this is how we do it

TEN Years. A whole decade. That really feels like something.

Seemed like a good time for reflection. We sat together and thought and talked, my man and I. What’s been our best? What are we looking forward to in our next ten?

It was super hard to narrow down one specific moment or event that we thought was our very best. We both agreed that our best thing wasn’t a thing at all. The favorite part for both of us has been that feeling we have that we’ve just always been. There’s kind of an air of timelessness to our thing, a bit hard to describe. Like we just got together and we’ve always been together all at once. Crazy and cool.

Do we have the perfect marriage? I would definitely say so.

As long as you define “perfect marriage” like this:

perfect marriage

We recounted the unfolding of the last ten years of not giving up on each other. Not when an emotional affair was confessed. Not when our personal sin junk was trying to take us down. Not when we were both working overtime to pay off over $100K.  Not when our families gave us zero support in any of our endeavors. Not when the whole pretty picture of a marriage and family started melting into something completely foreign. Not when our son was lying in ICU from a drug overdose. Never. Not ever. Not that we might not have thought about it, because sometimes it just seems a whole heck of a lot easier to give up. But we both decided to stick it out. Fighting back to back. In it together.

Sometimes people ask us how we do it. I guess just they’re asking how we do all this life together and still seem to enjoy each other so much.

I’d like to say it just kind of happens, but that’s just not true, friends.  It takes work. A lot of it. It’s a constant contest to out-love each other. To out-nice each other. To serve one another in love, when we feel like it and when we just plain don’t.

We talk a lot. About silly things, wondering things, deep things. We ask each other questions. We silently study each other, figuring out what the other loves and keeping that information tucked away to use in an onslaught of awesomeness at a later time. We try to fight fair when it happens. We spend lots of time together but also purposely spend time apart. We keep things hot. We have great friends who love us and whom we love greatly. We serve others together. Most of all, we love God together, however imperfectly.

This is how we do it. And this is the stuff we will keep doing for ten more years, then another ten, and hopefully ten more after that. Whatever we do, we will do it together, wrapped up in a cord made of three strands, not just two.

We will keep trying to out-love each other, and mess up a lot while we attempt it, of course. Here’s to our first ten years, and to every moment afterward.

rings

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” -Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

“Many waters cannot quench love, nor can rivers drown it. If a man tried to buy love with all his wealth, his offer would be utterly scorned.” -Song of Solomon 8:7

 

opposites unite

Opposites attract. Everyone knows that old adage, and many times it rings true in our lives. I think it’s especially true when it comes to couples. I find it completely awesome how many couples could not be more opposite in personality, preferences, gifts, and talents, yet they enjoy a lovely balance in their relationships. It’s definitely the case in my marriage. I am a flighty extrovert, while my man is a sober-minded introvert. I process verbally. He processes silently. I’m all city-girl, he could live on the side of a mountain forever. It’s a beautiful paradox, but in certain areas, it makes things a bit complicated.

For example, serving others is a central part of our life as followers of Christ. But since we’re wired so differently, one of the things that my husband and I have always found difficult is exactly where and how to serve others together.  He prefers practical, behind-the-scenes ways of helping folks. He wants a task to accomplish on behalf of someone to meet a need they have. I prefer to get all up in the mix with the people… seeing their faces, hearing their stories, feeling their emotions, making a connection so they know they’re important. That’s what thrills my heart.

Scripture reminds us of the fact that we’re all wired so beautifully different on purpose.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. -1 Corinthians 12:4-6

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. -1 Corinthians 12:12

Over the years Todd and I have served others together in various ways, but they have undoubtedly been more slanted toward one of our worlds than the other. We’ve just made the decision to bend toward each others’ direction in order to be able to serve together. And while all of those things have been good, we hadn’t quite found that thing, that one cause that we both would passionately jump behind and could feel like we’re both in the right place with. Something that serves the poor, the downtrodden, the desperate heart. Something that allows both of us to use our very different gifts to show God’s love to people in practical and personal ways. Something that we’d both be excited about and be able to dig into with fervor, working in sync to accomplish one goal.

We’ve been glad to step into each other’s world from time to time just to be able to serve together, and many times we’ve simply served folks apart from one another in our own ways in different directions, and those things have been good too. And we will probably always have that to some extent. But we’ve had many conversations over the years about what our “one thing” might be and we kept dreaming that someday we just might find it.

Then the other night, it happened. We were having a conversation about human trafficking, as he had just returned from a men’s event centered on the subject. He was giving me the run-down of the evening, then he said it. It was unexpected, and it made my heart skip a beat.

