I fell into a friendship pit. I don’t want you to do the same. You didn’t know there was such a thing? Read on…
Not Just Comic Relief
When I study Proverbs I have to remind myself that I’m not reading the biblical equivalent of Ann Landers. Perhaps you, too, have grinned at some of Solomon’s proverbs, brushing them off as comic relief in an otherwise weighty book.
It is better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.” (Proverbs 21:9)
He who blesses his friend with a loud voice early in the morning, it will be reckoned a curse to him.” (Proverbs 27:14)
But I remind myself that, while the proverbs may be colorful, there’s gold in them there maxims! It’s okay to chuckle when I read them, but I best pay attention, too.
A Word on Friendship
It was that realization that caused me to stop midway down the page and ponder what I read in Proverbs 25:16-17.
Have you found honey? Eat only what you need, lest you have it in excess and vomit it.
Let your foot rarely be in your neighbor’s house, lest he become weary of you and hate you.”
I’m prone to just skip through these sorts of verses lightly, as though they are nothing more than lessons learned from Aesop’s fables. But on this particular day I paid attention.
Just that morning I had experienced the sting of friendship. A friend’s words hurt me. And the hurt was not so much the result of what my friend had spoken to me as it was the fallout of my own excessive attachments and insecurities. So when I read the witty wisdom in Proverbs 25 that morning I did indeed grin, but I also sat up and read it again.
You might want to, too.
Too Much of a Good Thing
God’s Word repeatedly warns against excess: too much food (Exodus 16:1-21), too much wine (Titus 2:3), too many books (Ecclesiastes 12:12), and too many words (Matthew 6:7), to name a few examples. Honestly, while we can never have too much of God, too much of anything else has the potential to do us in. Excess is a sure sign of idolatry, of a heart wound up in too much of something less than.
Too much is just too much. It captivates our hearts and captures our minds and consumes our time and calls our shots.
No Safety Zone
God doesn’t warn us against too much because He’s a killjoy. He beckons us to a wholehearted devotion to Him alone and a safely guarded balance in our lives because He desires us to live free, unrestrained by anything else that might promise much but eventually deliver too little…at too high a cost. He longs to shield our hearts by drawing them close to His, unfettered to anything else that might pull us away from His all-sufficient love.
And sister, there are no exemptions. No safety zones.
Even too much of a friendship can be too much. And in Proverbs 25:16-17 He warns against it on both sides of the relationship. Don’t take too much and don’t give too much. Don’t seek too much and don’t share too much. Don’t go too much and don’t stay too much.
And remember, these proverbs are short maxims, but they have broad brushstrokes. God doesn’t just warn me about eating too much of my friend’s homemade honey bread or wearing out my welcome in her home. He warns me of unhealthy dependencies, exclusivity, excessive time together and ties that bind. And He indicates that either one of us could eventually hurt the other with our excesses, and that we’re equally prone to hurt ourselves in the long run.
An excessive friendship may seem innocuous, but it’s not. Just as my heart can be captured in an extramarital dalliance or I can lose myself to an addictive substance, a “too much” friendship can hold me captive and pull my heart away from God.
Friend, in all honesty, it’s happened to me. I’ve been there. I thought it was a safety zone, but it turned out to be a prison. And I simply don’t want you to fall captive to the same thing.
Less Honey, Thank You
With a lot of hard work, fervent prayer and God’s grace, my friend and I are no longer captives to the bond we mistakenly tied between us in our excess. As Beth Moore would say, we broke free. But I won’t kid you; it hurt like crud in the process. When you’ve had too much honey, putting it down can be a little sticky. Still, today we live in freedom and lots of grace. Some days the wounds still sting fresh, but grace and a 1 Corinthians 13 brand of love have brought divine healing.
I’m cautious these days. I have developed new, sweet friendships and rekindled old ones. But I am vigilant not to eat too much of their honey or tread too often on their tiles floors. And I mean that both literally and figuratively. I beg God daily to bind my wandering heart to Him with His cords of kindness. And I passionately seek His wisdom so that I can proceed in my relationships with both freedom and a holy caution.
By the way, I knew I was eating too much honey and spending too much time in my neighbor’s house all along. I wouldn’t admit it to anyone if my life had depended on it. On most days I denied it to myself. But I knew it. If you’ve given in to excess–whether in a friendship or in any other false safety zone–you know it, too. It could be a relationship with a friend, a co-worker, a mentor or even a family member. It may have started out as a godly and good connection, but, if it’s excessive, you’re in a danger zone now.
So friend, if that’s you, consider this post a gentle wake-up call. The next one may not be so subtle. Praise God, He will graciously wrench you out of that excess with a holy jerk if He has to. Indeed, His goodness and mercy pursue us! But it won’t feel good. So I suggest you come clean now…with yourself, with Him and with someone who can compassionately hold you accountable as you put down the honey and keep your feet at home.
To help you better understand if you are in a relationship of excess, I have a free resource for you. Click here to download a questionnaire that will help you evaluate any relationship to discover if you are excessively invested or dependent. If you mark a considerable number of statements “True,” indicating that you are indeed in a relationship marked by excess, I’d like to recommend a book that was invaluable to me in breaking free. Jan Silvious’s book Please Don’t Say You Need Me will help you find the freedom and healing you need. But, as she says repeatedly in the book, “it will take time.”