Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Relationships and Change are Hard

This has been an interesting few days. I've been mulling some thoughts around since Thursday or Friday night last week, but today, during a staff prayer time, it was broadened a bit, but not in the usual way. More like, um, broadened in my mind. Much of the same, but more. That doesn't make much sense, but there you have it.

So. Over the weekend I had conversations with several friends unexpectedly about deeper things. Things that we feel "weird" about, things we are struggling with, things that are making day-to-day life harder than we think it should be. It was a wide range of topics and ranged from our professional to personal lives, as well as our external to our internal lives. The outcome of each was that we would be committed to praying each other through this week. (Thank the good Lord for Christian friends.)

On to today: I don't go to the prayer time every week (though I often wish I could find the time), but some weeks I can tell I need extra time in prayer - not for myself, but for others, and for the fellowship of other believers. And since I'm still fairly new (less than a year, yet) at this job and in this city, these are people I see around (some more than others) but don't necessarily interact with much, and especially not outside of work projects. Today, we talked about navigating times of grief and knowing and trusting that God is still good. Because he is. He really is. It's too easy to lose track of that when you're hurting. Duh. (Yes, I'm typing that.)

Sometimes grief is due to loss of life (in one way or another) - death of a loved one, or even disaster in a city or country. There are SO MANY stories in the news these days about explosions, murders, sex trafficking, lack of clean water, starvation, orphaned children, and the list just keeps going on. But today what struck me was that sometimes the grief we experience is due to smaller things. Things like finances, or relationships, or loneliness, or an overly full task list.

When we see these things in light of the catastrophes around the world, we often push our "little" things away as they aren't really that big of a deal. I'm alive, I have clean water and plenty of food, I have not been sold to slavery of any kind, I have people to lean on, and I am not afraid for my life every moment of the day. But even when we try to put these things into perspective (which is important), we still come out hurting. And sometimes, we push it down well enough that later it erupts and is (or feels) even worse than before.

I don't have a solution, except this: to pray. Pray for one another. Pray honestly, pray often. If you don't know details, that's ok. Pray for the person. Pray for peace, for dependence on God. You can pray that for anyone - a Christian to remember to do so; an unbeliever to turn to him, maybe for the first time. If you do know more details, pray specifically! Boldly ask God for things. Don't forget to pray for yourself as well. It is easy to get hung up there, so always remember to pray for others, but it is important to lift yourself up as well. It builds relationship with him, which is how we really are able to get through. It also helps your relationships with those around you. When you pray for someone it changes your perspective about them. It doesn't fix issues magically, and it may not mean you're besties-for-life now. In fact, you may never talk to them again (see: forgiveness doesn't mean you have to reconcile the relationship to what it was previously). But it does make things better for both of you, even if one of you doesn't know it (yet?).

And... pray for those you don't agree with, for those you don't respect, for those you don't like. If they are in your sphere of influence or interaction, even a little bit, pray for them. Rather than just getting irritated or confused or frustrated, pray! It will take more than that, of course, and you may still have frustration or confusion; conversations will need to happen and solutions found - even if they aren't what everyone wants. But without prayer it becomes 'my way' vs. 'their way' and we pit ourselves against each other when, in the end, we're trying to reach the same goal. (This is often true even if we aren't all Christians - if we're working together, there's a reason, and it usually has some common purpose even if we understand that purpose differently.) So keep on praying!

One more thought and then I'll stop... each time I encounter grief of any kind, a change has occurred. Or many changes have. Even if it is good, and it isn't always, something has been lost. I have found that even when it was something I may have wanted to lose, the loss of it is still jarring to my internal system/thinking and an adjustment has to be made - I grieve what I knew. That idea of grief is fairly new in my working consciousness, and I struggle to not just dismiss it. "I wanted this, what's wrong with me," is often what I hear myself or others saying when good change has happened and they aren't doing well with it. Of course, this is true in unexpected change or changes you weren't entirely sure about as well.

Don't underestimate your struggle. Don't overestimate it either. It's tempting to go one way or the other. Don't diminish, but do keep perspective. Most importantly: do keep praying.

This post is much (MUCH) longer than I anticipated. The following verse is my current email signature on my personal emails. Every time I send an email I'm reminded. I have it posted by my desk at work as well. Romans 12:12NLT says, "Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying." It's the best advice there is. Our confident hope is in Jesus Christ. He has won, so we can rely on him, talk to him, and have patience and yes, even joy.