Recently, on a beautiful sunny day, I was driving down a winding country road trying to take a short cut to somewhere I needed to be 5 minutes prior. Yeah. It was that kind of a day.
Anyway, as I approached a curve in the road, I saw a row of large trees bordering the edge of the pavement with a beautiful grassy field beyond. Each tree sported a black and orange “no trespassing” sign. After counting at least 5 or 6 signs, it was clear that someone was trying to keep people out.
Surprisingly, at the end of the wooded area was a small church with a cute country church steeple.
I saw several more black and orange signs saying, “no trespassing,” “keep out,” or “no skateboarding.” (I didn’t realize skateboarding was such an epidemic in an area where cows, horses, and deer outnumbered people.).
I also saw “no parking” and “no loitering” signs throughout the parking lot and sidewalks around the modest building.
It wasn’t until I had almost passed the entire church property that I noticed they had an actual church sign advertising for their 9:45AM service.
Now, I’m not going to discuss whether or not a church should post “no trespassing” signs all over their property. I’ll let you decide for yourself. However, it instantly made me take inventory of my own heart.
Many times in my life, I’ve been hurt by well-meaning people, selfish people, and immature people.
Other times, I’ve dealt with people who became so dysfunctional, I had to distance myself from them because they were causing so much stress and drama in my life.
After all of this, I guess I’m a bit weary when comes to attempting to start new friendships.
That’s when I realized I needed to make sure I wasn’t putting up “no trespassing” signs on my heart when my mouth was professing otherwise.
First things first, I needed to make sure I had properly forgiven those who had hurt me.
Secondly, I needed to remind myself that I’m not perfect either and I can be immature, selfish, and say really stupid stuff.
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God ~Romans 3:23, NIV
No one is perfect. We all need Jesus. With that said, I also need to be more intentional about who I choose to open my heart and life up to on a close friendship level.
As an adult, most of the people I’ve started friendships with were never going to be able to reciprocate a true and healthy friendship back to me. They were so caught up in their own bubble of life, they weren’t able to be a friend to anyone.
I was pursuing people who were completely emotionally unavailable and then getting mad when they didn’t act like an emotionally healthy adult.
This was a huge lesson for me to learn. It wasn’t until a few years ago that it finally clicked in my brain and I was able to break from the habit of seeking people who were unavailable.
When I saw those “no trespassing” signs, I felt convicted.
God said to me,
“Remain open to new friends. Do not allow negative experiences in the past to form a callus around your heart.”
Isn’t it funny how God will use something as random as signs on a tree in a church parking lot to teach me a lesson? I’m surely not the only one that God speaks to like this, right?
I also need to continue to reach out to those who are hurting other people, because they are hurting as well.
You’ve heard the saying, “hurt people hurt other people,” right? Well, I’ve found this to be true, yet I forget about this truth every time I am in the middle of someone’s drama.
As a Christian, I need to see hurting people the way Jesus sees them.
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life ~John 3:16, NIV
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms ~Ephesians 6:12, NIV
Jesus died for them just as much as He died for me and my mess. They are wanted and loved the same as I am. Their behavior is a symptom of a bigger spiritual problem that will only be solved with a spiritual answer.
If God places them in my path, I need to make sure my heart doesn’t scream “keep out” when Holy Spirit wants to use me to show them His kindness and grace. I could be one of people who help cut away the strings of bondage from around their heart.
Bottom line is I can reach out to the hurting and be a friend to them, without expecting anything in return. At the same time, I can be more selective with whom I confide in as a close friend.
If you’re hurting, cry out to God in prayer and seek a mature and godly believer, pastor, ministry leader, or counselor that can help you work through your issues or situation. Know that you’re infinitely loved by the Father. Getting emotionally healthier will help you focus more on what God has for your life. You have a purpose!
If you have to continually remind yourself to be open to new potential friends, keep going. God will bring people into your life. Never look for a perfect person because they don’t exist. Never settle for someone who will treat you like garbage either.
Look for someone who is trustworthy, kind, and will be authentic in their own mess, while speaking the truth in love in the midst of yours.
In both cases, continually ask yourself,
Do I have a “no trespassing” sign on my heart?