Refusing to be halfway in

How many times have you invited someone and never received an invitation back?

It hurts.

This isn’t new to our generation. Maybe connecting with people is complicated by the presence of social media and a disconnection in neighborhoods, but reaching out and not receiving meaningful relationship in return is not new.

Paul addresses this universal human concern directly in Galatians 4:15-20:

 What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me.16 Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. 18 It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, 19 my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! 20 I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.

Paul has theological concerns that are the purpose of his letter to the Galatians. He wants them to be spiritually free, not burdened by this yoke of circumcision and Levitical law that the Judaizers were trying to deceive them with. But he knew that spiritual freedom didn’t exist in a box. Spiritual freedom impacts every freedom in the Galatians’ lives, and in ours as well.

Paul’s message was that he wanted, and expected, real, genuine, honest, and reciprocal relationship with the Galatians. Is that too much to ask?

To some extent, yes, and Paul knows it. Our relationships will not be perfect. We are all sinful people. Paul speaks about this in his own letter to the Roman church, in Romans 3:9-12:

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”

We are all in this relational reality boat together. I mess up, you mess up. We offer confession and forgiveness and the planet turns and turns.

However, Paul also points out that there is a difference between sin present in our relationships and trading in people we love to impress other people. I can’t deal with masks. I can’t deal with fake, and very many of us cannot deal with that kind of rejection.

Paul, a very real person, had every right to be heartbroken, angry, sad, and bent out of shape about this kind of behavior in a relationship, particularly in the church.

Paul’s message to the Galatians and to us is:

We are all in.

All in.

Paul didn’t shut off his love for them – he wrote and labored for them. He references the pain of his heart and mind, the cost of being tossed aside by his fellow brothers in Galatians 4:19:

…my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!

This is serious labor, the work of relationship.

Just as children are born and grow over time, so does relationship and Paul is going the distance, not giving of himself half-heartedly. Loving when it’s hard. Caring when it feels like too much work, when it physically hurts.

He also calls some BS. Honesty in relationship, spoken in love and with the foundation of real relationship, breaks open the doors for Christ to shape and grow us. Paul, wraps his challenging statements in love for the Galatians.

 I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you. (Galatians 4:20)

“I wish I could speak gently to you. I wish this conversation wasn’t so necessary or so painful…” (Heidi’s paraphrase)

However, he calls it like it is. He expects the Galatians to be all in, as well; Nothing less.

Some people include so that the can exclude.

Whether on purpose or because they are unaware of life outside themselves, this is being halfway in a relationship. It’s not ok.

Paul says, All in or no in.

It gives me strength in relationship to know that I can call it like it is in love, have some level of Biblical expectation of people, while letting Christ form each of our imperfect selves. All wrapped up in the grace of a God who does not disappoint, who always includes.

God is completely and utterly all in.

Romans 8:31-32 is one of my favorite Bible passages about our All-in God:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

All things- exactly what we need for freedom in our relationships, exactly what we need for this day, for this difficult person, for being true and real and honest, when life is grand and when it’s tougher than we ever imagined.

Lord, you are an All-In God. Guide us in our steps, our days, and our relationships to love and set boundaries as You would have us, but to never give up hope that You are working, to give when it’s hard labor, and to love when we do not receive. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.


Discussion questions:

What are your relationship pet peeves? When are relationships hard for you? What happens in them to make them hard?

When has God called you to have stronger boundaries, while remaining “all in” in a relationship?

When has someone invited you further into their life in a way that spoke grace into your life?

YA bonus – Freedom in friendship without fear

Have you ever had a friendship you wish you could get back?

Sometimes friendships are for a season, and that’s ok. Sometimes friendships go the long haul and see us through the hardest sorrows and the most special days. Then there are friendships that slip out of your hands. There, and then missing. You might notice the void right away, or it may take years until you suddenly realize – “I let go of something that I should have held on tight to with all my strength.”

When I was in elementary school I had a very best friend. We performed musicals in her living room with homemade costumes and everything. We stayed up too late talking and laughing. We played Jeopardy and the Oregon Trail on this tiny computer screen that was like a square box and had a green cursor. I loved her. She loved me. I was a part of her family and she was a part of mine.

Then, we began to grow up. Suddenly, boys and studies and new friendships seemed so much more important and glamorous…to me. I’m the one who gave up on a friendship. I watched it fade to black and acted callous, like it didn’t matter. But it did.

