This has been a ka-pow kind of week for me.
“A ‘ka-pow’ week?” you may well ask. “What on earth is a ‘ka-pow” week?
The best way for me to explain it is to liken a “ka-pow” to looking through a kaleidoscope, A “ka-pow” describes the moment when the color patterns shift and all of a sudden a new pattern falls into place that takes your breath away. A “ka-pow” moment describes when the ordinary suddenly becomes cosmic . . . the everyday shifts to the sublime . . . Ka-Pow!
For me, the best kind of “ka-pow” moment occurs when God shifts my perceptions to see something new or to broaden my understanding of something I thought I already knew. When the Creator of the universe shows you something that you know you would never have seen apart from Him, that my friend is a “ka-pow” moment!
This week I spent a lot of time thinking and praying about relationships. The problems people face in the Counseling Room are often tied to painful or disappointing relationships. Many times, people who have been hurt build elaborate emotional walls around themselves to protect against being hurt again. The irony is that those emotional walls of protection can also block healthy relationships, giving opportunity for loneliness and depression to settle in.
What struck me this week is that there is much we can learn from God’s purpose and design for relationships:“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
It was then that I remembered Ecclesiastes 4 (see above.) As you read the passage I invite you to count the blessings: “Two are better than one . . . they have a good return for their work . . . his friend can help him up . . . they will keep warm . . . .” All positive “sign me up!” benefits in what can be a very cold world, but the amazing part is at the end. In the last verse we are shown where the natural elements of this world meets the wildness of the supernatural. Departing from the benefit of “two” in a relationship, verse 12 concludes the passage with: “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” What are we to do with that? One insight I found especially helpful was written by 18th century commentator Matthew Henry who, I believe, nailed the meaning down beautifully. Henry wrote, “Where two are closely joined in holy love and fellowship, Christ will by his Spirit come to them, and make the third.” Most of the time we are only aware of the ordinary aspect of relationships. The writer of Ecclesiastes points us beyond the ordinary to see where the extraordinary intervention of the Spirit of God enters in. We are reminded that HOW we relate to others (be they friend or foe) will be impacted by the strength of God’s Spirit as our “third strand” as we look to and trust in Him. Natural meets Supernatural: Ka-pow!
This now leads to what actually got me thinking about relationships and friendships this past week. It began with the sad news of a friendship two women had shared for several years that was tragically dissolved. I know one of the women as a friend; the other woman I have never met but knew her to be highly respected and had been helpful to my friend. Apparently, their falling-out was very public and ugly. I do so mourn for them both!
When I heard about the ruptured friendship, I immediately thought about a falling out between a pair of women who lived more than two thousand years ago named Euodia and Syntyche (for clarity’s sake let’s call them Eunice and Cynthia.) . Mentioned in a letter the apostle Paul wrote to encourage his friends in Macedonia, Paul expressed deep concern for the women he esteemed as fellow servants of Christ. Paul doesn’t go into detail about the problems between Eunice and Cynthia; instead, he appeals to their shared commitment to Christ as the motivation to their being reconciled. In Philippians 4 Paul expresses his concerns with the tender voice of a shepherd. Paul wrote:
- I plead with “Eunice” and I plead with “Cynthia” to agree with each other in the Lord.
- Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life. (vs.2,3)
Paul appealed personally to Eunice and Cynthia to agree with each other in the Lord. He then calls on their fellow-servants of Christ and the church leadership to help their sisters. It is interesting that when he calls upon the Church to help, he appeals to their common representation in the Book of Life. I wonder if today we as the church might need to take seriously Paul’s call to help reconcile broken friendships?
It is in what Paul wrote next that I got hit with my second “ka-pow!” As often as I have read Philippians 4, I never connected Paul’s concern for Eunice and Cynthia with what he wrote next. To set the stage up properly, remember what we saw in Ecclesiastes 4: the natural view of friendship broadened to witness the supernatural impact of God in the lives of His people. Now, in Philippians 4 we are called to trust in God’s ability to minister to our splintered lives. Paul urged his friends and continues to encourage us to trust God with the natural (the disappointment and heartache that continue be part of this world) as we submit to the supernatural workings of a Holy God in our hearts and lives. How is this accomplished? When we pray in simple humility and in faith the pattern given us in Philippians 4:4-9:
- Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
- Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
- And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
- Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.
- Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Thank You Father for the blessing of friendship, even when it hurts. Thank You that You understand the sadness and confusion of lost friendships; that You never abandon us in our pain. I praise You for Your faithfulness and the peace You have placed in my heart as I have chosen to trust in You no matter what. I thank You God for the gift friendship truly is, even the pain of loss as I have learned to trust you more. I pray for reconciliation if it be Your will as I seek to honor You with my life. I praise you Lord as my God of peace and hope . . . KA-POW!