“I think this is our one thing.”

Whoa. Say again??? I was all “really!?” and “seriously!?”  like a kid reacting to her parents telling her they were going on a trip to Disney World.

We went on to have this amazing talk about how fighting human trafficking is all about serving the underdog… people who have been used and abused to the worst extent, shunned and misunderstood by society instead of getting the true help they’ve needed. Both of our hearts go out to them in every way. Both of our hearts twist up in anger at the injustice of one human being viewing another as property and a commodity to be sold. We talked about our skill sets and gifts and how they could mesh to drum up awareness and resources to combat the problem, and how it would be awesome to go on outreach together to let people know that they are loved and there’s a way out. There are many ways to help that require lots of the things we’re each good at doing. There are tasks to be accomplished and people to encourage. It’s a perfect fit for both of us.

It was music to my ears hearing him say that the thing that I’ve become so passionate about and that he has supported so selflessly over the past few years, is now becoming our thing.

I am so, so thankful for the ways that God has worked in both of us in the last decade. He never ceases to amaze me by doing the impossible, like placing his love into the hearts of a selfish woman and a cynical man so they can work together to help bring freedom to more of the people He loves. I can’t ask for anything more lovely.

Soapbox for ladies: the double-standard

My lady friends…Something’s been bugging me over the past week or so, and I feel the need to climb up on my soap box for a few minutes. Like many things that are said from the soap box, it’s probably going to tweak some people off. But it wouldn’t be the first time, and I’m pretty darn sure it won’t be the last either. So here goes…(you’ve been warned.)

So, there’s this movie out called Magic Mike. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s completely awesome. Why? Because apparently it gives us ladies complete free license to dust off the ol’ “double-standard” and put it straight to work.

Women, I need you to think back: When was the last time your husband called up his buddies and chuckled on the phone about the upcoming new release all about strippers? Did he mark the calendar with the “now in theaters” date? Did they post on Facebook how they couldn’t wait to get home from work so they could head out on a Friday night and watch Channing Demi bare all he she had? Were you super excited for him when his buddy picked him up to have a “guys night” out at the movies together? Did he even arrange for a sitter (after all that helps take away the sting a little) so you could do whatever you wanted while he and his friends from work or church went to the theater early to get a good seat? I mean, you probably didn’t want them to have to strain their eyes to see every single square inch of those barely-clothed actresses’ bodies, right?   When he got home, did he tell you all about all the funny scenes with all those hot, nearly-naked women he’d seen on the screen that night?!

No??? Hmmmmm. Why not?

Because you’d freakin’ go ballistic, that’s why! And as a woman who 1) Loves Jesus and 2) Loves your husband (who also loves Jesus)  you’d have every right to be upset. You should expect more than for your husband to choose to spend his evening with a bunch of other guys feeding their eyes in a way that doesn’t need fed. It would make you feel like crap if your husband advertised to the entire world that he was going spend two hours staring at strippers, whether it was on the big screen or in a dingy downtown club. So, then…why are some of y’all ladies doing that same exact thing? I believe we just need to take a minute and think about the ways we want to be respected by our husbands, and that we in turn respect them in the same ways. And if we’re teaching our kids not to look at other people as objects to be gawked over, then we need to make sure we’re setting that example. Can I get a witness?

I’m not a prude. Far from it. I haven’t seen the movie and I won’t be seeing it. I’ve read the plot. Not much to it. (kinda helps my point here.) I’m also not trying to say that anyone is a horrible, terrible person for watching this movie. But it saddens me that somehow we women have been persuaded to think we have or “deserve” a license to do/say/watch/participate in things that we know darn well would send us into a tizz if our men did it.

In a world where we’re asking men to stop acting like dogs and to step up and be real men, we can’t very well start becoming the dogs ourselves, can we?  Just a thought.

Soapbox transmission ends.

 

For My Sista-Wives…

Every 4th Thursday, a group of my girl friends and I get together for dinner. It might be out at a local restaurant or just bringing a dish to share with each other at one of our homes. No kids, no dudes, just us girls.

There are about 8 of us (for now) and we don’t all necessarily make it every time, since we’re all juggling the normal home/work/husband/kids/and/or bazillion other various responsibilities on our to-do list at any given time. But about once a month, these gals and I (known within our group as simply The Divas) carve out a little bit of girl time. And even though it’s difficult to fit the date in sometimes, I know that I am so much better for it. I love these girls.

No, wait… you’re not hearing me… I said I LOVE them.

