While we were in Colorado, the hubster and I gave new definition to the term “couch potatoes,” and I learned that if given the chance I’ll spend two weeks in some combination of leggings, tunics, or fleece pajamas. Now that we’re back in New York, we’re slowly crawling toward a semblance of ordinary life, so I wanted to share this piece I wrote back in October during our 31 Days to More of God’s Best series.
If we’re honest with ourselves, the phrase probably made a few of us roll our eyes a bit, because, if only it were possible to take a month’s worth of simple steps and suddenly have God’s best in our lives. Who knew it was that simple?
It’s a big concept and I don’t think I’m even close to qualified to tackle it or to even fully wrap my mind, heart, and arms around what His best might be, but there’s a reason we called it “More of God’s Best.” Sometimes what I’ve needed most in life is a big step back to ask how I can open myself up to accepting more of His love and guidance, and how I can be a greater force of love in this world, too.
The same questions came up when I was reading the book of Jeremiah (inspired by Beth Moore’s Get Out of that Pit, naturally, because I will beat that horse to death if you let me), writing about friendship, and naming it after a TLC song. You can take the woman out of the music industry, but you can’t take the music out of the woman.
Jeremiah was a prophet, first starting his ministry in 620-something BC, and God told him to warn Judah, the southern kingdom of Israel, that they were going be attacked and captured by the Babylonians for worshiping other gods. Skip to chapter 38. The king’s officials saw Jeremiah’s warnings as an act of treason that would dishearten their troops, so lowered him into an empty cistern, which was full of mud at the bottom, and basically left him to die.
Jeremiah sank down into the mud and couldn’t get out.
Some people just like to kick you when you’re down.
A man named Ebedmelech heard about what had happened, and he petitioned the king to let Jeremiah go. Once Ebedmelech had the king’s approval, he grabbed 30 strong men and collected rags to throw down to Jeremiah. He instructed Jeremiah to wrap the rags around himself to protect from rope burn, and then the 30 strong men lowered a rope and they pulled him out.
The king called Jeremiah to his court and asked the prophet to tell him the truth about what he’d been saying and what the king should do. He promised not to punish Jeremiah, even if it was something he didn’t want to hear. So Jeremiah warned the king once again that Judah would be attacked and taken captive by Babylon and gave the king this description of what would happen if he didn’t surrender:
All the women left in your palace will be brought out and given to the officers of the Babylonian army. Then the women will taunt you, saying, ‘What fine friends you have! They have betrayed and misled you. When your feet sank in the mud, they left you to your fate!’ (Jeremiah 38:22 NLT)
Sometimes truth really is crazier than fiction. It sounds like a Disney film straight out of 1991, between Aladdin and whatever came after that.
But I couldn’t help but notice what the story has to do with friendship. Because there are two very different kinds of friends depicted in this account.
For starters, there are the kind of people the king surrounded himself with. His friends betrayed him and misled him, as the women taunted. They were the kinds of friends who told him what he wanted to hear instead of what he needed to hear, and then we stuff hit the fan so to speak, they let him (and Jeremiah) sink deeper into their pits, leaving them to their fates.
Ebedmelech was a drastically different kind of friend. He petitioned the king on Jeremiah’s behalf, advocated his case, rallied the troops, collected supplies, and helped pull Jeremiah out when he was sinking.
What do we do with this information? I don’t know, except to say that the kind of friends we surround ourselves with the and kinds of friend we choose to be matters.
When I read about Jeremiah’s rescue by Ebedmelech, I couldn’t help but be reminded of what my friends and community did for me four years ago when I lost it all.
The friends who clothed me in nice stuff from their own closets, the pastor’s wife who passed along furniture from her own home and Ikea gift cards to fill in the gaps, the landlady who gave the expensive couch, the friend who gave up an almost new Queen size bed, and the CEO who sent a new air conditioner were all living tangible expressions of God’s love for me.
Each of them threw down a rope that helped me go from the mess toward more of His best, and those small acts of generosity and love played a huge part in the turning point of my life and left me with a serious passion for passing on what I don’t need or what could be a blessing to someone else.
They were living proof that we might not be able to pull everyone out of their muddy pits – Ebedmelech had a whole crew of strong men to help him do it, and Jeremiah had a serious urge to get out of there, too – but we can at least consider when we might advocate on someone else’s behalf, share a few encouraging words, and lend a hand when they need it most.
What about you guys? Have you ever had someone make a huge difference in your life when you needed it most? Or have you had the chance to be that person for someone else?
Psst, more good stuff…
This video is totally worth watching.
The Nester’s post about hope for the weary home is so good.
Original photo of Bognor Regis Pier by gareth 1953 got my bus pass now from flickr creative commons. Adapted for this blog post by Stephanie Oh.