Relationships that look like Jesus

I remember visiting a church in my elementary years, and after the pastor read John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down his life for his friends.”, he said “It sounds extreme, doesn’t it?”. I looked around rather confusedly at the people surrounding me and then down at my Bible, and felt so out of place because it actually sounded perfectly sane to me.
It’s how I’d always loved: all in, no hold back, for forever.

I’d step in front of a bus for anyone I know. I’d feel bad for all the hospital bills my family would inevitably pay (and uh, the sadness), but that was what love did. Love….LOVED.

Love was all of 1 Corinthians 13, and also stepping in front of a bus for your people.

Now before you call my parents…..read the rest of the article. I’m quite safe, really. 

Relationships deeply matter

When I was in my late teens/early twenties, I babysat a lot for one of my best friends who was terribly sick during her pregnancies. I’d come over (invited & occasionally uninvited) and clean her kitchen and fold her laundry and play with her sweet babies.

She would pay me for babysitting, but the hidden reward was far greater …. there would be hours upon hours of conversation. I remember vividly tearful days sitting curled up on her couch (probably eating ice cream or chocolate pie) and pouring out my heart with all the “my world is ending” words I probably had.

She would listen and speak truth to me. She didn’t always say the things I wanted to hear, and sometimes we interrupted the conversation to have a toddler dance party, but she always always always made me feel wanted. We haven’t deeply talked in ages (so much work! so much school! so little sleep!), but when I hugged her on Sunday, I told her I missed her, and she said she’d missed me too.

In that one hug …. I could remember the years of friendship, kindness and care.
In that one hug …. I felt so loved and seen, remembered and valued.

She shaped my early adult years of a true, deep, lasting friendship.

And so today I wanted to write to you about relationships that heal.

Not the ones that break and then heal….we will save that for another time.
But relationships that heal unrelated pain….that in one swift moment, heal the hurt.

 The unexpected gifts of relationships

I only have to take a quick scroll through my Instagram or photos to make me smile at the dear faces that fill them. I will be the first to tell you I’ve been blessed with some of the best friends on the face of the earth. It’s no wonder I have a desire to love wide and long and go deep in relationships when I’ve received so so so much love myself.

When I was younger I wondered how people could say “She/He would drop anything/do anything for me.”, and then when life came crashing to pieces, I figured out very quickly how my people would do exactly that.

They pulled my family in to lasting friendships. Family dinners. Endless meals when we lost our grandparents. Late night Emergency Doctor/Nursing calls. Dog-sitting. Traveling to attend my sister’s wedding from out of state/out of the country. Hosting strangers in their homes. Prayers upon prayers whenever we asked or needed it. Gifts and cards arriving unexpectedly at our doorstep. Simple invitations to go out together, anywhere, just to be with us. Showing up with flowers and hugs and their kids to make us laugh.

I’ve had friendships show up out of nowhere in some of the saddest times of my life and wondered why on earth they wanted to be friends with little ole dramatic me….but they pulled me right in and loved me deeply and continue to be some of the dearest to me.

C.H. Spurgeon hits the nail on the head when he said this: “Friendship is one of the sweetest joys in life. Many might have failed beneath the bitterness of their trial had they not found a friend.” I’ve survived many sad days because of the joyful and incredible ministering of close friends. My life is infinitely better because they are in my life. Being together means real, deep conversations, and knowing they won’t give up on me.

They’ve sat with us in grief, and they’ve made us cry with laughter.

They know us. They love us. It’s been one of the biggest gifts in my life. It has driven me to see how our communities of friends reach past all the circumstances to be Jesus to us. 

Loving Well and Denying Fear

Just last week I received news that made me want to throw up and set me spinning into a very bad week. The very same day, I got the sweetest message from a friend who so kindly told me how the way I loved deeply inspired her to do the same.

She called me brave. 

I sat right down on the kitchen floor and cried. Being brave doesn’t make you feel brave.

I decided a long time ago I would do anything for my people to let them know they were loved. I definitely do not hold up to that to the highest mark that I could, but I try. Most days, I don’t feel brave (not even after a cup of coffee). Sometimes I don’t feel love.

