Saturday, December 19, 2009
Build The Hedge
Key Verse: "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has?" ---Job 1:10
Growing up in central Iowa, I have experienced my fair share of brutally cold winters. As a child, the cold was somehow minimized with the magic of snow, but as I grew older, I quickly understood the harshness of the fierce north wind. Memories of walking across the central campus of Iowa State University in the midst of an arctic blast make me shiver even now.
When I was twelve years old, my family moved into my Dad's childhood home. It is a simple farmhouse built with pride over 100 years and has been our family homestead for three generations. And since one wall of the house directly faces the north, our home was sometimes drafty mid-winter. While we didn't mind snuggling up under a warm, fuzzy blanket on a cold winter night, my Dad had the wisdom to build a hedge of pine trees that would grow quickly to shelter our home from the draft. Today, those trees effectively block the cold of winter, while also serving as a perfect place for my children, neices and nephew to play tag and hide-and-seek. Standing tall, they reach proudly to the sky and give our house a feeling of warmth on the coldest Iowa night.
Friendships are like a hedge in our lives. With love, friends stand with us and protect us from the harsh days of life that sometimes cause our hearts to grow cold. When storms rage around us and the winds of change threaten our security, our friendships act as a shield that blocks the penetrating chill of the world. As we walk through life, we grow and change. Likewise, our friendships often change as well. Godly friendships are vital in strengthening our walk with the LORD. And so we must carefully choose our friendships in order to build a sustainable hedge. After all, scripture reminds us that "A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." (Proverbs 18:24 NIV) The number of friends is insignificant to the quality of the bond.
I am grateful for the women in my life that stand before me and shelter me from life's storms. For me, a few Godly women who love me at my best and my worst serve as a hedge of truth, accountability and shared priorities in my life. Truly, they are blessings to me from God and they help me grow in my relationship with Christ and encourage me to be my best for Him. While some of these women are not geographically near, we remain spiritually close as I say "Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the LORD, saying, 'The LORD is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.' " (1 Samuel 20:42) And I imagine a day in heaven when we shall greet each other and fellowship for eternity in heaven.
No doubt, we all need friends. And yet, we are called to use discernment as we plant seeds of friendship and build our hedge. Furthermore, we must remember there are different friendships for varying purposes in God's plan for our lives. Some friendships are in fact only with us briefly. These relationships serve a purpose momentarily in life as we are brought together by circumstance. And yet, these relationships do not withstand the demands of everyday life. In time, they deteriorate and decay until they are only a remnant from our past. They endure only for a season and then they are gone. When these relationships are severed, it is best to "forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing." (Isaiah 43:18-19) Rather than missing a friend with whom we no longer connect, we look to God and allow Him to bring fresh new relationships into our midst. In a way, God trims our hedge in order to make it thrive and grow even more beautiful.
Then, there are those toxic "friendships" that poison our spirit. Rooted in worldly desires, ,gossip or malice, they act as a sort of toxin to our spirit and bring out the worst in our hearts. They are not friendship at all, but rather a worldly distraction sent to derail us in our walk with God. In such cases, we are warned, "Do not seek a treaty of friendship with them as long as you live." (Deuteronomy 23:6) Inevitably, we will begin to look, act, and sound like those with whom we spend the most time. And, we are cautioned that "anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God." (James 4:4) These relationships must be uprooted from our hedge in order for our spiritual lives to remain healthy.
True friendship is one of God's greatest gifts in the lives of His children. It is perhaps demonstrated most beautifully in the bond between Naomi and Ruth. These two women, though initially supportive of one another, shared a friendship so woven in faith that they became surrogate family. When given the choice to part ways, they remained intact as they resolved that "your people will be my people and your God my God." (Ruth 1:6) These friendships grow deep and are rooted in God's love. With trust and accountablity these relationships help us to establish Godly priorities as we look to grow in Him together. Such friendships are to be treasured, nurtured, and protected. Despite distance or time, these relationships grow. They protect. They shelter. They endure. They are "a hedge around me and my household" for which I am humbled and grateful. (Job 1:10)
In the winters of my life, my friendships have been a source of support and comfort that help me feel secure, accepted, and safe. Truly, I offer praise for each one of the dear women I call "my friend" and I appreciate the honesty and strength they bring into my life. They are my friends. They know who they are...and they are my hedge.
I praise you for the gift of friendship. I thank you for the relationships that were temporary but have helped me to grow and learn in a season since past. And I give you thanks for those friendships that endure the challenges of life and grow stronger each passing year. May your hand guide me as I choose my friendships wisely. Let the words shared between me and my friends be sweet as we bring you honor in our conversations. May our actions be like the hands of our Savior reaching into the lives of one another. Thank you God, for my sisters in Christ.