I am waiting for the air conditioner man to show up but since it has been 50 minutes, I guess he forgot about me. I hate it when people forget about me. I had a plumber at the house on Wednesday taking a look at a job I needed done and 48 hours later, I still have no quote from him. I hate it when people say they will do something for you and then neglect to follow through on it. No doubt I will call all these guys next week and remind them that I am waiting for something from them and they might actually GET some of my hard-earned money if they only took the time to give me quotes and pay a visit and do a little bit of work. But these are only tradesmen and I am rather easy-going and willing to give them another chance but if they continue to be rather unreliable, I will just call someone else until I find a person who exhibits a bit more drive and dependability.
You can’t do the same with your friends. I could give you a big long lecture on how one must be true to their word, exhibit faithfulness in friendship, be reliable and consistently available for those you value, and be willing to invest in people even at the personal cost sometimes. And I have given these lectures a lot in my mind, in fact, I have a whole series of them and could go on a lecture tour if only any other small minds would be interested in hearing my rants about how people need to shape up and stop disappointing me. This past week I was disappointed by someone again. Sigh, it seems to happen over and over again. And I found myself reacting rather badly – I guess there is just so much one can take before you go into a defensive stance and start rejecting people before they have the chance to serve that distasteful dish to you first. This defensive judgemental attitude was not one I wanted to keep around for it was bound to get worse and repeat itself in an endless cycle turning into bitterness unless I changed my thinking, so I asked God for help and it came in the form of some advice from my husband.
1. Forgive. Forgive. Forgive. And then forgive again. Seventy times seven. Every time someone disappoints you, forgive them. Totally. Don’t make that little black mark beside their name that warns you, “better watch out, these people have hurt you before, they might do it again, so keep your guard up.” Blot every mark out, in fact, throw the book away and stop keeping track, because that’s the nature of the forgiveness you have received from Jesus. Forgiveness means you don’t close your heart to people.
2. The second piece of advice my husband gave me was to lay down all my expectations. Ugh, that hit me between the eyes. How could I do that? You have to be able to expect a certain amount of decency and responsibility from people, no? The world would be chaos without it. But God convicted me that my husband was right, I had no right to place my standards of behaviour on anyone else. These expectations were in fact burdens that I heaped on people, and when they dropped the proverbial ball, or did not shoulder the full load, I extracted a price from them: their approval rating went down in my book and I shunned them from some area of my life. How unmerciful of me, how utterly legalistic and self-righteous and arbitrary is this system I have devised for doling out my friendship.
I was listening to a teaching yesterday about the life of Abraham and his friendship with God. Now Abraham did a lot of things wrong – he had a habit of partially obeying God, of lying to protect himself, of being insecure and hesitant in his faith, of manipulating circumstances to try to get what he wanted. But one thing kept getting stronger and stronger – his friendship with God. He brought his complaints and his happinesses and his struggles and his silence to his best friend, the one who never started off the conversation by listing Abraham’s shortcomings, but instead, told him all the good things that he wanted to see happen in his life.
Friends forgive shortcomings. Friends do things for each other to help them get where they are supposed to go. Friends don’t walk away when the road gets bumpy. Friends don’t give you the silent treatment. Friends don’t expect you to do certain things for them, they just expect you to be there, to be yourself, and to extend the same invitation to them. Anything requiring more than that is no longer a friendship; it is a contract, a job, a service, a project. And I don’t like to be treated like a project, so I’ll have to work on not treating other people that way as well.
Friendship. Relationship. Communication. Love. Acceptance. Forgiveness. Mercy. Grace. Help me, God. I don’t have a big reservoir of these things in my life.
The air conditioner man did show up - 2 hours late - but he showed up. Unfortunately, I was not home because of an appointment, but he left a message for me to call him and I will. Everyone needs a second chance.