Like seriously love them to pieces.

Like I-can’t-believe-I’m-even-lucky-enough-to-have-even-one-of-these-amazing-women-in-my-life-let-alone-all-of-them kind of love.

I been thinking that since I’ve pretty much gone off the blogging grid for the past few months, (sorry people!) I should probably write my “comeback post” about something incredible. Something super awesome that will captivate every reader. Something flippity-darn superb.

So that’s what I’m doing. I’m going to tell you a bit about these everyday, magnificent superwomen and pray they don’t ask me for that big of a cut of the royalties when this little description of their awesomeness inspires a Lifetime movie. (Seriously girls… Would I even allow Lifetime to exploit your awesomeness like that!?)

Anywhooo…I want to take a moment to share just a few reasons why these women are so important to me. The things you’ll read below are just a few drops in the bucket. Without them I’d be less of a person than I am today. Learn from these beauties. Fo’ real.

These ladies are givers. They pray for me (and for each other) anytime we need it, and especially when one of us thinks we don’t. They cook meals for people who aren’t well, or for other women who just had babies. They willingly give out even more of their already stretched-thin time to help someone else who is in need. They are each connected in unique ways to amazing causes that better the lives of children, empower women and families, fight cancer, bring clean water to people who don’t have it, etc.. etc.. And I am sure my tired, foggy brain is leaving something very cool off that list. Seeing these women, who are in many ways more busy than I am, give of themselves in all of their various ways and never ask for anything in return…I’m so inspired. I’m a more generous person because of these women.

These women are devoted wives. They regularly praise their husbands. Vehemently. Loudly. Publicly. Often. They constantly pray for their men, who they know fight everyday battles both on the outside and the inside. When everything around them says: don’t even bother relying on a man; fight for what you deserve; you better get busy with controlling everything because Laaawwwd knows there ain’t no man who can do anything right these days… Even with all that nonsense floating around them, they are the first to speak up to encourage their husbands and let them know they are loved, appreciated, and respected. With their words and with their actions, they encourage the rest of us to do the same. I’m a better wife because of these women.

These girls are some amazing mommas. They have all kinds of wild adventures raising their wildly different children! They parent with very healthy boundaries and loving temperaments, but never, ever by taking themselves too seriously. They respect their kids as individuals, wanting what is best for them and knowing that it naturally lines up with what God says is best, not whatever is on TV that night. They understand that the upbringing of their children has earthly impact and eternal value. These women have blessed me by recognizing that motherhood comes in all shapes and sizes and colors. They’ve allowed me to share my heart as a mother, no matter how unconventional. I am a better mother (and teacher-momma!) because of these women.

These women are just the right mix of freakin’ hilarious and reflective. There are few people on earth that can get me to nearly squirt soda out of my nose or almost pee my pants because of the crazy stuff they say…Unless you count these ladies! They all know how to laugh at the right time and cry at the right time and tell you to get a grip at the right time. We laugh together on a regular basis. We’ve wept together when we’ve needed to. We’ve questioned and doubted and been confused together at times. We’ve thought about the what if’s and the why’s and the how’s of all the things we see in front of us that we just know God’s got, hands-down, even when they don’t make sense to us. Then 5 seconds later we’re cracking up about the legendary antics of a certain infamous clerk (who works at a certain store whose name I shall not disclose here. I will only say that its name rhymes with “Tall-Fart.”) That’s what life is really like…different from every moment to the next. I am a more real person because of these women.

So, my Divas…if you’re reading this, I want you to know how thankful I am to have each of you in my life. I have no idea how I have become so utterly blessed. I need you to know that I wouldn’t be the same without the influence you have on my life. I am so inspired by the way you love Jesus and how He shows up through you all the time, even when you think you’re not so hot. I have come to realize that you are all part of the repayment that God promised me years ago, and you were worth the wait.

Thank you so much for being my friends and sisters (aka sista-wives! HA!!) I love you. Now get outta here and get back to being awesome.

Moments, Day 24: I Just Don’t Believe That…

Recently we were talking with a couple who is engaged and wanting some help smoothing out some relationship bumps before tying the knot. They are both Christians and want to start their marriage out with God at the center. They’ve also been living together for quite some time.

So in addition to the normal how-to-have-a-rockin’-marriage advice, we had to address that one teensy little detail about them shacking up. So…we suggested that if there was no way that they could physically live at separate addresses, they should at least transition to two different bedrooms and commit to abstain from all physical intimacy until they were married.

