Friends, I’m going to share an excerpt from a new book with you today. But if hearing the words “daily devotional” makes you want to bolt, I understand, because I feel that way sometimes too.
Daily devotionals and I have a checkered history, as they tend to trigger perfectionistic thinking. If I’d miss a day, I’d start to feel bad about myself, thinking, Shouldn’t I be more disciplined?
And at some point I’d start comparing myself to the author, thinking, Shouldn’t I be ‘more spiritual’, more like so-and-so? Then I’d end up feeling like I’d failed at loving God if I admitted that the book was hurting rather than helping. In short, daily devotionals equaled a big mess.
But today I want to tell you about a book that has been a safe place for me to heal from all that. It’s called Journeying Through Lent, and it’s by my dear friend and fellow writer Brooke Adams Law. (You may remember Brooke our Spend It Offering Light series.) The book is on sale at Amazon for $1.99, just in time for Lent, which begins Wednesday, February 18.
What Makes God Smile?
If you feel uncomfortable at the thought of reading a devotional book, though, there’s no pressure here. I get it. I would rather you be true to yourself and not read it than pick it up because you feel like you should.
However, I can tell you that Brooke’s book is different from many devotionals that I’ve read in the past. When Brooke quotes scripture, I don’t sense her trying to change or convert her readers, or showing off how spiritually awesome she is.
Instead, I hear her puzzling things out, asking hard questions and not settling for easy answers. She is willing to talk about her relationships, the state of her bathroom, and her humanity.
Of course, it helps that Brooke is my best friend; I trust her voice because I trust her. But if you love my work, you just might love hers too. As such, I offer you an exclusive sample from her new book below.
Finally, I chose this essay to share with you because – spoiler alert! – the friend she mentions is me. Without consulting each other, Brooke and I simultaneously wrote essays about a difficult time in our friendship.
In my essay, I wrote, “For me, being a bridesmaid in my best friends’ weddings did not go the way it does in the movies, all ebullience and sunshine. The weddings of close friends are characterized by great joy, of course, but they’re also times of dramatic change … and change is difficult for those of us who like to maintain an illusion of continuity and control. The tectonic plates of our friendships shift for major life events like weddings and births and deaths, and there’s often an earthquake or two before they settle down again.”
Brooke’s essay is about one such earthquake moment, and how we rebuilt our friendship afterward. Enjoy!
Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed, and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.
Ezekiel 18:31 (New American Bible)
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.
Matthew 5:23-24 (New American Bible)
It’s so much easier for me to do Christian “activities” than to be reconciled to people.
It’s easier to go to church than to ask forgiveness for something hurtful that I said.
It’s easier to listen to a sermon podcast than to have a difficult conversation with a family member about something that’s been weighing on my heart.
But that’s not what God asks of us. Jesus warned against this hypocrisy in the passage from Matthew above. Our gift to God is our willingness to reconcile with people.
Several years ago, one of my best friends made a big life decision very suddenly. I felt confused and concerned. I was very hurt because I always told her everything—as soon as I thought of it—and because I make decisions by talking through my options with the people closest to me.
So when she made this huge decision out of the blue, I felt like she didn’t value my friendship the same way I valued hers. This wasn’t true, but it felt difficult for me to trust her with my truth after that.
But I stayed open. I told her when things she did hurt me, and sometimes I hurt her in return. Sometimes I asked for too much. Sometimes I saw only what she hadn’t told me instead of seeing the hundreds of hours of conversation we’d had in which she had told me true, vulnerable things.
She stayed open to the friendship too, and I’m so happy that we both did. It hurt. It took a lot of work. There were some moments of awkwardness where we realized we had no idea how to keep having a friendship as our lives changed—as we both got married, as we both moved to different states. But we are so close again. And I know for sure that this makes God smile, much more than an empty sacrifice, much more than a large check.
Reconciliation hurts. It’s painful and it’s counter-cultural. We’re taught to maintain the status quo. To ignore hurt feelings until a scab forms over our relationships and one day we’re no longer as close as we once were.
It’s easier to resent my husband for not getting the oil changed in the car than to tell him I’m frustrated. (And of course, it’s easier for me to point the finger at him for not getting the oil changed, when in turn I haven’t cleaned the bathroom this week.)
Lord, thank You for Your willingness to be reconciled to us. For paying the ultimate price for reconciliation. We pray that we might have the courage to be reconciled to one another.