November 19, 2013
"The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" Jeremiah 17:9 (NIV)
The white snow clouds shadowed the faces peering down on me as I lay flat on the freezing ground. Squinting up at the group, my thoughts whirled: How did this happen? Are my bones broken? Did I take anyone down with me?
Four winters in the mountains, coupled with countless sightings of others falling down, had taught me to watch where I stepped. I had gingerly led my Freshman Orientation group across campus as we picked our way through snowy sidewalks. But the brick steps outside the English building got the better of me.
After carefully standing up, and gathering my book bag and pride, I spotted the culprit. A small patch of ice—that I thought was melted snow—winked up at me.
Losing our footing happens, even when using caution. Stepping lightly isn't always a sufficient safeguard when walking into a potentially slick situation, especially one that involves our heart. Jeremiah 17:9 warns, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (NIV) My friend Mia learned this truth at her first job.
In her new position, Mia often collaborated with people in other departments. She enjoyed getting out of her office and breaking up the day-to-day routine. There was one thing she most looked forward to though: meetings with her co-worker, Paul.
Though their jobs were serious in nature, meetings with him were light-hearted. An hour of shuffling paperwork disappeared in laughter and conversation.
Weekly meetings soon seemed like an eternity apart. To fill in the gaps, Paul and Mia emailed each other funny anecdotes. They'd catch a few minutes on the phone to tell about a snippet in their day. Eventually Mia and Paul shared lunches, inside jokes, and personal stories. When in a crowd, they'd gravitate to each other and sit together at staff meetings.
I'd heard so much about Paul I wasn't surprised when Mia brought him up one morning over coffee.
"I think I have a problem," she said. "I have a crush on Paul."
Honestly, I wasn't surprised after all she'd told me about him—everything but one incredibly important fact: "He's married."
In that moment, we both saw how little conversations and small confidences shared led her to fall for Paul. She'd stopped looking carefully where she was stepping and convinced herself they were "just friends."
But Jeremiah 17:9 tells us our hearts are deceitful and sly. The word "deceitful" in the original Hebrew language is 'aqob, meaning slippery and insidious. In other words, our own hearts can cause us to lose our footing before we're even aware it's happening.
When we fail to keep our guard up, we're at risk to fall down. And after the realization that we've gone too far, we may find ourselves asking: How did this happen? Are any marriages broken? Did I take anyone down with me?
Looking back, if I had re-routed my tour around campus, I could have avoided the fall. And that's just what Mia did. She asked God for forgiveness and wisdom. Then she determined to change her pattern at work. Mia stopped spending time alone with Paul and limited their non-work interactions. It took time for her feelings for him to go away, and she admitted it was a bit awkward at first. But after a while they settled in to a professional relationship—nothing more, nothing less.
Sometimes we don't recognize slippery spots on our own. But God does and if we ask, He will reveal these to us. Let's pause before taking another step in our friendships to ask the Lord for guidance. We might just spare our heart and avoid a damaging fall!
Dear Lord, thank You for the gift of friendship … Yours and others. I want to point others—and myself—to You by my actions, words, and deeds. Help me do this by testing my heart and removing anything that could put me at risk of slipping. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Staying in God's Word is a great way to safe guard our hearts. Pick up a copy of the NIV Real-Life Devotional Bible for Women.
Visit Samantha Evilsizer's blog for more on God-honoring friendships and enter to win a copy of Encouragement for Today: Devotionals for Everyday Life.
Reflect and Respond:
If you have a friendship with someone of the opposite sex, does their spouse—and your spouse if you're married—know about the depth of your friendship? If not, why?
Ask the Lord—and a trusted, Christian friend—if you are on a slippery slope. What safety measures can you put in place if you have to work with this person regularly?
Proverbs 4:23, "Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life." (HCSB)
Romans 8:1 "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (ESV)
© 2013 by Samantha Evilsizer. All rights reserved.
Originally published Tuesday, 19 November 2013.