A Blog by Jennifer Aulthouse


A heart for those who want more of God. A desperate plea for those who don't.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Spiritual Sharpening

Proverbs 27:17 tells us that “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another”. In years past I looked at that verse through warm, cuddly, rose-colored lenses, thinking it was a verse encouraging us in friendship and love and spiritual growth. It is, of course, a verse promoting all those things and often is a very pleasurable process, but I suppose I should’ve been paying attention to the fact that the words “iron” and “sharpen” do not connote anything of a rosy, cuddly nature.

Although I am a fairly outgoing person and one who generally isn’t afraid to speak up when I have an idea, the mere thought of conflict or confrontation in any of my friendships makes me extremely uncomfortable. I know that discomfort is based on fear: fear that the other person may really not care enough about me to want to extend the effort in resolving the conflict, fear of criticism that cuts to the core of who I am and perhaps exposes sin and weakness, and the fear of losing a secure place to land where I know I’m accepted and approved of. But through some painful and trying situations, God has shown me that I don’t need to be afraid of the sharpening process.

With a few exceptions, every close relationship I have has been through at least one awkward and potentially devastating conflict. Sometimes it was simply a poor choice of words or tone in how one of us (usually me) handled a tense moment; sometimes it was from an outside circumstance neither of us was really responsible for and yet still found ourselves caught in the middle of -- and on opposite sides of when it came to how we thought the situation should be handled. In each case, if we hadn’t humbled ourselves and gone to each other, expressing our love for the other, how important the relationship was to us, and how we were wrong in our response, the damage caused by our initial reactions could’ve been heartbreaking. But God used each of these instances to refine and sharpen my character, as He continues to mold me in Christ-likeness.

It is so hard to be vulnerable and humble. It wounds our pride and leaves us open to rejection without anywhere to hide. Sometimes what we fear most is precisely what happens, and it’s so tempting to promise ourselves that we’ll never get in another position like that again where we allow someone to have any sense of power over us. But in my life, more times than not, when I have followed God’s call to trust Him with the people most precious to me and the relationships I have with them, and I swallow my pride and humble myself, I find that we come out as stronger people with a much stronger bond, because we both can rest in knowing how important we are to the other. That’s a tremendous blessing to have in life, and one that’s worth the terrifying experience of feeling the sharpened blade of spiritual growth pressing close to our hearts.

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