However, I didn't just sit and brood over those feelings... I took them to church and decided to wrestle them through with God. When I got to church I was greeted by this little lady:
A bedraggled spaniel who had somehow gone off on a misadventure after escaping her owner. She had clearly been through the River Alne several times... not to mention several hedges backwards. It was a seemingly random encounter... but I later remembered that I had felt a similar way just over a year ago... and I had written the following "parable" in a blog:
Once there was a dog who liked to play fetch. He would often go up to the children in the churchyard with sticks or balls. All he wanted was for them to throw something out for him to chase after, to show a little friendship and affection... yet all the boys and girls would ever do is ignore him, shove him away or abuse him by beating him with the sticks he had brought... all this merely because they either didn't want him around or just didn't understand what he was really about. Yet despite his bruises the dog never gave up hope that he would be accepted for who he was.
I thought it was at the very least interesting that God should cause me to have an encounter in the "real world" that would remind me of that.
Anyway, this morning's reading was a real challenge for me:
"One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched... ...When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: "When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, 'Give this man your seat.' Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, 'Friend, move up to a better place.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.""
Luke 14:1, 7-14
It wasn't easy for me to hear that... especially the second bit, given the way I've been feeling over the last couple of days. However, I believe I understood the point God was making - it was totally in line with what he was saying to me the other week... I think we were just "reading the next chapter".
I can't put my friendships on such a level that they come between me and God. Now you might think that is harsh but I think God is just helping me address an imbalance caused from how I used to live my life. Until my late teens, I shut myself away from others by letting them think I was a different person to the real me. It was very important for me to keep people at a distance - I wanted to be liked, but not loved. I created an elaborate labyrinth of "Excalibur tests" for people to negotiate if they were truly to be worthy of knowing me.
You might think that was pomposity at it's worst...but actually it was down to my insecurities.
Of course I soon learned the error of my ways... when people weren't interested in knowing me on a more intimate level... because they thought I was just a random likable idiot who just goofed around a lot. People saw me more as a pet than a person I reckon... and since those times I've devoted a lot of energy into trying to prove their misconceptions wrong... probably too much energy.
So, I feel that God was pulling me up on that, reminding me that even if the people I care about aren't always going to be there for me... He will always be there for me. Spurred on by this, I decided to take it up in prayer with a couple of other people.
I am ever so grateful for that... because my strengths were listed in prayer through others and reaffirmed for me in my heart by God... and though I did not ask for it, it was prayed that people would actually realise my genuine value both as a Christian and a human being. I felt a lot more at peace... and when I got home, I realised that a couple of minor things - straws that broke the camel;s back... had been answered.
So I think I can draw a line under this particular episode...but I hope I have provoked people to value their friendships - past and present... and to not take them for granted.
One thing I have to be watchful of though is how I seem to be under constant fire from different angles. It seems every fortnight I've had some great big boulder to wrestle with... it's just encouraging that for once, I seem to have taken them to the right source in the first instance...not as a last resort.
If anything in your life is causing you to wrestle... I pray that God grants you the wisdom to take it up with him.
PS... please pray for a friend of mine who I have not heard from in about a week, the last I heard... she was feeling very depressed and I am growing concerned. Though I only know her through the Internet I am considering calling her up.