There are few people in this life who love you just for who you are. People you’ve shared every fear with and they love you more for it. I traded trust for what looked good at the moment. And trust is where real freedom resides in a relationship.

This week, we aim for more freedom in our friendships as we look at Galatians 2:4-7 to understand the difference between false and real brothers, and holding on to what really matters.

Discerning friendship is rarely easy, but God’s Word gives us guidance, Christ’s love offers constant forgiveness, and trust begins and ends with a real and active, living God in our lives.

Dropping the yoke of fake friendship, freedom in trust and being real…

Question of the Week:

Is this friendship offering freedom or fear? Am I offering freedom or fear in friendship?

Did you download this week’s Dear 52 Chasing Freedom card yet? It’s free! 😉 Click on the link to find it and connect in friendship today.

Freedom from perfection: The day I stopped cleaning my house

Two years ago I stopped cleaning my house. Not completely, just strategically when friends were coming over.

Do I sound like a crazy woman yet?

You see, I have a problem with perfection.

It eats at me.

I like things just so, just right, just…perfect.

And they never will be.

The weight of perfection was crushing me a few years ago and I knew a Band-Aid needed to be ripped off somewhere. My house was the easiest place to start. I began an adventure of fighting for imperfect.

I created a schedule for cleaning my house, because I like to fight germs and all that, and I held myself to the schedule. I refused to clean something just because someone was coming over. I had ruined too many cups of coffee with friends by getting up in the middle to clean that little place behind the toilet seat that never, ever seems clean. I had sat down to too many delightful dinners with friends filled with the anxiety of wondering what they would notice I missed.

My house example is so small in the grand scheme of what is important in life, but Paul reminds us in Galatians 2:15-19, that no piece of our lives should be ruled by perfection:

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. 17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.

What are we living for?

I chase freedom like crazy with my spray bottle of vinegar and washcloth. I scrub and I scrub so that life feels more perfect and when you walk into my house you won’t judge me. I chase freedom in the law by assuming I’ll feel better if I can just appear a little more put together.

The law demands perfection.

 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:3-4 (emphasis added)

What kind of requirement is in the law? Righteous, yes. Right, justifiable, perfect, yes.

We can never live up to the law. God may not care how clean my house is, but I am, by nature, and by deed, imperfect. My house is just another reminder that there’s always something- I will never, never, “have it together.” It’s Biblical Truth.

But God, He does something more. He does something different. I am freed from perfection by Christ Jesus. He fulfilled what I cannot, so I can live for what matters – Gospel.

In fighting the urge to clean my house for you to visit me, I take perfection off the table in our relationship. I stop assuming judgement on your part, which was never really fair to begin with.

I do not clean for you, because if I clean for you that assumes that there is a judgement of what my house should look like, what you expect it to look like in order for us to maintain our relationship. But I believe better of you, my friend. I believe you love me enough to not judge me, to give Gospel and share grace. I believe that when you come over you come to see me, you don’t come to see any part of my house, that living to God means that relationship matters more than “just so.” The house is simply a platform, a location, a place that is warm and friendly, that we can gather.

I think dropping the assumption of judgement from others is the only way we can end all the judging. I will not judge you, I will not judge your house, I will not judge your family I will not judge your kids, I will simply be your friend and love you.

This seems to me very connected to the Gospel motivation Paul props up in Galatians 2:19:

For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.

We died to the law. Literally died to it, in our baptism. All this judgement, one woman to another, perceived or real, it means nothing.

We need not aim for perfect. Christ already came to our “house,” our lives, our families, cleaned it up by His blood, proclaims us holy in Him. Now we just live there, proclaiming His gospel grace to one another.

Chasing perfect – It’s so tempting.

Dropping perfect – It’s a challenge.

Freedom in Christ – already won.

It is for freedom Christ has set us free… let’s live there.


Discussion questions:

What area of life do you struggle with trying to be perfect or at least avoid the judgement of others?

How can we help one another embrace more freedom from the judgement of others?

Chose one area of life – family, chores, work, exercise, volunteering, neighboring, ministry, etc. – what Gospel message do you need to hear there? How can you let the Holy Spirit motivate via the Gospel instead of seeking motivation through the law of should’s and must’s?