We all have first-, second-, and third-tier friends. I got a phone call from the last kind today. She is a woman I have always thought had a picture-perfect marriage and family-to the point where in our several social encounters I was careful to present only the happier version of my life.
We were on the phone for an hour this morning, and I could not process the revelations fast enough. Turns out Satan has had a field day in her life, the kind of thing Jesus must have had in mind when He told Peter the devil would like to "sift him as wheat." That "sifting"-that de-fragmentation of a family and of a self and selves-is what he has been busily up to for years in that woman's household.
But the Lord is also on the move, and the tide of battle is turning in the other direction now, as it did against the Amalekites whenever Moses' hands were held up toward heaven. The purpose of this woman's call was mainly to praise God, with much joy. It was a little overwhelming for me, you must understand, because I was in the position of having to grasp a bushel of bad news and good news all at the same time, rather than spaced over a long period, as she had.
But I write this all to share the effect the phone call has on me. I am at once ashamed, repentant, edified, and strangely freed. Ashamed and repentant because I have been so wrapped up in myself that I had no skill or discernment regarding the suffering of other people I meet. There must have been clues, and I missed them. There are always clues-a look on the face, a gesture, a casual comment supposedly made in jest, a reason for why someone would have you over for tea.
These are the things that must change: One, I must be real with people and not pretend my family is perfect; no one is helped when everyone joins the conspiracy of pretending. Two, I must believe what the Bible says about life and constant spiritual warfare, rather than buy into a sanitized Ozzie and Harriet version of life. Three, I must be so confident of God's love for me that I am set free from fixing my thoughts on myself, in order to notice the woman at the party whose life is falling apart while we smile and clink our glasses.