Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Tending Your Own Garden

Many years ago, I lost a very dear friend.  We had been close - closer than sisters.  Our children played together.  Our husbands fellowshipped together.  We shared births and deaths, highs and lows.  Our families were in and out of each others homes and each others lives.  And then one day, that camaraderie, that friendship, died.  To say that our friendships death knell was sudden wouldn't be truthful, but unexpected - yes. 

When I finally came to realize that our sisterly affection had been replaced by not-so-subtle hostility, I was shaken to the core.  I immediately called my friend, asked directly about the cracks in our relationship and sought resolution.  What I was confronted with was rigid and complete unforgiveness. 

I was heartbroken.  Then I was sad.  And then I was mad.  I ran all of the reasons for our distance through my mind and couldn't really come up with one, single incident or situation that had brought such a fracture to our once treasured friendship.  The only problem that I could come up with was that I had stopped calling her and going to her house every week.  It had come to my attention that the only time we talked or got together was when I called her or visited her home or made the effort to invite her to my house for tea.  To top that off, when I seriously injured my back my dear friend didn't appear.  She didn't call to see if I needed anything or if she could take care of the kids or if she could help with the household chores.  Nothing.  I was hurt.  So what did I do?  I didn't call.  I didn't visit.  I stubbornly decided that if she wanted to talk to me, she could make the effort.

This went on for quite a while.  When I would see her in town, I would hug her, ask after her family and pretend that everything was fine - feeling very justified.  And then she had a baby that was very sick.  I went to the hospital, and prayed with her and braided her hair and sat with her, but she really didn't want me there.  The hurt just kept growing and growing, until finally, she wrote a scathing blog entry about her "friend" that wasn't truly a friend after all.

In the years that followed, I tried numerous times, to heal the rift that had developed between us but to no avail.  Every attempt I made was rebuffed or contemptuously tolerated.   When we saw each other, we would paste smiles on our faces and remove ourselves from the room as quickly as possible.  Our once tight-knit families became strangers to each other.

In truth, the implosion of our friendship rests equally on both of our shoulders - it is no more all her fault than it is all my fault. But even this great loss has had many blessings.  I have learned more from my friend since our falling out, than in all of the years of our friendship.  Let me explain.

One of the things that drove me crazy about my friend was the state of her house.  I know that sounds terrible, but if I am going to be honest, it's true.  She was a terrible housekeeper.  Her laundry was always piled high, her dishes never done and there was garbage on the floor.  Her yard was a mess, her basement abysmal and her children' bedrooms terrible.  It was bad enough that it was very distracting to me.  I loved her, but her housekeeping bordered on slovenly.  And it drove me crazy.  I knew that it shouldn't bother be, but it did.  It made me not want to visit her home.  It made me not want to put my baby down on her floor.  It made me question how she ordered her day if she couldn't even finish the dishes.  Between my feelings of disdain for her messy house and the fact that I felt like I had to make all of the effort to maintain our friendship, I quit trying and our friendship died.

And then one day, as my children were squabbling over some trinket or another, I caught myself saying something that hit me like a ton of bricks.  I said to one of them "That is not yours. It is not up to you to take care of it - it is up to your brother.  If he doesn't take care of it, he will have to suffer the consequences.  It is his responsibility".  And then it struck me - I had been irritated at my friend for not taking care of what she had.  I had always loved her old farm house.  I loved the wood floors and the lath and plaster walls and the big rooms and the huge windows.  I loved her house and she didn't take care of it.  I lived in a shop.  I cleaned it and cared for it, but it was still a shop - not a century old farmhouse.  My envy, my jealousy had prompted me to judge my friend.  And my envy, not her poor housekeeping skills, had damaged our friendship.  I had been so busy trying to tend my neighbors garden that I had forgotten to weed my own.

It is so easy to think that we know how other people should care for their possessions and the people in their care, but that is not our job.  It is our job to tend our own gardens.  We need to raise our children, manage our homes, love our husbands.  We need to be so busy taking care of our own "houses" that we don't have time to tell everyone else how to take care of theirs.

Even in the midst of broken relationships God is tending His garden.  And I am so thankful.

