When you are new to an area it is difficult to get integrated into the society. It is difficult to know if the people you met are the type of people you want to be associated with. Now there is the obvious, stay away from this type or that type but these days good people look rough and rough people look normal.
It used to be so obvious, stay away from people with grotesque tattoos and major body piercings. Stay away from those that drink alcohol and smoke. Stay away from people who frequent clubs and bars. Stay away from those that ride motorcycles and run in gangs, and the list goes on. These day you have to spend a little time with a person to find out if what they are portraying is really who they are on the inside.
Then there are the ones that look and act like a person that you’d like to be friends with. You begin going places with the person and soon you are associated with them. When others think of you they connect you with the new friend and the friends reputation is now connected with yours through your association with them, good or bad.
I met a new friends last week at my accountant’s office, a delightful and sweet lady that I instantly clicked with. We exchanged names and contact information.
My new friend and I shared our stories briefly with each other and both of us have recently fallen on bad luck meaning we are going through difficult times. I discovered she used to attend the church I am currently attending although it has been several years since she has graced the door of a church. I am not one to judge a person for that because I have been enormously hurt be church leaders and it took me years before I’d step foot in a church also, and I am a church leader although I am not currently!
We both love worship so I invited her to come to church with me on Sunday. She told me it would be too difficult because the leaders would judge her harshly. I am now confused and perplexed by her story. Why on earth would the leaders do that! What sin had she fallen into years ago that God himself has not forgiven that would prevent her from going to church? She told me her offense and replied God has forgiven but people don’t. True, people do hold you in a box but what she did is very minor and is nothing any church leader that I am associated with past, present or future for that matter, would hold against her. I still encouraged her to come with me on Sunday.
Association. My thoughts this morning drift back to when I was pastoring a large church in northern US. There were so many people I would try to help that just kept falling over and over. And no matter how I helped them, they could just could never stand on their own two feet. It was the little things that would trip them up. They’d go out drinking in a bar meet an undesirable and bring them to church and as a leader you knew this would be the person who’d drag the one you were seeking to help back down. Over and over it would happen. Association. Or sometimes they’d bring a really nice person to the church and in a matter of time the nice person would be drug down behaving in ways you didn’t expect them to simply through association.
Which bring me to my new friend. Association. Will I be influenced or will I influence? Will I be judged by the leaders also simply through association? Is it worth the risk of putting a mark on my reputation with a group of people at the church that I have not established any strong relationships with?
The church leaders do not know my character because I have kept myself hidden from them. Why you may ask? Because of my woundedness and my trust issues with church leaders. I want to stay back observe and learn of their character and what the church is all about before I will ever reveal my identity to them. Besides if the leaders of the church are interested in learning about me they will approach me and inquire, something no one there has done in all the months I have been visiting. As a matter of fact very few parishioners have even introduced themselves to me or even greet me on a given Sunday. There is one ushers who will greet me each Sunday but other than that unless I reach out and initiate contact and greet someone, it doesn’t happen. A perfect church for someone like me who wants to hid but still worship.
Back to my new friend . . .
I don’t know her character. I don’t know her relationship with the church or its leaders. I don’t know how they respond to her or their opinion of her. I don’t know if it is wise to associate myself with her there without first learning about her. Should I approach a leader and inquire about her? Questions, questions, questions.
I do know you are known by who you associate with. And it is wise to guard yourself. There is a quote by Colin Powell that I believe is so true:
“The less you associate with some people, the more your life will improve. Any time you tolerate mediocrity in others, it increases your mediocrity. An important attribute in successful people is their impatience with negative thinking and negative acting people. As you grow, your associates will change. Some of your friends will not want you to go on. They will want you to stay where they are. Friends that don’t help you climb will want you to crawl. Your friends will stretch your vision or choke your dream. Those that don’t increase you will eventually decrease you.
Consider this: Never receive counsel from unproductive people. Never discuss your problems with someone incapable of contributing to the solution, because those who never succeed themselves are always first to tell you how. Not everyone has a right to speak into your life. You are certain to get the worst of the bargain when you exchange ideas with the wrong person. Don’t follow anyone who’s not going anywhere. With some people you spend an evening: with others you invest it. Be careful where you stop to inquire for directions along the road of life. Wise is the person who fortifies his life with the right friendships. If you run with wolves, you will learn how to howl. But, if you associate with eagles, you will learn how to soar to great heights.
A mirror reflects a man’s face, but what he is really like is shown by the kind of friends he chooses.
In Prosperity Our Friends Know Us. In Adversity We Know Our friends.
Never make someone a priority when you are only an option for them.
If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude..”
These are words to live by.