But I refuse to let these short few days on this earth be anything less than being what Jesus calls us to be, and that isn’t the tepid, broken, shallow, fearful relationships the world calls love. It looks much more like sacrifice, more like courage, more like Jesus.

Real relationships say a hundred “I forgive you’s” and “I love you’s”. Real relationships pick up after months apart and remember to pray in the middle of the night for that one prayer request; they rejoice from afar and grieve losses from even farther. They do all this because we’re called to it. They do all this because we’ve been changed by it.

Real relationships heal hurt, love well, and deny fear, because we’re looking at Jesus. 

Real relationships survive on sacrificial love

Here’s the biggest secret the world doesn’t get about real love in relationships: it gives back more than you could ever know at the moment. Real love in relationships IS NOT temporary, only sticking around when it gets what it wants and then leaving. Real relationships don’t thrive on shallow love or rollercoaster feelings, they survive on sacrificial love.

We aren’t called to a worldly love; we are called to a deep, sacrificial love. We are called to more than the world can see in one lifetime, because love matters for Eternity.

We are called to choose meaning, choose honesty, pursue to strengthen our brothers and sisters God has placed in our lives, and yes, sometimes, it means leaving your heart on the threshing room floor and trusting that God sees how hard you tried.

Sacrificial love doesn’t mind driving 6 hours for a hug, because it meant the world to be there. Sacrificial love can turn a dark day into a day wreathed in smiles and peace. Sacrificial love often flows from the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart to move in a way that you’re scared to do. Sacrificial love doesn’t turn up empty, it always gives.

Sacrificial love doesn’t always look like grand gestures. It often looks like living life together. Simple voicemails. Encouraging messages. Rejoicing. Excursions simply wanting to “be with you” has moved my heart more than my friends could ever know.

Some days it’s having church friends over for dinner and ice cream. Some days it’s sitting with your friends in their sadness and not seeking to fix it. Some days it’s a really long hug. You know your people – learn their likes and loves, and take the time to show it!

By our love, the world sees Jesus. So: Reach out. Be there. Show up. Hug. Cry. Laugh. Cheer. Love hard. Value others. Reach across unnecessary lines and labels. Be Jesus. 

Jesus, the Friend Who Never Leaves

You will never know how much it means to you that Jesus will never leave until someone you love leaves you.

There is no One like Him, and never will be. The Faithful Friend Who left everything easy to bear your pain so there would be a peaceful morning and a shimmering Forever.

The Brother Who adopted you into an inheritance you didn’t deserve or expect, Who joyfully pulls you in, Who calls you “Brother/Sister” “Beloved”, Who longs for you to sit next to Him at the table, at the grand Wedding Feast. Who has promised never to fail you.

Every single page of the Bible speaks of the lengths that He will go to to tell His people how deeply He loves them, and how He will never ever let them go. The ultimate Friend who dropped everything to rescue you from the night. The King turned Servant.

It has been one of my deepest consolations this year that when “good” relationships fail and fall apart because of our broken world; Jesus is immune to that. Jesus is not human: Jesus will never break His promise to us, Jesus will always stay, will always love.

Jesus bore all the pain of those relationships in His agonizing hours upon the cross, and when He said “It is Finished”, He proclaimed victory over that agonizing, crushing pain of love lost. Victory over torn-apart families, severed marriages, and broken hearts.

The empty tomb shouts of a victory that we cannot see fully yet, but are promised. 

The pain will end, and we will joyfully rejoice and celebrate with all Who have been redeemed by the same love that covers us all. We will live fully healed in a world that will have no sin left to break hearts and relationships. We shall sing of the ways He has redeemed the pain and hurt.

We shall shine with the radiance of the One Who loves us so unbelievably well. We will rejoice in the relationship that healed all our sin, brokenness and agony in one Day.

Jesus, the Friend Who Never Leaves. Jesus, the One Who binds us together in love.

I choose deep relationships and sacrificial love because it’s how I know how to be Jesus. 

And it’s worth it.

{amazing image by Shannon Ashley Photography}

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