In the Service of the King -



  1. Very good post and observations. I have also had friendships (or I thought they were) that were very lopsided. I called, made the effort, etc. Frankly, it was exhausting. After many years of repeating the same pattern I felt sucked dry. I no longer do those things.

  2. Thank you Enola. My wife and I just went through the loss of a dear friend under somewhat similar circumstances and I empathize with your sense of hurt and loss. Thank you for sharing so candidly from your heart.

  3. I have never had that good of a friend. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  4. When I raised my own children, I worked full time. Daughter kept "changing" friends, and I wondered if it was her fault.
    When I sat down to talk to her about this, she told me that she was uncomfortable in other people's homes because they didn't have clean bathtubs. She also said that the food was better at home than anywhere else and that I was the only mother who cooked every day and had green stuff on the plate.
    I am happy to report that she keeps a clean house, cooks every night for her family, and they sit down together for every meal except lunch. She also works 40 hours a week. My son married a woman who also keeps the home fires alive. So I did something right.

  5. Your old "friend" sound like lazy whisky-tango. You are better off..

  6. Enola, thank you for a wonderful example of humility and seeing the log, rather than the speck. After all, what do so many outside the church community fear and dislike about Christian folk? Judgmentalism. When we try to tend a friend's or the world's heart, we become disconnected from God's immediacy and His love cannot flow through us. When we focus in humility on tending our own hearts before the Lord, we "abide in Him" and become compassionate, humble and winning to those who do not know Him.

    1. EllenS said: "After all, what do so many outside the church community fear and dislike about Christian folk? Judgmentalism."

      No Ellen, what so many outside the church community fear and dislike is an example of good by those in the church community. Those outside the church community don't fear and dislike judgmentalism -- they're some of the most judgmental people you'll ever hear from (e.g., Hollywood people, leftists, atheists, active homosexuals, etc.). And a lack of judgmentalism is not a Christian trait -- a lack of judgmentalism is usually the affirmative tolerance of evil. Christ had no problem judging the money lenders in the Temple. In fact, He was infused with a righteous anger, and he acted on that anger by calling them out for who and what they were.

      To be clear, I'm not suggesting Enola need do that here. The situation Enola described is a different matter, and is probably best handled by not confronting the "friend." However, I've addressed your comment because that namby-pamby nonsense about not being judgmental is a killer in Christianity (and a killer of it). And I'm not saying I'm "holier than thou" -- I've sinned and fallen short of the glory of God just like everyone else on this planet; and, what I have, I have by the grace of God, not because I earned it. However, when I hear that "who are we to judge" nonsense, it gets my dander up. And in anticipation of someone responding that God said "Judge not lest ye be judged," God wasn't instructing us not to judge sin when we see it, He was instructing us not to jump to conclusions when we don't know the facts. For example, we shouldn't automatically think that a single mother has sinned just because she's a single woman with a baby. Maybe she has sinned, maybe she hasn't -- until we know the facts, we hold our tongue. But nothing in the Bible instructs us to hold our tongues once we know the facts, or to sit back and be non-judgmental of sin when we see it.


    2. I agree with Ted. There is a difference between discernment, correction (which we are called to do) and "judgement". To call evil, evil is not "judgement"

    3. I agree that we must know the difference between good and evil. And we should pursue reconciliation with those who have sinned against us. We should correct those who are under our proper authority. And we should privately exhort our brothers and sisters when they are falling short of their profession. But when someone does not fall into one of those proper categories, our primary application of judgement should be in self-examination and repentance, not in resenting or denouncing the behavior of others. Jesus admonished the Pharisees, and whipped those who descrated the Temple - it was His Temple, after all. But he welcomed the lepers, the woman taken in adultery, the sinful woman who washed his feet with her tears, the Gentile centurion, and was known as a "friend of sinners". A servant is not greater than his Master, and we should all think carefully about who is under our personal authority and who is not. There is a great temptation to pride, to think it is our place to correct and admonish the whole world.

    4. Ted (Part 1)

      EllenS wrote: “I agree that we must know the difference between good and evil.”

      Yes, but we must do far more than that – we must affirmatively stand up against evil. First, because good doesn’t survive without nurturing, and caring, and encouragement. Evil will snuff good out if given the chance. The devil would have us all of we didn’t stand together (and stand up and make our voices heard). One by one the evil one would gather his forces and deplete the ranks of Christians (even good ones, because even the good need the comfort of an ally standing by them).

