I’m going to share a story I’ve never told anyone. Trust me, it’s ugly. But there’s a point. Otherwise I’d never in a million years type this out.
Once upon a time I had a dear friendship. In fact, miraculously, I still do. But this particular event occurred shortly after we had first become friends. We were still learning how much we had in common and how much we enjoyed each other’s company. I was enjoying becoming my new friend’s confidant, her running buddy, her prayer partner and the one she wanted to share a movie and popcorn with.
Then one fine day my new friend did something very normal and gracious. She invited another woman to go shopping and out to lunch with her for the day.
And she didn’t invite me to join them.
Excuse me? That’s what I thought to myself. Actually, I may have even said it out loud. A few times.
Yeah, in fact, here’s how it played out. I kind of knew the schedule for the day my friend had arranged with her “other” friend, so I timed things just so, got in my car and headed down the highway so that I would intersect with my friend and her “other” friend on the highway. When I saw them driving toward the mall, I honked my horn, waved my friend down and insisted she pull over on the side of the road. There I gave her one more opportunity to invite me to tag along.
Ya’ll. I was a grown woman! This wasn’t yesterday, of course. I’m not even sure it was in this millennium. But I was old enough to know better.
Fortunately, my friend kindly sent me on my way…in the opposite direction!
Like I said, that’s an ugly story. I like to think I’ve grown up a little since that day, but honestly, some days my insecurities still send me off in hot pursuit. My neediness has never sent me on another wild goose chase down the highway, honking my horn and waving for attention. But it has left me craving more than any person should give me. And it’s left me pouting quietly or eating ice cream from the container or thinking about getting in my car and…well, you know.
This isn’t a confession I make lightly. The only reason I bring it up is because I wonder if some of you may ever wrestle with neediness in friendship, too.
I’ve been on both sides of the equation. There have been times when I’ve asked too much of a friendship…and other times I have given more than I should. Either way, demanding or giving too much in a relationship can lead to disaster.
That’s what happened in Judges 8:22-35 between Gideon and the men of Israel. That’s probably not where you’d expect to find a lesson on friendship, but stick with me here.
You remember Gideon. He’s the guy who was threshing wheat in the wine press, fearful of the Midianites, when the angel of the Lord approached him about delivering Israel from their oppression. The Lord called him “O valiant warrior” when he was behaving like a coward. And then God patiently built up his confidence, talked him through the process of selecting an army and tenderly assured him of victory just before the battle. But after Gideon won the fight, he lost his head and forgot God. That’s when he demanded more than he should have from the Israelite men.
Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, ‘Rule over us, both you and your son, also your son’s son, for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian.’ But Gideon said to them, ‘I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the Lord shall rule over you. Yet Gideon said to them, ‘I would request of you, that each of you give me an earring from his spoil.’ (For they had gold earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) They said, ‘We will surely give them.'”
Sure, Gideon said he wouldn’t rule over Israel. But in the headiness of victory he turned right around and asked to be treated like a king. Not only did he ask for enough gold to make him a wealthy man, but he also acquired the purple robes of the dead Midianite kings, accumulated a harem of wives and named one of his sons Abimelech, which means “my father is the king.”
Gideon’s words may have indicated otherwise, but truly, he asked for more than he should have from the men of Israel.
I wonder, if Gideon had paused to thank God for the victory and led the Israelites to join him in worshiping God at this point, would he have been as needy?
And the men of Israel gave more than they should have to Gideon. They asked Gideon to rule over them because he delivered them from the Midianites. But in fact, God had delivered Israel.
I wonder, if they had immediately given their trust, appreciation, adoration and allegiance to God, their true deliverer, would the Israelites still have entrusted too much to this ordinary man?When I forget to worship God and neglect to seek His presence, I worship whoever I feel closest to. Click To Tweet
If you read further in the story, you find that things did not end well for Gideon or the people of Israel. The people, who once clamored to be ruled by Gideon and his sons and grandsons, did not treat Gideon’s family kindly after his death. Demanding, needy relationships soon become burdens rather than blessings. Additionally, Gideon did not leave the godly legacy he could have left. Instead he had a toxic affect on the people.When we ask too much from or give too much to a relationship, we cheat God and hurt ourselves. Click To Tweet
So what do we learn from my sad story and Gideon’s poor example? I have learned that even sweet, healthy friendships can quickly become sticky, toxic messes if I begin to turn to a friend for that which only God can consistently and safely provide. And the best way for me to prevent that from happening is to focus more on my relationship with Him than my friendship with her…or anyone else, for that matter.
In fact, I must resist any compulsion to demand anything from my relationships. Instead, I create and maintain healthy, sweet friendships when I operate in the fullness of my relationship with the Lord. Practically speaking, when I’m tempted to lean into someone else, I lean into Him instead. When I feel left out or forgotten, I run to the One who thinks about me constantly. When I catch myself demanding, I release and give freedom instead.
Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking friendships are simple and easy. They can be. But every relationship presents its own set of troubles. There is no safety zone. So let’s treasure our friendships enough to work at keeping them sweet and healthy instead of sticky and toxic.
I’m so excited about the release of my new book When You Find Another. I think you’ll enjoy the conversational feel of this easy read, as well as the contributions from over a dozen guest authors. The book officially releases February 23rd, but you can order now and receive a free gift. Click here.