That didn’t go over so well. Even though these folks said they wanted to put God first in their marriage, they went on to tell us that they “just didn’t believe in that” and even though the bible said that they should be waiting on that part of their relationship, they felt that it wasn’t something they could change.

We were confused.

Yes, it’s tough. Especially if you’ve been used to doing something a certain way and then you have to do it a different way, maybe even do something (or do without something) that makes the overall dynamic of your life look and feel very different. But if you want to line up with the abundant life that God has already put in place for you, there are always going to be some things that have to change.

As I thought about this, I came to the conclusion that there’s a whole lot more going on than just a couple of young horny folks who say they can’t control themselves. That’s nothing new in this world. The problem here was that they had tried to justify their actions by re-stating their “belief system” to allow for the provision of whatever they want in that particular arena. It’s the old “I believe in God, but…” argument.

But what’s really going on here is that this young man and woman (and all of us from time to time) have a wrong view of God. Instead of understanding that He is all-knowing, perfectly-loving, and vastly generous, and therefore would only give us those things that are the very best for us, we decide to believe that there’s something really awesome out there that God is just trying to keep us from. He never lets us have any fun, dang it. When it comes right down to it, it’s a trust issue.

The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”

 2 “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. 3“It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”

 4 “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. 5God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”

 6 The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it.

Just like our sister Eve, we’ve been tricked into feeling like we can’t trust God for the very best. She and Adam had everything. EVERYTHING. Their life literally was perfection, and they enjoyed the constant intimate connection with God that we all long for today. It was already there for them. God had made everything and had given them everything for their pleasure. There was one thing He asked them to avoid. That’s it. Just one thing. What did the Deceiver focus on? That one thing. He actually twisted God’s words into making it sound like a totally different situation. He made it sound like God was mean, and that He was trying to keep something from us.  God was trying to keep us from something, alright, but it wasn’t something good. It was something destructive. It was the knowledge and experience of sin in our lives.

Now we know a whole lot about that, don’t we? Sin is a regular part of our everyday lives that we have to work against. And we have that distrusting view of God…like He’s some grumpy old grandpa who is irritated at the slightest thought of us having any fun. But when you’ve reached that point of having a right view of God’s incredible love for you, you’ll realize that He really does know the plans He has for you, and that in asking for our obedience,  He is not keeping something good from us, but rather keeping the best of the best for us.

How about you? When was a time in your life that you sacrificed the best in your life for something that you just thought was good? Or did you have the opportunity to put aside something that seemed good at the time in order to wait for God’s very best?

Moments, Day 22: Cool Convergence

Just a SUPER quick post to mention how insanely cool I think God is! He takes such  tiny little things and makes them converge in a way that SO tells me He wants to show me something and have me really get it. I love when He does that stuff. CA-Razy. Here’s what I’m talkin about:

Happy Report: The blog that I mentioned in yesterday’s post about the whole Board-of-Directors thing has been found!! Now I can properly link to the post I was talking about so you can read this writer’s brilliance for yourself. Here’s the original post, over at Simple Mom. I feel much better being able to give credit where credit is due! It was driving me crazy not to be able to link you back there. Thanks to Simple Mom for the amazing idea of the Board of Directors. That was ALL her… I love it!

Along that same line…we had home group the other night and my hunky husband decided to share one of his devos from this week… it was about Exodus 17 where Israel is battling the Amalekites. Moses stood on a hill and held out the staff of God,  which showed God’s presence among His people. As long as Moses did this, they were victorious. But after a while Moses’s arms got tired, and they began to lower. So what happened??

  12 Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. 13 As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle.

How awesome that Moses had such good friends/family that he could count on them to hold up his arms when he got weak! Much more on this another time…but for now I just want to reiterate that we are made for relationships…Moses  had his peeps, and we certainly need ours to hold up our arms when we need a boost. Victory will be the result.

Lastly, I read a verse of the day that I read as a regular part of my bible time, and guess what it was??

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. -Galatians 6:2

AWE-SOME. Definitely more to come on this and maybe even the whole book of Galatians…we’ll see how that all lines up.

Much love to you!

PS: 60 days until India!

Moments, Day 21: Board of Directors.

I am just kicking myself for not paying better attention to where I’m going when I read a blog that I linked through from a blog I found, by clicking through some other blog I love to read. Usually it’s no biggie, because eventually I’ll find it again. Unless of course I’m looking for it specifically so I can link back to it when I refer to it in one of my posts. Such is the case today.

