Words with Friends

Learning to speak the truth in love
By Leslee Stewart

One of my favorite ministers, Joe McGee, once said, “Some of the greatest joys in life are things people have said to us. Some of the worst things in life are things people have said to us. Some of the deepest regrets we have in life are things we’ve said.”

Words wield amazing power. They can bless or they can wound. And our relationships are often where we see this play out. Be it between a husband and wife, a parent and child, or friend to friend, often our words are no respecter of persons.

So how do you share the truth without hurting someone you love?

You must examine your own heart to be certain what you have to share is from a place of helping, not wounding.

Proverbs 27:6 says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” A friend has your best interests at heart, whereas, even when trying to show affection, an enemy doesn’t. The NIV Quest Study Bible comments on this verse: “These wounds are rebukes or criticism intended to correct. Even though they are painful, they are of more use than the flattery or insincerity of an enemy. Somebody else who criticizes may be trying to harm, whereas friends do it to build up.”

Many years ago, a dear friend was faced with making one of the toughest decisions of her life – a decision that I believed would not prosper her or bring her closer to fulfilling the call of God on her life. As much as I loved her (still do), I knew I needed to speak the truth to her about what she was considering.

For years, she had been an “iron-sharpening” friend to me (Prov. 27:17). She had always challenged me to be a better student, daughter, Christian and friend, and vice versa. I prayed that God would open her heart to hear what I had to say, and that in saying it, regardless of her decision, we would be able to continue our friendship.

One commentary I read on Proverbs 27:6 said, “It is far better that a wound should be probed than covered. Rebuke – kindly, considerately, and prayerfully administered – cements friendship rather than loosens it. The contrary instances only prove that the union had never been based upon substantial principle.”

Wow. I so get that! Have you ever delivered the truth to someone – especially someone you thought you knew – only to have it backfire on you and the friendship crumble? In the situation with my friend, I believed I knew her heart – and she knew mine – but I was willing to risk our friendship in order to deliver the truth.

In sharing my heartfelt concern, my friend wasn’t happy to hear it. She believed she had no choice in the matter and had to move forward with her decision, regardless of the outcome. While this wasn’t thereaction I was hoping for, I knew I had to love her through it anyway.

And as I watched her walk through a very dark time in her life, I did everything I could to show her grace, love and compassion – not condemnation – as she struggled to find her way. Confrontation is never easy, but I believe the wounds of a true friend are always meant for healing.

It’s been almost 15 years since my friend and I had that conversation. The experience didn’t tear us apart. Instead it brought a new depth and respect to our relationship. Recently, I heard a poem that best expresses it:

I love you now.
I’ll love you when,
You’re hard to love,
‘Cause you’re my friend.

Hey God. Are you there?

A lesson in hearing God’s voice
by Leslee Stewart

Sometimes I wish God was as easy to reach as a friend on Facebook. There are times when I’m facing a problem and I’d like to instant message God to get a quick answer rather than pray and trust Him to lead me.

Over the last year our family faced a big decision – where to send our oldest to kindergarten this fall. I started interviewing everyone I knew. I researched schools online, visited them in person, and even looked into homeschooling and co-op choices. I wanted to be fully armed with information to make the best choice for our son.

The more I researched, the more the answer seemed to point back to our local public school. I knew it had a great reputation, but a big hurdle in choosing a public school was the fact that my husband and I were products of a Christian school education. Even though we have plenty of amazing Christian friends who are products of public school, there was definitely some fear of the unknown about public school.

For several weeks, I had been praying for God to give us some peace about sending him to public school. I just kept meditating on Proverbs 3:5-6 (one of my favorite scriptures). “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him, and he will direct your path.”

First Day of SchoolThat phrase, “submit to him,” is so crucial to being able to hear his voice. Often, when we are waiting on God’s direction, we will begin by submitting our request to him in prayer. But then we find ourselves picking it back up – worrying about it, questioning what we should do, getting opinions from others, trying to figure it out on our own – when all God wants us to do is, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

So I was still. When people asked what we were going to do, I’d let them know I was still waiting on God. It was hard to be patient, but I knew his plan and timing would be perfect. And, more importantly, his answer would bring the peace I was seeking.

Around the time we needed to make a decision, I found myself at a GFC MOPS park day visiting with Pam Otto, one of the mentor moms. In getting to know each other, Pam mentioned that her kids went to the neighborhood school my husband and I were considering. Then she shared that she leads a Moms In Touch group for that school. “What’s that,” I questioned.

She went on to tell me all about the group. How they pray specifically for each teacher and faculty member, for God’s covering to be on the school, interceding for his will to be done on the campus. She shared about how many Christian families she had met while being a part of the school, how her children had made quality friendships, how open teachers were to parent involvement.

When she was telling me this, I could feel the Holy Spirit saying, “This is your answer.” Everything Pam was sharing was what I had been looking for – a way to bring God’s light to a place that traditionally hasnot welcomed it.

When I got home, I picked up the phone to call my husband to tell him what I’d learned. But first I checked my messages. There was one, from a dear friend in Portland who owed me a return call. In missing me, she said, “Sorry I’m just now calling you back. I was busy with my Moms In Touch group this morning…”

At that point I just had to laugh at God’s timing. In one day, God had answered my prayer by sending two different people, who didn’t know what I was struggling with, to tell me about the same organization – which I’d never heard about – and testify how they are bringing Christ into their own public schools.

So this month, as I send my new kindergartener off to our local public school, I have peace and confidence knowing he’s right where God wants him. And I will be joining with other moms to cover him – and the school – in prayer.

And that’s better than any instant message I could have received.

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