Saturday, October 23, 2010

Friday Focus - Jaded

2010 has been a tough year for a lot of people. Sickness, conflict, financial difficulties, and stress have taken their toll on some of my nearest and dearest. I feel some of their pain. You see, I may not be experiencing the exact same troubles they are, but I have found 2010 to be no walk in the park.

Before I begin, perhaps I’d better warn you that this is a mask off, brutally honest account of what has made me jaded this year. I’m tempted to steal the name of Jean’s blog, In All Honesty as that is an accurate reflection of what I’m about to write.

There are probably about two posts which sum up my year so far: Friday Focus – From the Inside Out and Friday Focus – Mourning with the Mourning. It’s no secret that I have struggled with dealing with fellow Christians, and struggled with my own sin resulting from the hurt I’ve felt.

This is how I’ve felt in a nutshell:

• Disillusioned that people do not seem to keep in touch despite my efforts to initiate things and keep relationships alive. Yet, they seem to have plenty of time to muck around on Facebook.
• Discouraged that people seem to content to chuck major news on Facebook whereas once upon a time they would have shared with me personally or via an email or text message.
• Hurt that people have come to me for comfort for various problems they’ve faced, yet they go AWOL when I’ve asked for prayer/comfort/support from them.
• Patronised when I’ve confronted some people about the above, yet they think they’ve done nothing wrong.

I get the vibe from many people that they think Duncan and I are just a cute couple of loving, forgiving people who will take their crap and never call them to account. If it were non Christians treating us this way, I could take it more easily. But it’s God’s people who I felt have been acting in self-absorbed, thoughtless ways. Often I’ve felt more love from those who do not know God than those who do.

At times I’ve felt that if I had a choice to rescue either Ebony or one of the people who have hurt me from a dangerous situation, I would choose my cat. Other times, I’ve found myself wishing the world was full of dogs instead of people. At least dogs are faithful, loyal and true. I know that sounds shocking, but that’s honestly how I’ve felt.

This year has involved a painful series of lessons from God on patience, bitterness, forgiveness and perseverance. Often I’ve felt this is so unfair, like I’m being punished for caring about things that no-one else seems to care about while the people who have hurt me continue on their oblivious, merry way. Who’s rebuking them? But recently God brought to mind that I can only know my story like Aslan says to Aravis in The Horse and his Boy, one of the books in the Chronicles of Narnia series, “Child, I am telling you your story, not hers. No-one is told any story but their own.” This is one reason why I find yesterday’s Bible verse one of the most challenging in the whole Bible. God has taught me that I need to trust Him in how He deals with other people. He does not need my sin to humble them. I find it so easy to love people who are good to me. Showing kindness to them is so easy because they are so lovable. But Jesus warns that showing love to the lovable is what pagans do. Showing love to those who care little for us is what makes God’s people different to the world.
If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? (Matthew 5:46-47)

Right now, I feel like the greatest ‘enemies’ in my life are those who follow Christ. Moving to Kojonup won’t solve this problem because it isn’t Dally people I’m disillusioned with…it’s people from Perth. I can’t avoid them indefinitely; we have too many mutual friends. Part of me feels the solution is to keep all relationships at a surface level to avoid future hurt. But during my quiet time today, I felt God speaking to me that following Christ was never meant to be devoid of pain. It just hurts more when the ones causing the pain are doing it in apathy. In some ways I can relate to King David when he wrote these words:
If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God. (Psalm 55:12-13)

I have been blown away by the kindness some people have shown to me this year. When my Nan got sick, most of the comfort I received was from people I have known only for a few years or less. I had acquaintances coming up to me or going out of their way to send me messages because they’d read about it on my Facebook status or heard through another person. Yet, some people I’d known for years, and even considered good friends, just ignored me. From this I’ve learnt that, as amazing as some people are, I cannot rely on people. I must focus my attention upwards to my Heavenly Father, the source of all comfort. Yet, somehow I have to balance the reality that people will disappoint me with the responsibility of Christians to show love and comfort to those in their midst..even when it is inconvenient or they can’t be bothered.

I praise God for one friend in particular who has been going through such an awful time this year, yet has been encouraging and counselling me via email over the past few days. I have been blessed by her willingness to share what God has been teaching her, and how He has been giving her the strength to love someone who hurt her deeply, when her initial intention was to want them to suffer as she did. It is this supernatural love from God, which does not come naturally, that I have been praying for this week to enable me to love my 'enemies'.

