To Serve or be Served?

I have noticed over the last few years a growing trend.  It can be pretty easily summed up with this:

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This is only one example.  There are hundreds of these being posted.  The posts may use different wording or pictures but the general idea is this: if a relationship isn’t serving you, cut it off.

“Let go of relationships that do not serve you”…where do I even begin? First, guess I will start by making it clear that everything I am going to say has nothing to do with an abusive relationship.  There is a very big difference between an abusive relationship and a difficult relationship.  Everything I have to say has to do with difficult.  Secondly, I will share a deeply personal and embarrassing story.

Many years ago I was dealing with a difficult relationship.  This relationship never felt easy, everything felt like a challenge.  At the time it seemed filled with drama and I certainly didn’t think it was serving me.  So, I cut it off.  Not in a quiet “I’ll just stop calling and hope they get the point” way but in a “I’m never speaking to you again, do not have any contact with me” way.  My choice affected other people in my family and the repercussions rippled through them.  It caused sadness, anger, frustration, confusion and a host of other emotions in the people I loved most.  But I got what I wanted and that’s all that mattered, right? That relationship was no longer a part of my life. This lasted quite a while and I can say that to this day, I am deeply ashamed and embarrassed to have made such a selfish decision that hurt so many people.  By the grace of God that decision wasn’t permanent.  We were able to reconnect and today those people are a deeply cherished and important part of my life.

As I look back on that dark time I am struck by my own selfishness.  I am appalled at my state of mind, the state of mind that says “the purpose of the relationships in my life is to serve me.” I am also struck by my ignorance.  In my desire to avoid drama (a large majority of which I was actually creating) I robbed myself of growth.

As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” Proverbs 27.17

The people God places in our lives change us.  Some of the most difficult friendships in my life have caused the biggest change.  They were a magnifying glass and showed me things I didn’t want to see about myself.

Recently I found myself slipping into old ways.  I was making choices that reminded me of old Kandi.  I chose to exclude people from something because it might make me too uncomfortable to be around them and I chose not to attend something because I didn’t want to deal with them.  Why is it so easy to takes steps backwards and so difficult to move forward? But in his goodness, God corrected me.  And so I want to ask you the questions I have been asking myself lately.

What do you think the purpose of the relationships in your life? Have you been called to be served or to serve others? Is it possible God has placed you in these people’s lives because he wants to use you to change them? Is it possible God has placed them in your life to change you? By cutting them out of your life could you possibly be robbing yourself or them of growth?

Here is what I have learned:

  • Life is drama.  Living our lives in a way that avoids all drama is foolishness.  We will end up alone.
  • People aren’t perfect. Everyone comes with their own set of baggage (drama) and that baggage shouldn’t exclude them from our lives.  My dearest friends help me carry my baggage and I try to help with theirs.
  • We are drama. If we think we are the exception we are mistaken.  We are difficult to deal with for someone out there, its inevitable.
  • We are called to serve, NOT be served. Don’t be confused on this.  Our calling is very clear and it is to serve others.  “ As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” 1 Peter 4:10, “And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:44-45
  • Don’t buy into the world’s understanding of relationships.  The world tells us when its hard get out.  Whether its friendship, marriage or any other relationship, great things are worth work.  God says that many of our relationships, like marriage, should be seen as a picture of his love to the world.  I consider that something very great and worth a lot of work.

Going forward I am probably not going to have lunch with the person I am struggling with everyday.  I am probably not going to call them all the time. That seems like a recipe for disaster.  But I am going to be open.  I will be open to the spirit.  If I feel that gentle tug that says go, or call, or pray; I will listen.  If they contact me, I will be open.  I will treat them with love and respect regardless of whether they do the same.  I will actively practice sacrificial love.  I will serve them as Christ serves me, a person who is completely unworthy of Christ’s love let alone his servanthood. I will extend to them the same grace that is extended to me daily as I stumble and fall.

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