Early in my walk, a good friend approached me to admonish me. A comment I had made in an offhand way had offended her. At first, my mind shifted into defense mode; she had completely misunderstood both what I had said and why I had said it. But then, the Holy Spirit seemed to whisper “Listen!” So I did. Not only did I hear her words, but I saw how difficult it was for her to have the conversation with me. The distress was obvious in her facial expression and in the tension in her body language. She was clearly distraught. I quickly realized two things:
She loved me enough to have this difficult conversation with me. She was stepping WAY out of her comfort zone to talk with me in this way. It COST her, yet she was willing to wade in there with me because she loved me enough to keep me from making the same mistake again.
Whether I meant to or not, I had hurt her. I needed to graciously acknowledge that and ask for forgiveness both from her and the Lord. More importantly, I needed to learn from my mistake.
Ephesians 4:15 encourages us to “speak the truth in love.” The truth is that we are going to mess up; we are too mired in our sin nature not to screw up every now and then. The important thing is how we respond when we are confronted with our hurtful behavior.
God wants us to have a teachable heart. A coach wants to coach an athlete who is willing to learn and grow and work to become better. God wants to mold us into who He designed us to be and help us to become more and more like His Son so that we can have the abundant life that He desires for us to live and so that we can be used by Him. But in order to do that we need to be malleable. The Old Testament is full of descriptions of people who are “stiff-necked.” I don’t want to be described in this way. I don’t want to LIVE this way. If I am so hard then I become unmoldable, and really unable to be used by God. I want my life to have impact for Him. In order for that to happen, I need to be teachable.
King David modeled this for us. When Nathan confronted him about very large sins – adultery and murder – he was contrite. David, called by God “a man after my own heart” wrote in Psalm 51:17 “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” David understood that while what he had done was reprehensible and may seem unforgivable, that God forgave him. God LOVED him despite his actions. All he had to do was to repent and turn and accept God’s forgiveness and walk in God’s ways. My pride so often gets in the way. If I am too proud to admit fault, I am indeed “stiff-necked” – focused only on my way and my will instead of the Lord’s.
Discipleship has helped me so much with this. As we grow in relationship with someone, the trust grows. D.A. Carson wrote that if we truly love someone, conflict is inevitable. If we are truly invested in a relationship, difficult conversations about harmful aspects of our character will occur. The truth is that we need each other and we need to be able to speak truth in love to each other. I shudder to think what my life would be like without the women that God has placed there to help mold me by speaking truth. I would be isolated, lonely, bitter… It is not a pretty picture.
Thank God for the Holy Spirit. Thank God for the Body of Christ. Thank God for the women who have, are and will be discipling me.