      EllenS wrote: “And we should privately exhort our brothers and sisters when they are falling short of their profession.”

      How many Jews would have been gassed by the Nazis if people actively stood up to evil, called it out in public, and battled it openly in the streets and squares of Germany? How many Christian bakers in America will cave on their beliefs and participate in sin if forced to stand alone with no other Christians voices crying out in their defense? There is a time for private exhortation, but saying that isn’t supporting the namby-pamby “who are we to judge” concept. As Archbishop Chaput has noted:

      Evil talks about tolerance only when it's weak. When it gains the upper hand, its vanity always requires the destruction of the good and the innocent, because the example of good and innocent lives is an ongoing witness against it. So it always has been. So it always will be. And America has no special immunity to becoming an enemy of its own founding beliefs about human freedom, human dignity, the limited power of the state, and the sovereignty of God.

      We must be willing to judge evil, and call it out when we see it. Obviously that requires some discernment about when and how we do that, but it doesn’t change our obligation to do so.

      EllenS wrote: “our primary application of judgement should be in self-examination and repentance, not in resenting or denouncing the behavior of others.”

      I agree that we should be diligent in self-examination and repentance (hence my personal acknowledgment that I too have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and that what I have, I have by His grace). However, the fact that none of us is perfect cannot be an excuse for not calling out sin. If that were the case, no one would ever call out sin – we’d live quietly with wickedness growing around us, for fear of speaking out since we too are inherently sinful. That cannot be what God wants of us, since he expressly commanded us to go out and spread the word and make converts.

      EllenS wrote: “Jesus … whipped those who descrated the Temple - it was His Temple, after all. *** A servant is not greater than his Master, and we should all think carefully about who is under our personal authority and who is not.”

      I believe your right – with respect to Jesus, anyway – that a servant is not greater than his master. I tremble at the thought of arrogantly even thinking such a thing. But, didn’t the Lord command we should strive to be like Him? And if He did, should his servants be just as willing to whip the Pharisees (figuratively at least) as He was. If they desecrate His Temple, am I to stand by and watch, and cry “Who am I to judge?” Or say, It’s wicked what they do to the Lord’s Temple, but if the Lord wants them whipped then he must do it?” Really??? Do you think the Lord wants us to stand by and watch his children corrupted, his temples (and there are many) demeaned and polluted, and no bad word publicly spoken in the face of wickedness? I don’t. I think the Lord commands that we act on his behalf – at the very least by speaking truth to evil – and that requires a willingness to publicly admonish wrongdoers even as I recognize the sin in myself, and try to purge that as well.

    5. Ted (Part 2)
      EllenS wrote: “But he welcomed the lepers, the woman taken in adultery, the sinful woman who washed his feet with her tears, the Gentile centurion, and was known as a "friend of sinners."

      Lepers aren’t sinners, Ellen, and unless you know something about microbiology that I don’t, I don’t think their leprosy is brought on by any wrongdoing on the lepers part. I think we can probably agree on that? If so, then that analogy really is better saved for a different argument.

      As for the woman taken in adultery … Many who take the "judge not lest ye be judged" comment out of context use the woman taken in adultery as an example in support of their non-judgmental approach. They often misstate (or mistake) the meaning of "Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her" in support of the “who am I to judge” approach. However, Christ wasn’t saying we shouldn't confront sin when we see it. The stone-throwing quote is from John 8:7, and falls in the middle of a passage describing how an adulteress was about to be stoned to death. Jesus looked into her heart, and apparently saw her shame, and her desire to be cleansed of her sin (the passage doesn't expressly say so, but that is certainly one logical conclusion when you read it). In light of her recognition of her sin and her contrition, Christ forgave her. Nothing I’ve said in any way precludes or contradicts forgiveness where acknowledgment and contrition are present. (It's also possible, by the way, to logically conclude the woman was falsely accused of adultery, because at one point Christ looks at her while the crowd is present, and asks, "Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?" From that question, we could logically conclude she may not have committed adultery at all, or at least that there was no proof she had, and that she was thus falsely accused of something she didn’t do in the first place.) Whichever equally logical conclusion one draws, the Lord then commanded her, "Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more." The woman didn't get off Scot-free: in contrition, she was forgiven of her sins, but in forgiveness she was called out on the sin and commanded to sin no more. Not only does that interpretation not contradict the position I took, but it doesn’t support the one you took. At any rate, we can probably all agree that a contrite adulteress (or adulterer) can seek and attain forgiveness. Admitting that doesn’t somehow make it right to remain silent in the face of evil.

