Three Little Words That Ignite Friendship

friendship

They are just three little words.

But they are hard to say.

And they’re not, “I love you.”

They are more honest than that. They are more desperate than that. They are more powerful than that.

And they are what real friendship is made of.

I heard my little sister say those three little words to me on the phone, as her 8-month-old cried in the background, and my two-year-old spread oatmeal through her hair, and because she said them, and the way she said them, I dropped my plans and met her an hour away at an outlet mall–because I knew she meant them.

I said those three little words last fall, the night I stood at my friend’s door in the pouring rain, frazzled and overwhelmed, because I felt like such a failure as a mom, and she invited me in. And we hugged, and I just cried on her couch. And somehow all my questions and all my fears were answered in her very simple smile. And her gentle nodding, and offering me tissues, and brownies.

And that same friend said those three little words in a text message last week, along with the news that made me bury my face in my hands, and cry for her, and drive to her house with a bouquet of white roses that weren’t enough, but they were all I could think of. And we just sat on her couch, without words, and tried not to cry, while her toddler daughter sat between us and held both of our hands, as if she understood it all perfectly–as if she were the very peace of God.

***

The three little words are not profound, but they are powerful. And when it comes to friendships, they move mountains.

So what are the three little words? They are,

I need you.

“I need you.”

It’s what my sister said on the phone, before we both took off to meet each other at a random “food court” rendezvous point, so we could see each other in person. So we could, even for a couple hours, be the sisters we were as children, the sisters that used to jump on the bed together, and talk late into the night–the sisters we desperately still need to be. And that day, I went to meet her because she needed me. But I drove home, realizing just how much I needed her.

“I need you.”

It’s what I said to my friend when I felt I was losing it as a mom. When I felt I was going to break from all the sleepless nights and crying. When I just needed to know she understood me. That she was for me. And that I wasn’t alone.

“I need you.”

It’s what my friend texted me the morning after a very long and dark night. “I need you…and I need you to pray for me.”

And she said later at her house, “I’m so sorry to drag you through this with me.”

And my heart wrenched because, what she didn’t know, what my flowers couldn’t say, what my words couldn’t express, was just how honored I was to be at her side. Just to walk with her through the valley. Just to sit with her until the dawn. Just to be her friend.

“I need you.”

They are just three simple words, so why are they so hard to say?

Maybe because we don’t want to believe we really need anyone.

Because maybe that makes us needy. Maybe that makes us incapable of doing it ourselves. Maybe that makes us no longer self-sufficient.

But do you know what God calls that kind of do-it-myself-at-all-costs type of self-sufficiency?

Pride.

And pride makes a person very lonely.

It’s not just about having friends. It’s about having friends who you can fail in front of. Who you can be weak in front of. And it’s about giving your friends permission to serve you, when you need it.

We all want to be the stronger friend. We all want to be the advice-giver, not the advice-seeker. We all want to be the one ministering to others. We all want to look like we have it together (and typically hide away, until we do.)

But what if this is actually killing our relationships?

What if this desire to appear stronger, and wiser, and more peaceful than we really are, is actually making us weaker? What if it’s destroying our friendships, not saving them?

The generation we live in is more “self-sufficient” than any generation prior. We don’t really need each other anymore. I don’t need to ask my mom for parenting advice, I can get that online. I don’t need to call my sister for that recipe, I have Pinterest. I don’t need to ask my friend how she overcame a difficult season, I can just Google it.

It’s easier than ever before to become isolated.

But something beautiful happens when we need each other. And we’re not afraid to admit it.

Maybe the people closest to you don’t really know, how much you need them. Maybe they don’t realize how much they need you. But realizing we need one another, is the beginning of something; it’s the beginning of friendship.

So I’m going to dare you to tell them, to say those three little words:

“I need you.”

I don’t know who needs to hear it, but I guarantee someone does.

Maybe you need to say it to the friend you can’t imagine life without. The one who wipes your daughter’s runny nose without being asked. The one who broke a sweat putting your car seat into her car, just so you could ride together. The one who reminds you—you aren’t alone.

Maybe you need to say it to your sister, who you used to be so close with, and somehow have grown apart over the years. Maybe she feels you’re too busy with your own world, to enter hers. Maybe she doesn’t know that no one else in the universe can take her place, or make you feel like a kid again the way she does, or laugh the way she makes you laugh.

Maybe you need to say it to your mom, who feels you are too grown up for her now, or that you are too modern for her now, and that you don’t need her 80’s and 90’s advice–because you know better, when really you don’t. Because everyone needs a mom, no matter how much they deny it. And maybe she hasn’t felt needed by you for a very long time, not since putting on your diapers, and packing your lunches, and helping you pick out your prom dress–and she needs to hear you say those three little words that transform you back into the child she used to hold on her hip, the one one that used to lay her head on her chest when you were scared. You know you spent half your childhood calling out for her, even in the night, “Mom! Mom! Mom!” And maybe…she just longs to hear you say it again, “Mom, I need you.

And maybe you need to say it to your husband, who feels estranged from you, even in your own bed. Who lives in your house, but feels a million miles away some nights. Because you’ve gotten good at serving him, but you’ve forgotten how to be his friend. And maybe he just needs you to lay on the couch and watch a football game with him, or to watch a movie (he picked out) together, or to stay up late and play a game of cards at the kitchen table. Maybe you’ve forgotten how to laugh together, how to have fun. And you’ve forgotten, he didn’t marry you to do his chores, or to oversee his schedule, he married you to be his wife. To be his friend. And just like everyone else, he waits to be needed. So maybe tonight you need to roll to the middle of your bed and whisper those three little words, “I need you.”

