What do you do when a person you've seen come to faith suddenly falls off the face of the earth? Stops returning phone calls, will never meet you for lunch or coffee, seems to be done with your relationship altogether?
It happens more than you'd expect. And it's always a challenge. It's hard not to take it personally or to wonder what you did to drive the person away. It's hard to know what to do next. Are you bothering that person with your friendship? Do they even need or want you around anymore? Have they abandoned faith and God, or just you?
I think a lot of time in the church we think that the best thing to do is just to let them go. For whatever reason, we have little staying power and we tend to leave at the first hint of rejection.
But what does it mean to love someone the way God loves me? What does it mean to love unconditionally, without expecting return, out of the love that God continues to show me every morning? What does it mean that God is a faithful God, keeping his covenant of love with a thousand generations of those who keep his commands?
For me, that translates to hard-core persistence. I'm talking about stopping by a person's house at midnight, when I know they're finally going to be home. I'm talking about calling or emailing or texting once a week, for maybe months, before ever hearing back. I'm talking about digging in and walking forward and pursing someone because you love them and God loves them. I'm talking about refusing to abandon someone who has seemingly abandoned you, and maybe even God.
Over time, I've begun to sense somewhat of a rhythm to how we relate to God and the people around us. As much as we would like to be consistent, all of us have an ebb and flow to how we relate--sometimes we're closer to God than others. Sometimes we can be vulnerable with others, and sometimes we need time to reflect personally. So I think that this is a normal stage in the process of faith. A person needs time to figure out how that faith has changed his life. And he needs to know if it will still be there next week or next month.
The important thing is that we're still there for the people we've been walking with. The important thing is that we're still bearing God's image and reflecting his character by pursuing and loving and even reaching out in our vulnerability to people who may or may not be there for us.
Have you ever had someone walk away from a relationship with you? Have you seen anyone walk away from a relationship with God? How does the love of Christ motivate you to keep on pursuing in times like these?