When Relationships Feel Like Obstacles
“But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.” Philippians 2:22 (NIV)
I’ve come to believe there is a divine plan, an orchestration of events, opportunities and encounters, not only historically regarding the people of God but for each person of God individually.
In the blinding ambush of the present, so much that happens in our lives seems random. However, retrospect helps us see those happenings through the lens of order, which may reveal something shocking. Ink splotches start to form edges and the edges start to look like puzzle pieces and, lo and behold, a handful of them actually fit.
I often think about what I would have missed had my path been one straight line from A to B and B to C, rather than a sharp turn here and a soft veer there. With every curve and corner, God was sketching unforeseen triangles between Jesus, me and a handful of unrelated others.
Second only to His use of Scripture, God has used and continues to use key people to shape the phases of my calling and unlock something in me that proves crucial in the next season.
Callings are organic, just like the people God uses to invest in them. To decide at 25 that we know exactly what this thing is supposed to look like is to set ourselves up for failure, faithlessness and boredom, and to miss some of the most meaningful relationships of our lives. Don’t fix your feet in concrete. Keep moving and savor the fellow sojourners God deposits along your path, remembering to look back every now and then.
A purposeful glance in the rear-view mirror will clearly show how desperately we needed what somebody brought us.
So, what does this have to do with our key verse? Well, we’ve stepped in to the middle of a story where there had been some conflict between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-41). But Paul has not given up and Timothy, a young man of faith, is the evidence.
But what if Paul had shut down after the falling out with Barnabas? Or, what if he’d decided to keep everything strictly professional and to forgo all things personal with Timothy? What if he’d bought into staying ahead of the game by withholding his heart? Or, what if he’d played “tick tock, the game is locked” and refused to make room in his life for anyone new?
What if the next person on your path is meant to become one of the most important people in your entire journey? One of the very dearest? Most influential? What if he or she is the extension of God’s index finger pointing you that way?
Here’s the scary part: The biggest obstacle we have to our next relationship may well be our previous relationship.
This could be true whether our last relationship proved fabulous and satisfying or disastrous and terrifying. A relationship can either be so good we make no room for another or so bad we refuse to take a second risk. Our last loss can forfeit our next gain. A nightmare can kill our lifelong dream.
You’ve probably encountered triads of people in which one person is detrimental to the relationship between the other two. So have I. It’s enough to unsettle any of us. Connectedness has too important a place in Christian theology for the enemy not to attempt to counterfeit it with disastrous triangulations.
Here’s the good news: When the pen is in the hand of God, and He’s the one connecting the dots and drawing triangles, mutual joys abound, missing pieces are found and a network emerges for the sake of the gospel.
Dear Lord, thank You for giving me strength to persevere. In all the ups and downs, tears and fears, conflicts and disappointments, thank You that Jesus was still infinitely better than the circumstances were hard. Help me remember all along, He was worthy of hanging in there. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Romans 15:5, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had.” (NIV)
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Name up to five key people in your spiritual journey. As you think about them, journal what God unlocked in you through each one.
Say a prayer and thank God for the key people He’s used to influence your life.
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