Oh weary soul, where are your friends? Perhaps they are all in waiting, waiting to be needed by you. Waiting to hear, those three little words, “I need you.” And if you can say them, and mean them, I think you will find a beautiful exchange of grace waiting for you there–in this place called “friendship.”

“For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Matt. 7:8) And when the door opens, I bet it will open faster, and stronger, and wider than you ever imagined. And when it does, and you’re just standing there on the porch, all you have to say, is three little words,

“I need you.”

 

Redeeming Valentine’s Day: There’s Only One Shade of White

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Thousands will flock to theaters this weekend to watch the pornographic book-turned-movie Fifty Shades of Grey. And while news-feeds of both Christians and atheists light up with blog posts and articles written by lovers and haters of this movie and book series, it’s begging one big question: What is this all about?

Well, I’m not here to answer that question. (And in fact, I actually advise you not to dig too deep. “Curiosity” is what’s been drawing the masses to it, and keeping them there. “Curiosity” is also what introduces and entices people to porn. There’s a reason we’re warned to “not even speak of what the disobedient do in secret.” Ephesians 5:12)

But while I hate everything this movie stands for, the bigger question stirring in my heart is: What do I do about it?

Of course there are the faithful few who will be picketing at the movie theater. But will that really be changing anyone’s heart?

And then there are the thousands who send out social media “slams” to convict the ungodly. (Too bad, the target audience won’t be reading these.)

So what can I do that will be effective in a world that loves perverted sex?
I found two things.

1. Realize that this battle against lust starts in my own heart and marriage. (Not in shaming the masses.) Ask questions like: Am I aroused by the idea of anyone other than my spouse? And, do I want to hold anyone else’s affection or gaze other than that of my spouse? Is my marriage bed pure? Are my thoughts, and imaginations, and fantasies…all pure?

2. Realize that our nation, and much of the church is in bondage to lust and sexual sin. (And that I need to be filled with compassion, and a willingness and urgency to learn how to minister in these areas with individual people that I am in relationship with.)

God has made us to be incredibly sexual beings. And at the same time, He designed marriage as the platform for that sexuality and pleasure to be enjoyed with our spouses. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor…” 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4

So my first fight against the release of Fifty Shades of Grey is not to shake people by the collar going into the theater and ask, “What the hell are you thinking?!” But to simply kneel by my bedside and say, “God, search me, search me, and show me if there is any offensive way in me. I want to be pure in Your eyes.”

Because there is only one shade of white. And it comes only through the precious blood of Jesus Christ. See, it doesn’t matter what shade of grey you are. We are all stained the deepest black apart from Him. We are all desperately wicked at our core. None of us are pure, even the best of us, is like filthy rags. Whether we are addicted to porn, or tangled in an affair, or we hide something in our closet, or on our iPhone, or we are the best, most devout Christians. We all desperately need Jesus.

And Jesus came to rescue us out of the grey, out of the bondage of sin and death. Because sin leads us to the grave. And only to the grave. You want to learn more about “bondage?” Only learn that we are all in bondage apart from Him. And He has come to set captives free, to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

There is only one shade of white: Jesus Christ. And He “is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5) The more I see Him, the more I want Him. So let us throw off the sin that so easily entangles, and run to Him.

Next, I look at my marriage, and realize that it is part of God’s design and will and passion. The way I speak to my husband, the way I touch him, and think about him, and speak about him, is of utmost importance to God. And the same for how my husband acts, and speaks, and with towards me. Marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church. And Christ never quits on His Bride.

The way we live out our marriages speaks louder to our world than any picket sign or blog post.

You don’t like Fifty Shades? You don’t like the billion dollar porn industry? You don’t like that another one of your friends is getting divorced? Then tonight, go home and look your spouse square in the eye and tell him, “I love you. I am for you. And there is nothing in this world I want more than to love you the way God has called me to. I am committed to walk with you through the deepest valleys, and the hottest fire, and I am never quitting. You are mine, I am yours, and we are God’s. There is no one else on this earth for me. And I will do whatever it takes to make this marriage work.”

And confess. Confess if you have been lusting after someone else or something else. Confess if you have had a bitter heart. Confess if you’ve been disrespectful. Confess if you haven’t been listening well. Confess if you’ve treated your spouse like a little kid. Confess if you’ve been dishonest. Because, “The one who conceals his sin will not prosper, but the the one who confesses and forsakes it finds mercy.” Proverbs 28:13 So, step into the light.

And if God exposes something, be willing to ride out long times of darkness in your marriage. Because Jesus restores shattered marriages. And He restores shattered people. He is so serious about this.

For an excellent resource for husband and wives involved in sexual sin check out Setting Captives Free. (And check out courses A Way of Purity and A United Front.)

Marriage is so important. And that’s actually what Valentine’s Day is all about. The man this holiday was named after was actually beheaded because he believed in marriage. In a time when Christian marriage was banned for the sake of military service in Rome, Valentine would wed Christian couples in secret. And that “red heart” for Valentine’s Day was originally meant to commemorate his martyrdom. (Red as in blood. As in he would rather be imprisoned and have his head cut off and let the blood pour out, than see an end to Christian marriage, or let it be perverted.)

I hope to feel as strongly about marriage as Valentine did. Because we too live in a time when there is little or no value put on Christian marriage. We live in a time when people need to hear, and see that we believe like Valentine, with sweat, and tears, and blood, that marriage is pure and precious in the eyes of God.

It’s time to redeem Valentine’s Day. To celebrate the love, and the purity, the marriage He has called us to. And that includes passionate love-making. With our spouses. Because what God has called us to is better and more satisfying than all the whispers of darkness.

Our world loves every color of darkness. And every shade of grey. But we have been called to be washed, to be cleansed, in the saving blood of Jesus Christ.

For only He can make us white.