How are you doing with those questions from last time? Didn’t get to them? Go ahead, take 20 minutes. I’ll wait.
We’ve walked through the reality of past hurts in relationships and how to acknowledge that hurt before the Lord for His healing and restoration. Last time we talked, we learned how to evaluate our current relationships and place them in a proper position in our lives.
Today, we’re going to focus on that last group of relationships, the “inner circle”. Jesus had his hundreds, if not thousands, of followers, such as the 5000 He fed on a mountainside. Then, He focused in on 12 men to “do life with” and pour into in a much more intimate way. Within that group of 12 men, He had a closer group of just 3 guys that were invited even deeper into relationship with Him, what we might call an “inner circle”.
So what characterizes that type of deeper, “inner circle” friendship? A truly deep friendship is one that looks past the surface, looks past the outer shell. These are the people we can count on to roll their eyes when we say, “Fine.” This is a relationship where I know I can open up and be completely honest, without feeling judged or manipulated into thinking from someone else’s agenda. A truly deep friendship challenges me to growth and calls out areas where I’m not doing a great job, because they want me to be right in the center of God’s best.
An “inner circle” friendship is one that supports and encourages, without being rigid or obligatory. I know this is someone who is always available when I need a shoulder or a hand, but also someone who is flexible enough to let me be me. An “inner circle” friendship doesn’t expect change in the other for personal comfort or satisfaction, but instead allows the Holy Spirit to do His job as an encourager and convictor. This is a friendship that invites in, instead of pursuing with demand, or retreating into hurt. An “inner circle” friendship recognizes failure and fault, but focuses on victory and identity in Christ.
Yikes, is anyone else sweating because that doesn’t always define YOU? I sure am. And, being honest, I’m TERRIBLE at receiving loving criticism and being called out. How are you at that skill? I have ONE friend I can think of who is amazing at seeking out critique and ASKS to be rebuked when it’s necessary. Jesus is still working that into my prideful heart.
Now, let’s go back to that list we made from the last discussion and look at those 3-5 names of people who we believe are in that “inner circle”. Here’s some questions to work through as we marinate in these ideas over the next couple of weeks:
How do those 3-5 names measure up to the characteristics of an “inner circle” friendship? Any of those names need to go?
How about YOU? Are you being that kind of friend to YOUR “inner circle” friends? Let me be clear that this is fruit from the work of the Holy Spirit and NOT something you can just “do” or “check off”. This will take some serious intention, prayer, and abiding with Jesus.
When was the last time you confessed sin to someone in your inner circle? How are you seeing accountability and prayer worked into these relationships?
This is the crux of the matter: we NEED these kind of relationships. God has uniquely designed each of us with personalities, gifts, passions, abilities, etc. Without “inner circle” friendships, we’re going to miss some of those key parts of our divinely-designed makeup AND those areas where we tend to struggle and stumble a bit.
Some of you may say to me, “Becky, I’ve got an AWESOME husband who’s all that and more for me.” Praise the Lord, sister! I’m so thankful that you have a man who can be relied upon and trusted with your heart! Here’s the thing, and I might step on a few toes here, I don’t think that’s the ONLY place you should go for this type of relationship. I firmly believe that God made women UNIQUELY and that He has given us a special capacity to exhort and encourage one another. In short, women need women!
Next time we chat together, we’re going to begin looking at what it’s like to intentionally develop some of those “life-on-life” relationships into discipleship opportunities. Can’t wait!