      Likewise, your reference to the centurion isn’t supportive of your position either. The parable of the centurion is not a tale of silence in the face of evil, but rather a tale of absolute faith in the Lord. The centurion didn’t need Jesus to come to his house and physically put His hands on the centurion’s sick servant to make him well. The centurion was a man of earthly power – he knew that if he commanded something be done, it would be done. The centurion’s will would be given physical effect. The centurion had such faith in Jesus’ power over sickness and death that he know if Jesus commanded his servant should be well, his servant would be well. I love that story … but I’m not sure how it supports your position here.

    6. Ted (Part 3)

      Finally, EllenS wrote: “There is a great temptation to pride, to think it is our place to correct and admonish the whole world.”

      I’ll give you this one Ellen. There’s much truth in that statement. However, the statement doesn’t support a namby-pamby non-judgmental form of Christianity. From a biblical standpoint, I think your point – while valid – calls out only for caution in speaking out that we do so, not out of pride, but rather out of a true desire to help lift others up from sin. From a human standpoint, men and women will not generally commit themselves to a namby-pamby everyone’s okay and it’s not my place to judge argument. That kind of stand-for-nothing approach will not win converts over to the Lord. And since we all have an eternal life to live after this one – in either a very pleasant place or very unpleasant place – out of love for our fellow man, we should want to win converts.

  7. Ted (Part 1)

    I'm going to start by identifying myself as a man. I do that, because your analysis here seems very stereotypically womanly, and is probably wrong as a result.

    I've noticed that women analyze things very differently than men (yeah – news flash, I know), and the difference is sometimes frustrating to a man (yeah – another news flash, I’m sure). I do not mean that in any way to be chauvinistic or demeaning. (I’m willing to be chauvinistic, but that’s not what I’m being here.) In fact, I frequently enjoy hearing women's perspectives in many of the blogs I read (including specifically preparedness blogs), because men often tend to overlook things they think aren't important without realizing just how important those thing(s) they're overlooking really are. I'm a single father of two boys and a girl, and kids – and girls even more so – have needs most men never even think to tend to, let alone provide for. I like hearing (reading) a woman's perspective, because women tend to have insights that go unobserved and/or wrongly ignored by men, but which address problems that are very real and need to be addressed in order to be successful.

    Having said all of that, your conclusions in this article are frustrating because they seem so female-centric. Women tend, for example, to blame themselves or think "there must be something wrong with me" when a personal problem develops, whereas men tend to think it's the other "jerk's" fault. I suppose either outlook could potentially be supported depending on the hypothetical set of circumstances at issue. However, we’re not dealing with the hypothetical here. If I accept your version of all the facts at face value, I don't see anything to lead me to conclude you were trying to tend your friend’s garden and ignoring your own. Correlation does not equal causation, and a propensity to self-blame doesn't mean it’s your fault things went bad. That certainly doesn’t seem to be the conclusion warranted here at any rate.

