The company you keep

The past few months I have been able to really think hard and long about some things. I have been able to sit and pray about some major things in my life. Since the beginning of summer, I have been processing my own grief of a loss of a relationship, dealing with financial issues, going to weddings, making it to my one year at my job, and so many things in between. I have spent more time in prayer the past three or four months, than in recent years. Its amazing how life hits you in the face with something bad and you just have to take the hit. Bruised and bleeding you get hit again. And you keep going forward even if you’re limping, breathing hard, or stumbling to find your way, you keep moving forward. I began this year thinking it’d be one of the greatest years of my life. God had answered so many prayers of mine and it seemed like my life finally found favor. Dreams were coming true. It seemed like everything was on this track. Then things happened.

My job is difficult sometimes. Often actually. I made the determination to be an officer who stays in shape, makes necessary sacrifices, and lives above reproach; theres too much negativity in this world to give anyone an opportunity to discount me in my job. Yet, since becoming an officer my friendships have changed dramatically. So many have walked away from me, people I never expected, simply because of the uniform I now wear. Guys think I’m either too manly for them or in too risky of a job for them. I’ve been harassed on Facebook for taking on this calling. I’m cussed out everyday and threatened regularly (though often by drunks who will fail to remember such threat upon sobering up). I’ve been spit on, bit, kicked, and thank God nothing worse so far. Ask any LEO, they probably share similar perspective. I have discovered that I love my job, but it can be isolating in ways unexpected. It can be lonely.

My personal life has radically been altered this year. From meeting a man I had convinced myself I would marry…to having it abruptly end with little explanation. Dreams shattered and my heart broken on the ground. Having your heart break in such a way was new for me and I would never wish it on anyone. And yet feeling isolated all the more because so many people tell me to hate him, when I don’t hate him at all. Moving on from that…was and is such a process. All the while, I see so many relationships and marriages around me, especially at work, so broken and sad, many full of endorsements of infidelity, pornography, lust, and vulgarity. And regardless of my heartbreak, I am thankful that my story was not one like that. Beyond the relationship ending, I thought this year would be the change also for me financially. Of course in the long term, it absolutely has been. But it seems again, that once I start to make headway with my student debt (which I am), I get hit with something else…The past three months, ironically and annoyingly the same timeframe as my breakup. Talk about feeling like I can’t seem to catch my breath.

What has been an amazing part of this painful journey is that I have seen the community around me and how much its affected me. I absolutely love my church and am more convinced than ever of the true representation of the Gospel present. I don’t care if you like the music, the style, the preaching…you cannot deny the genuine love of Christ found there. Amidst my breakup, the people- the family- that I have at my church stepped up and were a support system unlike anything I have ever experienced. The sleepless and tearful nights were also ones full of encouraging, consistent, and prayerful texts, Facebook messages, and phone calls. These people have prayed with me, wiped my tears, held me in their arms, and seen me at possibly my worst. They have surrounded me not just with support, but with the Gospel, constantly turning me toward Jesus. I have other friends that have been support from afar, not allowing the distance to hinder their ability to speak life into me at my most desperate. Many of them were the late night texts or phone calls I have received. Many of them were the ones that made the effort to see me when I made a visit home just a few weeks ago. Two girls I was just in a wedding with- girls I had known but not very well- were amazing blessings in my life during a week I truly needed support. They saw through my smile, makeup and my “always the bridesmaids attitude” that I was struggling, and hurt, and sad. They prayed with me and cried with me and allowed me to process with them.

Friend, stranger, whoever you are that is reading this, I want to challenge you with something very important. Be cautious and mindful of the company you keep. We all will go through good and bad seasons. We will all face difficulties, defeats, and despair. But who we choose to be a part of our life, mainly our closer relationships, can determine our attitude despite the outcome. The people we keep closest to us should be ones of understanding that they will influence us. The friendships and community I have now are ones I am beyond grateful for because I saw the company they were to have in the midst of my own storms. Instead of telling me to be angry, resentful, bitter, they have told me to hope, forgive, love, and pray. They taught me to seek Jesus. During this season, I have seen the other kind of company in my life. These are the ones that told me to react in selfish and sinful ways regarding my breakup and to hurt my ex. These are the ones that didn’t show me Christ, didn’t show me love, didn’t point me to truth but instead to the world. We need to be cautious of those we invite to be a part of our stories. We need to be mindful of who we allow access to our lives. I would encourage you to look at your life…what kind of influence are the people around you giving you? Are they drawing you closer to Jesus and to strive for holiness? Or are they possibly one of the influencers that are chipping away at your relationship with God, maybe without even realizing? I can attest to being in a place where, for a season, I allowed poor community and influencers that led me slowly away from God. And I can attest to the amazing love I found in a community of people who all want to be more like Christ. These are not one in the same.

If you are a Christian, be intentional with who you bring into your life. I urge you to strive for community with other believers that you can do life with. Community can make or break our faith. For me, in probably one of the darkest seasons of my life and a time where I felt distant from God, the community of believers I have in my life were the very thing that kept me from breaking. God used these amazing people in my life, literally all over the world, to encourage me, lift me up, pray for me, pray with me, challenge me, and sometimes carry me. I know the company I keep…they are a company of believers that have shown me love and grace. The company I keep showed me the very heart of Jesus.

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