Until the Other…
I’ve recently fallen in love with the work of a stand-up comedian named John Mulaney. In one of his specials, he discusses the benefits of having a girlfriend (who is now his wife). He claims to listen to everything she says, not because she’s controlling, but because it’s nice to have “someone who’s always standing next to [him] who can just point out obvious things that are happening.” Perhaps those of you in long-term relationships can relate.
This morning I purchased yet another Starbucks iced coffee—an expensive beverage that’s addictive enough to make me suspect it contains nicotine—and I had the full Mulaney experience. From the passenger seat, my wife observed “wow…$3.35? That’s kind of expensive. Haven’t you had one every day this week?” It wasn’t bossy or judgemental; it was just an observation. Most importantly, it was a fact that I had completely overlooked (or perhaps chose to ignore).
But I needed to hear it. I needed someone to point out to me that I’m throwing my money away, not occasionally as I’d convinced myself, but every day, and on something I could easily have made at home.
I think we all need at least a couple people in our lives who have the permission to tell us things about us that we don’t see. As Proverbs 18:17 puts it, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.”
When I’m making decisions, I hear my case stated first in my mind, the one that says “I deserve this,” “this is fine,” or “this sin is no big deal.” And it seems right. Or at least right enough to ignore the voice of the Spirit so that I can do what I want. I need someone to “cross examine” my case and my life. I always need that second or third voice to show me the things I’m missing. It doesn’t matter much who it is—my wife, my pastor, my friend, my brother, or my parents—as long as I’m open to what is said.
Be that second voice for someone and get that for yourself! One of the ways we sharpen each other like iron is to place ourselves in a relational position in a Christian brother or sister’s life from which we can point out blatant or hard-to-see sins, inconsistencies, and patterns. It’s not easy to do because it means we have to say hard things. It means we have to value their spiritual life above our own comfort and ease because getting to that depth of relationship doesn’t just happen; it takes time, trust, and love.
Perhaps this relational depth is most difficult because it gives that person permission to speak into our lives the same way, to tell us the things we need to hear but don’t want to. It’s one of the beautiful pains of being a part of the Body of Christ. To know is to be known, and to be known is to grow.
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