So I read this awesome post yesterday, which I believe was titled “Board of Directors” (I already googled it, didn’t find what I was looking for.) A writer/speaker was talking about how she met for lunch with a group of lady friends who, along with her, would be speaking at an upcoming women’s conference. During their lunch conversation they got to talking about how their lives were super busy with all the writing, speaking, traveling, and general living (you know, like raising kids and being married and cooking and cleaning and worshiping God and stuff) they had to fit into that same 24 hours that we all get. One of them (I think it was the author) said how she was kind of starting to get the feeling that all the opportunities that her writing had brought her (traveling to speak, etc..) was actually starting to hinder those other important areas of her life. She seemed to give off the feeling that she was needing to say “no” to some stuff in order to keep her priorities in check.

So the group of ladies started talking about how they needed a personal board of directors to help them making important decisions like which book deals to take and which speaking engagements to accept or decline. Some folks who knew enough and cared enough about each of them to say the hardest word that many of us ever have to say…no. That way, those good-but-just-short-of-the-best items never make their way onto their calendars or to-do lists for them to fret over. Yep, it sure would be nice to have a Board of Directors that you could take that stuff to in order to help you make important decisions.

Then, the author shared, the ladies realized that they didn’t have to be the CEO of some multi-gazillion-dollar corporation…they could have a board of directors, right there in the middle of their crazy, everyday lives. In fact, they realized that in being close friends who cared about one another and shared some of the same life aspects, they could be each other’s board of directors. What a cool thought!

I was thinking that I certainly do have a wonderful group of close friends that I could call on to be my Board of Directors. As a  matter of fact, they kind of already are and they may not even know it. I suppose they were chosen for the task just by being so important to me. I naturally run decisions by them and talk about my fears and screw-ups and share the cool parts of my day-to-day operation. They give opinions, share stories, and give feedback (without ever even getting paid for it!) It was cool to think that I already have that Board of Directors in place in my life.

I bet if we all thought about it for a moment, most of us probably already have a Board. Maybe you have a dozen members on yours. Maybe it’s only one member for the time being. Think. Really think about it. If you cannot even think of one person that you have this type of relationship with, then may I lovingly challenge you to ask yourself…why not? Is there something keeping you from making these friendships? Or do you have several friends but something has just kept you from growing close enough to anyone to feel comfortable sharing your life’s details with? Whatever the situation, ask God to reveal to you the reason behind your lack of friend-relationships. He made you for relationship, which is the primary way that we give and receive His love. In relationships with friends, we give and receive phileo  love, which is the Greek word for the fondness that we feel toward someone who we simply enjoy being around, someone we are kindred spirits with, and who energizes us with their presence.  Think of Philadelphia…the city of brotherly love.

Who are you getting your phileo from these days? Who is helping you make the big decisions? Who is syncing your calendar and keeping it prioritized in the right way?

Are You SURE You Want My Advice?

If there’s one piece of scripture I know well, it would be Jesus’s words in Matthew 18:15-17:

“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.”

My husband always says that I have a sign on my forehead that is invisible to me, but that is apparently a bright neon sign to everyone else, and it says “Free Counselor.” We joke about this because throughout my whole life, even when I was fairly young, people would just for some reason pour out their problems to me. They would tell me things about themselves that were very personal even if I had only known them for a short time. Many times they would ask my advice about a situation which almost always seemed to have something to do with a relationship problem they were having. This still happens on a regular basis today.

Early on in my life, I used to get annoyed by this, thinking why is this person telling me all this stuff? How am I supposed to know what to do? Since I’ve become a follower of Christ, I’ve come to understand and appreciate that this is part of my distinct make-up…I’ve learned that my primary spiritual gift seems to be exhortation, better known as the gift of encouragement. Now this is nothing for me to boast about, and in fact I used to be very uncomfortable with any talk of my spiritual gifts simply because it sounded a little snotty to me… like I’m bragging about something I’ve acquired. But I’m much more comfortable with my own identity in Christ these days, and I’ve come to really believe how God defines us through His apostle Paul:

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” -Ephesians 2:10

I believe what God says about who I am. I know that He created me, and He made me to do good works, which He’s already prepared for me to do. It’s like I have my own personal “to-do” list written by the Creator of the universe, and no one else can check those things off except for me. But in order for me to accomplish this, I must live my life in a way that aligns with the things God says about me and the ways He’s shown me to live. Part of that means accepting, embracing and using my spiritual gifts in the way He wants me to. So, I do what I can to learn His ways of how to encourage others, not because it’s fun (although sometimes it can be!) but because this is part of my DNA.

