I don’t make real friends easily. Sure, I know and am known by a lot of people, but I count very few of them as true friends. It’s not natural for me to open up, to make hasty attachments, to invest in the lives of others quickly. Therefore, one of the . . . challenges . . . the balancing acts . . . of the Christ-centered life (at least mine) is that He calls us to invest in others. It’s called discipleship. But He also calls us to leave, or He tells us to stay while those around us leave. That hurts. I know from experience, so I tend to keep people “at arm’s length” because I don’t want to repeat the inevitable pain of separating.
That’s why I marvel at Paul’s affection for the Corinthian believers. It seems he had a special gift for relating to people and investing in them even though he knew their time together was short. Paul stayed there for maybe a year and a half. (I just looked that up on-line, so don’t quote me on it.) After he left, they got themselves in a big mess and did/said some things that should have hurt Paul’s feelings. Yet Paul still says, you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you (2 Cor 7:3). Apparently, the feelings weren’t reciprocal. This is his second letter to them (at least), and He’s still encouraging them to love him like he already loved them (v.2).
As I pondered these verses and compared them to my own life, an image of my son’s Velcro sandals came into my head. He’s seven years old, so those shoes are NEVER clean! When the ‘hook’ side of Velcro gets clogged with hair, dust, fuzz, and whatever else, it doesn’t work. It can’t connect with the ‘loop’ side. That’s what I do to my life; I intentionally stuff it with so much . . . clutter . . . that I can’t really attach to another person. Paul says they need to clean out everything that contaminates body and spirit (v. 1). That’s how the Corinthian believers could make room for Paul and his companions in their hearts (v. 2). And that’s how I can make room for new people in my life: clear out the contaminates (fear, busy-ness, excuses, irrelevant things) so that I have room for the people He has placed in my life for this period of time–whether long or short.
Velcro is really amazing. (Thank you, George de Mestral!) When you pull it apart, it sounds like it’s ripping. Yet all of those little hooks just pop back into place. The Father has created us with a similar resilience. The pain of separation is real and relevant, but when we let Him heal us, we can quickly be ready for another connection.