This knack that I have for deciphering people's true intentions can feel like both a gift and a curse. It's great to have the ability to know what drives those whom I come into contact with, wonderful to have the wisdom to pinpoint the motives behind the words and deeds of others. After all, I did pray that I would be able to tell the difference between those who love me for me, and those who just want to be close to "Author Tracy Brown". But, it can be downright disheartening to realize that just about everyone around you has a trick up their sleeve. Whether it's a desire to emulate you, or a need to get in your business, or a ploy to ride your coattails to the top, the false motives of others can be enough to force even the most social butterfly into a cocoon of solitude.
One of the things that I've learned about "church folk" is that if you want to be truly blessed, you have to focus on The Message and not the messenger. Perhaps that TV preacher whose last name is synonymous with "cash" doesn't appear to have the purest motives. I've learned to look past that and receive the truth of The Word he preaches instead of focusing on the Bentley he drives and his pending criminal investigation. I've applied the same tactic to dealing with all of the people God has placed in my life.
We've all heard that phrase before. But let's dig a little deeper into the wisdom of this saying.
Sometimes you meet a person who is placed in your life just to teach you a particular lesson. Once the lesson is learned, and their purpose has been fulfilled, they go - often without any explanation. Think about the guy or girl you dated years ago. Looking back on it now, you wonder what the hell you were thinking and why you "wasted your time" with such a loser. In retrospect, you see that they were never good for you. However, at the time that you were involved with them, no one could tell you that the relationship wasn't the perfect fit for your life. Sometimes when you're in a situation, you can't see it clearly (especially when love is involved). You have to go through the turmoil and heartbreak in order to learn a lesson. Once you learn the lesson, the relationship ends and perhaps you never see that person again. He/she was placed in your life for a reason.
Others are placed in our lives for a season. When I think about this category of people, I'm reminded of those folks who used to ride shotgun with me all the time - my childhood best friend, my ex-husband, my old drinking/partying/traveling buddy/coworker. At one time, you couldn't see me without seeing them somewhere close by. But these days, we've drifted apart. Not because of any falling out or animosity. But just because their purpose in my life had obviously been fulfilled. My childhood friend was there with me when I was young, and wild, and had guns to hide (It's a long story that I'll tell you about at a later time. LOL). My ex-husband gave me my beautiful children. My ex-co-worker/road dog was there with me when my daughter ran away from home and when my father lay dying in a hospital bed. They were vital to me at various points in my life. Today, our relationships have changed. But it doesn't diminish the importance of each of them in my life story. They were placed in my life for a season.
Then, there are those who are with us for a lifetime. Clearly, my children are at the top of that list. But there have also been people who are not related to me by blood who God placed in my life to go the distance with me. My "Mom" who came into my life when I was nineteen years old and nurtured and cared for me in a way that my biological mother had not; my "brother" Lance, who is closer to me than any of my biological siblings, and with whom I've shared many a secret over the years; a classmate who I've known since I was in the first grade, who grew up to marry my Pastor and is now my church's First Lady. There are some folks who each of us can trace back to the very beginning, and with whom we've embarked on an incredible lifelong journey. These are the ones who you never have to retell your story to, because they were there from the start and they already know the details. They are the people who are there with you for a lifetime.
Looking at the people around me through this lens has made life a lot easier for me. I used to make friends and expect that we would be old ladies together, sitting in our rocking chairs and talking crap about whatever we wanted. But now I don't make assumptions about what purpose people have arrived in my life to serve. An acquaintance once came to hang out with me and told me something that profoundly changed my life. In the months that followed, this person aligned herself with someone who had become my enemy. If I had placed all of my faith in the messenger, I might have lost sight of the fact that this acquaintance was only placed in my life to deliver that message at that particular time. It was not meant for me to become "besties" with her. Instead, God had sent her to tell me something. And once she told me, her role was over. Many of us mistakenly allow people to take up permanent residence in our lives when they were only meant to be temporary guests.
So, as I pointed out at the beginning of this post, lately I'm more aware than ever before of when a person's time is up in my life. And although it's unfortunate, sometimes we have to recategorize people as our lives progress. This little nugget (Author Unknown) says it best:
Everyone Can't be in your front row
There are some people in your life that need to be loved from a distance.
Observe the relationships around you. Pay attention to: Which ones lift and which ones lean?
Which ones encourage and which ones discourage?
When you leave certain people, do you feel better or feel worse?
Everyone Can't be in Your FRONT ROW.
The more you seek God and the things of God, the easier it will become for you to decide who gets to sit in the FRONT ROW and who should be moved to the balcony of your life.
Everyone Can't be in Your FRONT ROW.
So as you journey through this wondrous thing called life, don't be afraid to move folks to the nosebleed seats if necessary. Some may need to be escorted out of the theater altogether. Be aware of the reasons and seasons for those in your midst.