So, back to Matthew 18. What does this have to do with any of this encouragement stuff? Well, it’s very simple. Humans are made in and for relationships. When a relationship is broken, whether it’s because of something we have done, something another person has done, or just because of strange circumstances, our heart hurts. Our deepest desire is to have that relationship restored. And there’s great news…God has told us many things in His word on how to make that happen. The passage in Matthew 18:15-17 tells us how to deal with a brother or sister in Christ who has sinned. Many times this may be against us directly, other times it may be that we’ve noticed a sin pattern growing in their lives that is going unchecked. Either way, there is a 3-step process involved in confronting them, and no… it doesn’t involve airing their dirty laundry on Facebook. Many times friends or acquaintances will come to me asking advice with this exact kind of situation. Someone has done something to them that is offensive. Someone has lied to them and they’ve found out. Their spouse is doing something inappropriate. My advice to them will always be exactly the same. I wouldn’t be encouraging them properly by doing anything but going back to God’s word.

Look back at the first part of that passage in Matthew 18 with me: “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.” Did you see that? Go privately to that person. Is that what we usually do? I don’t know about you, but when someone offends me, the first thing I want to do is call up another person who will sympathize with my sense of injustice and complain about it. For hours. But that is SO WRONG. No one should hear about the problem until you have addressed it with the person committing the offense. No one. Not your mom, your best friend, your sister, even your spouse. Go PRIVATELY to that person and talk to them. Is that so you can berate them about their sin and yell at them for how terrible they’ve been treating them? No. Look at the rest of that first step: “If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.” See it? The goal is to win that person back. To restore that relationship back to where it was. Another translation says “…you have your brother back again.” Isn’t that awesome? The goal is to point out the offense so that the person may be reconciled, not only to you, but to God. Because if we recognize our sin and confess it, the bible tells us that “he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) That’s great news! So by obeying this first step in the process, we could actually win over our brother or sister, and not only allow our relationship to be restored, but also to clear a pathway for them to confess the sin and be reconciled to God, which is of course the most important thing. If that doesn’t work, and the person refuses to recognize the sin or doesn’t take you seriously, then the next step is to confide in another trusted brother or sister (one or two others–not the entire universe!) and have them go with you to the person again. Perhaps once the offender sees that other people know of the situation and agree that there is a problem, this will help them see the light and lead to reconciliation. If the person still will not listen to reason, then it may be time to “take them before the church.” Now there are different beliefs about this, but I think this would mean talking to a pastor or elder of the church to explain the situation and likely even setting up a meeting between you, the offender, and a church leader to discuss the situation all together. Since my husband is an elder in our church, there have been occasions when I have been involved in these conversations at that level. Yes, they are uncomfortable. Yes, they can get frustrating for all parties involved. But I always go back to the fact that if I believe one part of God’s word, such as what He says about me being His workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works that He’s prepared for me to do, then I have to also believe His word when He tells me how to deal with situations in my life, even if the process is uncomfortable. I can’t just pick and choose the warm-fuzzy-feeling stuff that Jesus tells us and not also accept His more difficult teachings.

So, if you’re one of those folks who can mysteriously see that invisible sign on my forehead that says “Free Counselor,” or you just happen to bring it up in conversation, my response to you will be the same when you ask my advice on how to deal with someone who’s sinned or hurt you. I will go back to what Jesus said to do in Matthew 18. I will tell you to do something that you might feel is uncomfortable. I won’t care if you feel uncomfortable because you have to do the things Jesus tells us to do if you are one of His followers…no ifs, ands, or buts. I will likely tell you to read through that passage several times. I might even suggest you read through it in several translations until you’re sure you have a full understanding of what it means. I will tell you to follow the steps in order. I will tell you if you’ve skipped a step. I will tell you to go back to the beginning if you’ve skipped a step. I’ll ask you not to speak to me (or anyone else) again about it until you’ve at least done step #1. You might take me off your Christmas list because I didn’t give you the answer or easy fix you wanted. And I will not enjoy that because I truly do love presents. But even so, I can’t direct you with poor advice. With non-biblical advice. With advice that will lead you into destroying a relationship rather than restoring it. I will tell you that if you refuse to follow these steps to deal with the situation, you are in yourself committing a sin (refusing to do what God says) and making things worse. But I will also pray for you and for the relationship you’re trying to restore.

If you ever come to me to ask my advice about how to deal with someone who has sinned or hurt you, and I don’t lead you to Matthew 18… you do have my permission to call me out on it. Please. You’re not doing me any favors if you don’t.