Friday, June 25, 2010

Day 25: Advice

I was reading Job this morning. It's not my favorite book in the's tough to reconcile my image of God as a loving father with some of the stuff that goes on in there. But as with other parts of the Bible, I've found the wrestling process valuable, even if it doesn't always lead to pat answers that allow me to say, "Ah yes, Job! Here's what it means..."

What caught my attention today is the role Job's friends play. They mean well, but they give him terrible advice. And his challenge there (among a whole host of considerable challenges) is to sort out the unwise counsel from the friends themselves. The people who love us enough to speak into our lives are both the best thing ever and a huge source of stress. We don't always know until afterward which is which, and in both cases we can end up in a ditch if we handle things unthoughtfully: we can deify friends to shed helpful light into our situations, making them "gods" in our lives; we can walk away from friends who tell us things we don't want to hear (or disagree with) hurling out the proverbial baby with the bathwater.

I spent the better part of yesterday with some friends who are also artistic/creative types. We're all in a season of feeling pulled toward some downtime, wondering what we might come up with if we dare take a little time to re-group. They're braver than I am, so they've already planned a sabbatical. Me? I'm chicken. Throughout our conversation, I kept blurting out lets-keep-going type things like "maybe THIS could happen!" or "what if God is saying XYZ-super-encouraging thing?" And they'd look at me with lots of kindness and say, "Well...maybe God is saying that to you..." (reminding me of a quote I once heard that said, “The best way to succeed in life is to act on the advice we give to others.”)

They were Job. I was Job's friends.

Here's the cool thing, though...(and it's important to have a cool thing to consider here, because we're all Job's blurty friends at one time or another)...this didn't crash out our friendship or negate our consideration of possible projects we might try together someday in the future. My blurts were, I think, contained in the space they were made rather than allowed to take hold of the entire conversation and strangle it. I'm grateful for that. Grace is a nice thing in friendships!

Here's my point in all of this: I think that in the big questions of life--the things we might pray about in a 40 Days of Faith, for example, about our hopes for live and love and happily ever after--we are so on the lookout for signs of hope that every bit of advice is given more weight than necessary. Someone says, "I think you'll meet someone soon" and we replay it over and over in our minds for days, while if someone else saying, "God wants you to be happy right where you are and not ask for more," we're despondent.

Today, let's ask God for help getting off of that roller coaster. Let's pray for wise counsel, both in terms of what we give and what we receive. And let's also ask for help giving the appropriate weight to whatever we hear, and prioritizing people over words.

And if you want to encourage me, fess up: Have you ever blurted out bad advice? Or am I the only one? :)


Sarakastic said...

Sometimes I watch shows about group of friends who all get together and give each other amazing bad advice about men because when it's their time to tell their boy stories they want the same encouragement, true of tv true of life

KristyWes said...

Mmmm, I've definitely been made despondent over advice that - though well-intentioned - was unhelpful at best and hurtful at worst. My challenge continues to be to NOT throw the baby out with the bathwater, as you say. My instinct is to walk away from such advice in a huff ("Well, if that's what you think, who needs you!?") A good reminder to "prioritize people over words" and give both their appropriate weight.

Anna said...

I like this and is appropriate for me today. I have totally relied on words from friends when I have approached them re: memories that have come back and I need them to tell me I'll be okay.

The hard thing is to stick to my guns when I receive well intentioned "advice" and I desperately want to follow it, but know I shouldn't. Today was one of those days. So far I've done all right though my nose has seen a kleenex or two.

larramiefg said...

Don't we always know what is best for someone else without knowing their their whole story? This reminds me more of judging...well-intentioned, of course.