  8. Ted (Part 2)
    It may very well be that you were jealous of your friend’s house, her situation, and the opportunities she had that you didn’t. It may be that she had something you wished you had. However, the coincidence of that fact (and it seems only a coincidence in light of your other descriptions) doesn't change the fact that – if you're right about the rest of what you said – that you were a far better friend to her than she was to you. In fact, it's possible (again, taking your descriptions at face value), that the woman you thought was your friend, never really was. You said you only saw her when you went out of your way to go over to her house, or when you expressly invited her to your house. You said that despite the friction that built up, you went to her in the hospital and prayed with her and comforted her, and yet she did nothing for you in your time of need and suffering. Maybe she was a selfish, self-centered person who didn’t value your friendship, but rather demanded that if she was going to be even superficially your “friend” that you would have to do all the work in the relationship. If that's the case, then she was never really your friend at all, and it was only your willingness to go out of your way to facilitate things that any relationship whatsoever existed. That’s not friendship, Enola, and there’s no need to mourn the loss of that kind of relationship. It reminds me of my mother’s constant “feeling that she should have done more” to build a close relationship with her father that her father expressly rejected every time she tried to do more. My mother blames herself, but it’s not her fault. People write the text of their epitaph every day with the things they do. There’s no point in blaming yourself for what this woman apparently did every day (demonstrate the cheapness she placed on the value of your relationship; refuse to accept your hand when offered; refused to extend her own when you were in need; etc.). I see no reason to beat yourself up about what happened here, any more than my mother should feel like she should have done more. People make choices; it sounds like your friend made several. You’re not responsible for someone else’s choices.

    Your conclusion rings more of a lower-than-warranted self-esteem in this case, not of any wrongdoing on your part. Unless you’ve left something major out, I don’t see how “the implosion of [the] friendship rests equally on both of [y]our shoulders.” As I’ve told my kids many times: there’s not a man who’s ever lived who hasn’t thanked God at some point in his life for low self-esteem in women. Having said that, I think you need to stop the soul searching here, and consider the possibility your “friend” may have never really been your friend.

    1. Wow. Just - wow.
      So, instead of Enola being overwhelmed with gratitude and love for her Savior, to feel that she has faced and won a victory of forgiveness over resentment - she should bolster her "self-esteem" by writing off her friend as "a jerk," feeling superior, and harboring a grudge?

      Yeah, that's a surefire way to be happy and peaceful and spiritually healthy. I'm really glad your comments are not "sterotypically male", because the men I know understand a bit more about spiritual growth and seeking the Lord.

      I'd love to know what translation of the Bible you are reading, because mine doesn't have "self-esteem" in it, at least not the way you define it. Mine has Matthew 7:3 and Phillipians 2:3 and 1 Peter 3:9.

  9. Ted (Part 1)

    You know Ellen, I gave you the benefit of the doubt in my response to you – I challenged your arguments, but not you personally. I assumed (and I still will) that you were a good person simply missing a point – and a critical point in my view, because Christians must not only believe in something, they must stand for something … and stand against things (e.g., sinful or wicked things). I didn’t question your Christianity, or your faith, or your womanhood, or your personal traits. However, your response is quite telling, because you questioned all of those things with me.

    You assumed a bad intent on my part, by saying I was proposing an interpretation of the relationship Enola wrote about that would cheat her out of her “victory of forgiveness over resentment.” Nowhere in what I wrote do I suggest that. First, Enola seemed to be blaming herself when – if I accept what she wrote as true – it would appear that her “friend” was at fault. There’s no point – or justification in reality – for Enola (or anyone) blaming themselves for the acts and omissions of others. Nor did I suggest Enola engage in continued resentment. In fact, I think it’s obvious from what I wrote that I was encouraging Enola to simply move on and not worry about what was (because I doubt what was, was ever the true friendship Enola thought there was).

    Additionally, you expressly attacked my manhood because I disagreed with you. Although I identified myself as a man (because I thought it would help understand where I was coming from), I also expressly praised the insight of women (because I wanted you to understand both sexes can have valid – albeit different – perspectives). However, your response was to call me out and belittle me. How dare I disagree with EllenS.

    In fact, you not only attacked my manhood (when I never attacked your femininity), you also directly challenged the veracity of my relationship with Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior by asserting that “the men I know understand a bit more about spiritual growth and seeking the Lord.” Really??? First, you do not know me, so you cannot know the depth of my love for Jesus (although if you accepted my words as true, you could have derived some initial understanding of it). Second, I don’t care how many other men you know, since you don’t know me you have no way whatsoever of knowing whether their understanding of spiritual growth and seeking the Lord is better than mine. All you can know – and now we too – is that you harbor such an inner anger about being challenged on a point of argument that you are willing to immediately call a man out as supposedly not being either a man or a Christian.

    On top of all of that – and related directly to it – what an utter hypocrite you are?! You post a comment that Christians shouldn’t judge, and then in your next post you immediately launch into an unprovoked assault on the character of someone you don’t know by publicly judging them neither a man nor a Christian.

