I’m unfriending someone you know too well… and you should too

You know her because she shows up in your life precisely when you can’t handle her presence.  You’re tired, vulnerable, have experienced some sort of failure or frustration and there she is; at the door, wanting to come in.  She’s friendly enough, for certain, and usually flattering too.  “Poor you” she says, as she then begins her pontifications about how you deserve better, how unjustly you’re treated, how unappreciated you are.  Your heart stirs in response.

“Yes” you think to yourself “I do deserve better.  My kids don’t appreciate me…”  Or your boss, or employees, or spouse, or whoever it happens to be on that day when the perfect cocktail of physical weariness, spiritual neglect, and some real or perceived slight conspire to create in you the sense that you’re on the bottom of everything.  She’s dressed in clothes that look like empathy and compassion, and for this reason it’s easy to welcome her every time.

Don’t.  Her clothes are forgeries, disguised as love, but actually carrying the label self-pity.  Accept and receive these from her and you’ll be ready to take a journey into the land where your unique weakness will shine.  You’re just a few steps away from giving in to bitterness, or cynicism, or lust, or overeating, or over shopping, or rage – whatever it is that brings you an immediate sense of satisfaction at the cost of your ongoing transformation into the image of Christ.

Now you feel good.

Now you feel comforted.

Now you don’t look as much like Jesus.

It’s that last one, of course, that’s the problem, because in the end the point of our daily grind isn’t to climb a professional ladder of upward mobility.  Neither is it the point that we be loved and adored by lots of fans or friends.  The point of it all, in fact the only point of it all, is that we end up looking more and more like Jesus.  This is what Paul said here.  This is what Jesus meant when he told us to let our light shine. And this is the one thing that our friend who comes knocking when we’re down and weary is intent on destroying in us.  She’ll use every trick in the book to make sure that in the end we subscribe to her advice and when we do, only thing we can be sure of is that we’ll look less like Jesus than we did before she came knocking.

That’s why we need to unfriend her – today.  I know she’s your friend too, or has been, at least.

Her name?  Bes.   Bes Etting.   She sounds harmless enough until you remember her full name:

Bes Etting SinBesetting Sin.   Knowing about her and her ways will help us identify her and kindly show her the way out when she comes knocking:

1. She looks different in each of us.  All of us who’ve been sick with the flu can identify with the truth that the symptoms will show up differently in each of us because each of us have different weakness.  Headaches, joint pain, lung congestion: the symptoms vary from person to person because, according to some doctors, the virus finds the weakest link.

We all have a default sin too, it seems, a place we’re tempted to go when we’re at our most vulnerable in order to self-medicate, or escape, or self-vindicate.  For one it’s anger and fighting back at someone, something, anything, in order to gain a sense of being in the right.  For another its purse cynicism as, convinced that we know the way things really are, we adopt a posture that all who around us are so unenlightened that its hopeless.  With our wry smiles, we disengage but stay toxically present in the midst of the situation.  Others withdraw into a world of personal pleasure.  A pint of Ben and Jerry’s, Three Pints of Pale Ale, a shot of porn, a few hundred bucks of meaningless shopping.  Pick your pleasure – whatever it is her name is Bes.

We’d be wise to identify the clothes Bes wears, uniquely, to seduce each of us.

2. She knows when to visit.  There are, in all of us, trigger points of vulnerability in our lives and its right there at those points that Bes comes knocking.  Physical weariness (including jet lag) is one of those points.  Chronically feeling under-appreciated is another.  Overwork is a third.  And there are more.  We’re wise, of course, to try and prevent ourselves from every getting into such situations, but that’s not always possible.  So we’ll also be wise to recognize that, when we’re vulnerable, she’ll be visiting.  For me it’s weariness and feeling unappreciated that bring her to my door.  Know that I know that, though, its easier to recognize her for who she is and simply not answer, reminding her that I unfreinded her and that she’s no longer welcome here.

3. She won’t stay when you acknowledge Jesus’ presence in the room.  You know how it is.  Sometimes when you want someone to NOT attend the party you’re throwing, you simply invite someone else.  Invite Christ and Bes might do a drive by, shouting a little sarcasm your way, but show won’t make herself at home with you.  That’s one reason why coffee with God in the mornings is valuable.  The habit helps make Jesus the guest of honor at the party that is every day of our lives.

Identifying Bes for who she is, unfriending her, and making sure Jesus is always welcome will surely help each of us get on with the main calling of our lives, which is to look like Jesus.

About Richard Dahlstrom

As Pastor of Bethany Community Church in Seattle, Richard teaches with vision of "making the invisible God visible" by calling people to acts of service and blessing. It's working, as a wilderness ministry, homeless shelter, and community meals that serve those living on the margins are all pieces of Bethany's life. "We're being the presence of Christ" he says, "and inviting everyone to join the adventure." Many have, making Bethany one of the fastest growing churches in America in 2009 according to Outreach Magazine.


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