as well as praying my relationships stay healthy.
Just as we taught my son to see the knife properly, as a tool to cut meat instead of a toy to play with, God is teaching me how to see my relationships with people properly. When I see them through the perspective of my love and service for Him, friendships can change from a way to worship the god of pleasing others into an avenue where I can be a reflection of Him. I’m so thankful to the God Who is too good to allow me to keep playing with dangerous things! And I’m so thankful that He leads and guides me, even when it hurts, toward my goal of fearing the Lord and serving Him faithfully with all my heart.