    1. I see no questioning of your manhood in Ellen's post.

  10. Ted (Part 2)

    In response to your final judgmental assault against me in which you assert “I'd love to know what translation of the Bible you are reading” – I don’t think you really care what version I’m reading since you’ve judged me not a Christian, but I’ll answer anyway. I have a King James version, which is my favorite, because it is so poetically eloquent in addition to being easy to read and understand. I’ve used that throughout most of my life, including being brought up as a Baptist. I also have a copy of the Geneva Bible, which I cherish because it’s the version the Pilgrims brought over and worshipped to. (They commissioned it specially, because the organized churches of the day wouldn’t allow the laity to have a copy in their own native tongue.) I also have a New American Version given to me a Catholic priest from whom I sought individual spiritual guidance in the past (oh, was my Baptist mother ever nervous about that ;-)).

    Challenge my ideas and my arguments if you want, but you are no one to call me less than a man or less than Christian. In advance … I forgive you your transgressions, whether you want my forgiveness or not.

  11. Ted's perspective is enough to make one want to quit reading this blog altogether. How much of his arrogant, chauvenistic blather are we going to be forced to endure just to read well thought out, intelligent comments? I am incredibly saddened to read that he is raising daughters alone, what horrible, self-defeating ideas are they going to be raised with? Believing they are not good enough or not valuable thinkers just because they are female, that they are only worth serving this pos and other men? That's great if that is what one truly wants but if not, he is setting them up for a life of slavery and misery. What a truly, truly awful person.

    1. Why don't you address the issues of what Ted stated instead of launching a personal attack on him? You are validating the image of the over-emotional female..

    2. Having just read all of this today, I see Ted's comments as overly emotional. He read a great deal of content into Ellen's comments that just weren't there. Anonymous above addressed what they found offensive in Ted's comments (devaluing the thoughts of women), so it's not a baseless, emotional attack. There are no hints has to their gender. Why do you assume ?

  12. You're a smart woman, Enola. I am not the greatest housekeeper myself-- unless you come at the end of a run of three sunny days, there is usually laundry waiting, unless you come between 10 am and noon, there are usually dishes in the sink, unless you come on Monday, the kids' bedrooms usually leave something to be desired (and I just keep my bedroom door shut, thanks).

    I shudder to invite people over-- though it's basically sanitary, it seldom looks if it were clipped from the pages of a magazine, and I fear their judgment. We won't discuss the queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach over my mother-in-law moving in this summer (something I should count all joy, as we enjoy each other's company and the children can hardly wait until 'Grandma in Florida' becomes 'Grandma next door').

    In a similar vein, I have a dear friend who never did learn housekeeping skills and is, on top of that, a compulsive hoarder. She can't get rid of her mess herself (she has to know where every item is going, and 'To the thrift store' is not an answer she can accept), and she can't accept help.

    After many years of shaking my head and wagging my tongue, I've learned to set up a playpen (God bless her, she keeps one just for me, as her son is 9 and the rest of her friends are childless), wash a coffee cup, clear off a chair, shovel out a spot at the kitchen table, and enjoy the blessings that are the rest of her (after all, an Aspie can't be too picky about friends-- they're hard enough to come by as it is).

    She, too, takes the occasional jab at me. It's only because she judges herself as harshly as she judges the people she passes on the street (and probably me, too-- surely all my failures make a large and easy target).

    Hang in there, dear. Perhaps it will mend.

  13. Dear Enola, I would like to say thank you. I needed this reminder.
    a little bird

  14. It's hard to look at our selves honestly and see our flaws. You did a wonderful job in this post. We have certainly all been guilty of envy. It's one of those things that can creep up on us as soon as we let our guard down.

  15. Wow, just wow! STILL my favorite blog...

  16. Wow, just wow! STILL my favorite blog...

  17. I certainly needed this today! I am guilty of the same thing just this very week with my sister and again with my sister in law. Thank you...

  18. Sister Enola,

    God's word tells us there will be "seasons" in our lives. Open your hands to the Lord and release this season and be ready for His giving of another season to you and your family. He knows your heart!!!!!!

    Be blessed, April