This year it has been a challenge to obey despite my feelings. I’m not there yet - not by a long shot. To be honest, I’m praying that next year will be easier than this one.

If you would like to participate in Friday Focus and share what God has been teaching you lately, click here.


Mark Edwards said...

mmmm tough post Sarah.

"If your fellow Christian sins against you, go to them alone first".

I would encourage you to do one of two things.
Either go to the person...confront them....
let it go.

Unforgiveness can be a real foothold for bitterness to get a stronghold in your life.

Now I dont know your situation, having never actually met you! :) So the following is merely general comments...and may not apply to you at all.
But I do know that there are seasons in life. People...even friends...come and go. What remains is your marriage...your primary relationships.
The truth is...some friendships come and go as well. Its sad...but we move...we move on...we change. And that is okay.

Sarah said...

"If your fellow Christian sins against you, go to them alone first".

Done that (and still in the process of doing it). That's why I wrote, Patronised when I’ve confronted some people about the above, yet they think they’ve done nothing wrong.. There seems to be no way forward if they don't think they've done anything wrong.

I appreciate your comments. What I say to people who think they have lots of friends is to move away! Move far away where the only frequent contact is via phone, email and social media. Then they will find out who their 'friends' actually are. It really hurts when people say they will keep in touch and never do. That's a lie on their behalf if they never sincerely intended to.

I think I am just going through the grieving process, and wondering where to draw the line of putting in so much effort for no return. Or are we as Christians meant to persevere with such people? I'm confused..

Mark Edwards said...

Well if you have done that...then you have done what you needed to.

Distance does prove the validity of a friendship.

I have a great mate, I probably see him once in 12 months..if I am lucky. But when we catch up, its like we never left. I see lots of other people more...but he is one of my best friends.

I suppose what I am saying is this...people are flawed..they are. So am are you.

If distance has tested the friendship...and the friendship has been found wanting...then at least you know. I honestly believe that we can choose...yes not be easily offended. Next time you see the person, dont make a fuss of them, and dont totally ignore them. But they are not the friend you thought they were. Just my two cents.

Sarah said...

Next time you see the person, dont make a fuss of them, and dont totally ignore them. But they are not the friend you thought they were. Just my two cents.

Thanks, that is good advice. I'm trying to find the balance of being willing to love others, yet keep my guard up a bit with some people who have 'used' me.

I don't mind so much if I only get to see some friends once a year. Distance often forbids much more than that, and you're right, the friendship is often still the same. But there is such a lot of communication avenues available and I know some people use social media frequently, so why can't they take two minutes of their time to initiate contact or respond to mine? I guess that just shows where their priorities lie.

Iris Flavia said...

I can relate a bit with you - people rely on me when they feel bad. They know I´ll care, I´ll take my time, I´ll lend them an ear and my heart.
And when they feel well again... they do. And don´t call me. Live their lifes.
When I call they´re happy, say, hi, how ya doin??? We talk and all.
If I don´t call.


I have no idea.
When I ask for help, they are there, though. But it hurts that they don´t call for a simple chat. They need a reason. Being "far" away is a matter, though.
So, it´s like they take me for granted, like an insurance they´ve bought. In case they need me I´m there.

I don´t think they do this on purpose - and who knows!!!! Maybe I´m the same to some and don´t realise??

I´m happy people are people, cause I´m afraid of dogs ;-)

No, I´m with ya. People are very thoughtless at times, and we cannot change them. Telling them doesn´t really help.
Either you take them that way or you let go, as Mark said.
Just try not to feel hurt if you keep them as friends (har-har, not easy, I know!)

Amanda said...

That was a good post Sarah. I love the raw honesty. I feel the same way about those who have known me for years. Makes me wonder whether I really knew them that well. Hugs to you my friend.

Sarah said...

Oh Iris, sending hugs your way cos I know EXACTLY how you feel! People are always happy to hear from Dunc and I when we contact them, but we know that if we didn't, they never would have bothered. It has been that way with some people throughout our entire marriage.

I heard someone say once that God feels 'used' in the same way. Everyone prays when something goes wrong, then they acknowledge their need for God. But when things are going well for them, they ignore Him.

Thanks for the virtual hug, Amanda xx

Iris Flavia said...

Yes, quite true, Sarah.
My Dad turned to God only when he was near to dying of Cancer.
I miss him so much! I sure do.