Relationships, whether romantic, family or friendships, take so much work to keep healthy. There are so many sources of potential conflict and disconnect whenever you put two human beings together. This can be a big one and one that may not be spoken about too much. The mismatch can be most obvious when it is a person who does not share your spiritual beliefs. Personally, I find these mismatches easier to navigate. The ones I really struggle with are when the other person does share your beliefs and yet you still seem to be on different wavelengths.
Having pondered this through my own experiences, I see that often it comes down to expectations. I don’t expect my friends who don’t share my Christian faith to understand everything I do or act in particular ways or think the same as I do. I do have those expectations on those close to me who do share my faith, if I am aware of it or not. My first question to myself and to you is, “What expectations are you placing on the other person and are they valid?”
Something that I have to remind myself of often is that God works with each person uniquely. What He is speaking to me about and transforming in my life is usually not the same as what He is doing in the other person at that time. Neither is any better than the other, simply different. Who am I to demand that someone else has the same revelation that I have had? God follows different schedules in each of our lives too. My timing is rarely the same as His!
I have tried many different pathways, sometimes without conscious thought. I have tried to hold myself back and use another’s level of growth as an excuse to stop growing myself. I have tried to steamroll forward and drag the other person along behind me. I have tried to be completely independent with little thought for the other person. I have been discouraged, angry, judgemental and frustrated at different times. As much as I want to change the other person, the only one I have any responsibility for and control over is myself.
I cannot allow someone else to determine if I pursue my relationship with God and be obedient to what I know He is calling me into. At the same time, I cannot forge ahead without respect and consideration for others around me. I cannot assume someone else will be at the same place with God that I am and I cannot judge them for any perceived differences either. The closer I come to God, the more I recognise how far from perfect I am in my own strength. It chips away at that judgement and I know even more that it is up to God to do the work in me and in the people I care about. I can live my life authentically and openly. I can encourage. I can share what God teaches me but I cannot make someone else grow.
I can also recognise the importance of community and a wide network around me. I want people in my life who don’t share my faith as it challenges me to be authentic and deeply wrestle with my faith. I want those that I can share the journey I have been on with and encourage from a little ahead of where they may be. I want those who will challenge me from where they are to take the next steps forward. I need sharpening iron friends. I have found that when I have this mix of community around me, including those that I can have deep and challenging spiritual conversations with, I am less frustrated and discouraged by a mismatch in spiritual walks with someone else. I can value the good in that relationship. There are still times when that is hard of course!
The most important point that I encourage you (and myself) with is to pray. As we remembered before, none of us can change another person. It is not our place to do that. It is our place to pray for those we care about. For those in my life who don’t share my faith, I pray that they see Jesus in me and that they come to know him for themselves. For those who do know Jesus but still don’t seem to match up with my own spiritual journey, I pray that God does what He wants to do in them and not what I think should be done. I pray for unity and love in those relationships. I pray for humility in myself.
Wherever you find a mismatch in your own life, I hope that you are encouraged to keep loving, keep pursuing your own spiritual growth and to remember to pray.
This post is part of a series for Write 31 Days called "For Your Encouragement." I am taking requests from readers on what they want encouragement about and responding to the best of my ability. I would love to hear from you.
You can read the rest of the posts in this series here.