Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction,
but whoever heeds reproof is honored. Proverbs 13: 18
I received an email from a friend a few days ago. It was scathing. Really tough. I felt like I was hit upside the head with an emotional 2×4.
I had inadvertently really, really angered this friend. My sense is the frustration had been building, then BAM, my friend unloaded on me.
The email wasn’t an attack so much as a list of my foibles (which had hurt this person), strong, strong reproof, and instruction how to do better. Fortunately, while the exhortation didn’t quite hit the mark about my sin, there was enough truth in there that I knew I had to face myself.
I needed to address some sin – not the anger my friend pointed out, but the idolatry that lay directly under the anger. So I started to think and to pray – and of course, to analyze the other person’s sinful attitude and approach.
But over time, the focus returned to me. I wasn’t responsible for my friend’s misplaced reproof or possible wrong motives, but I was responsible for me.
The wake-up allowed me to sit back and analyze how this friend and I had related. I acknowledged the great frustration I’d felt in this friendship. I realized how confused and out of control I’d been. It was just a messy situation. I told God, “You don’t do messy.” At least not this kind of messy. I knew something was really off kilter in me – HAD been off-kilter for months – but I didn’t know what.
I begged God to heal me.
Today I was sitting in my office working on some policies, letting my mind occasionally wander, when the Holy Spirit worked a miracle. He showed me in no uncertain terms how selfish, self-centered, and needy I’d been in this friendship.
In fact, I couldn’t bring to mind ONE time over the last few months where I’d put my friend’s interests above my own. Basically, I was using this friend to meet my own needs, to fill some emotional holes, to make me feel good about myself.
It was all about me.
I hadn’t seen it before. I’d sensed it, but now I saw it so clearly, so obviously. It’s like my eyes had been half shut. And the Holy Spirit very gently and lovingly pried them open. I was horrified – but just long enough to repent and feel the freedom of release from sin sweep over me.
I immediately emailed my friend and offered an apology. It didn’t matter what my friend had said in that 2×4 upside the head email. It only mattered that I had sinned against my friend – and against my God – for unwittingly demanding that this friend fill needs only God should fill. And by doing so, I had used my friend and turned from my God.
I wept as I typed, broken, yet free.
It really is true. There’s huge benefit when we heed reproof.
I don’t know if I feel “honored” that I took this reproof to heart, but I am SO grateful. I think I thanked my friend three times for that tough email. Because it woke me up and led me to repent.
When I arrived home after work and started thinking about what God had done in my heart, I started to weep.
I knew something pretty big had just happened. I’ve been struggling with the kind of sin that showed up in this friendship for YEARS. I think God might have healed something deep and gigantic through this repentance. Time will tell.
But as I wept, I remembered something. I remembered that in my blog on prayer a couple weeks ago, I had committed to pray daily for revival, starting with me, starting with my own repentance.
I do believe my moment of deep repentance today was an answer to those prayers.
Dear Jesus: Praise You for what You did in my heart these last couple of days. Thank You that my friend had the guts to email me. Protect me from the accuser’s attacks (I feel some shame coming on). And help me move forward in new ways. Amen.