Have you ever had people come into your life and, even if it’s not intentional, make it more difficult?
Maybe they’re critical or judgmental; they’re excessively needy and demand more than you can give relationally, emotionally or physically; sometimes they take the opposite position of anything you say or do; or they’re just plain mean, undermining or cruel with their words.
Sandpaper people I’ve called them…abrasive, irritating or generally rough to be around.
Are you like me and see them as thorns, prickly and inconvenient? Have you shared Paul’s lament and prayed for God to remove them from your side? When someone closer to me is particularly trying– friends…family…or even my own children, I’ve begged God to change them.
Years ago as a young mom, I was struggling through an emotionally draining, almost soul-defeating season with a strong-willed child. I read all the “right” parenting books; I prayed, earnest and unceasing, and plumbed the depths of scripture for treasureous wisdom; and I sought the advice and counsel of many. But it would be my father-in-law who would pose an inflammatory question that would ignite fiery indignation within me…changing me forever–
“What if this is about you?”
No sooner had the question left his lips and landed my ears did my defensive torrent erupt. How dare he suggest my son’s behavior was my fault! I hurled a half dozen recent incidents to illustrate just how wrong he was. He patiently waited until I finally had to take a breath.
I didn’t say how he’s acting is your fault he began, his tone gentle and loving. I said maybe this is about you. He went on to explain that maybe, just maybe, God was allowing the dynamics of the relationship with my son to do a refining work in my life.
My father-in-law…the prophet.
But weary and hard of hearing, my cluttered mind and frustrated heart would take days to actually hear his wisdom. It clicked when I was at Target strolling the toys.
A Rock Tumbler ephinany.
My Rock Tumbler set was one of my favorite childhood toys, no less than magic in my estimation. A bag of ordinary rocks transformed into extraordinary polished stones, just by adding water and grit (3x) and spinning them for a few weeks in a tumbler.
Looking at that Rock Tumbler I suddenly understood what my father-in-law had been saying….
A rock will remain a regular ol’ rock unless and until it’s rubbed the right way.
Different grinds of grit produce different results and all are necessary to produce a polished stone.
Change doesn’t happen overnight; it comes in due time.
Like rocks tumbled or rough wood sanded, a person changes over time when external forces rub them the right way.
This revelation might not be new to you, but back then, for me, it was revolutionary.
It forever changed the way I viewed difficult people and circumstances.
My perspective realigned to consider what God was trying to teach me (or allowing me to learn) in challenging relationships and situations. Rather than give in to defeat or frustration, I embraced this opportunity to mature in the faith and grow in wisdom. ”WHAT did God have for me in THIS?” was the question I found myself asking over and over again. This didn’t make the difficulties go away, but it gave purpose to them.
I realized that praying for God to change other people (or my circumstances) was tantamount to telling Him I didn’t trust Him!
Sobering. Convicting. And motivating to change myself.
To look at Sandpaper People through the eyes of Christ and not my own is nothing short of life changing. But I’d be lying if I told you this is always my first response to difficult people. Even though I believe it to be true and worthy and right, sometimes I still resist seeing others through the lens of Christ.
Can you imagine the difference it would make if we believed God was accomplishing a Kingdom work in the midst of our difficult relationships?
- We would discover opportunity to love and pray for the unlovely; maybe not quite an enemy, but those who make life difficult. (Luke 6:27-36)
- Obedience to God would propel us toward peace with others (Hebrews 12:14, Romans 12: 18)
What else can you see resulting from believing God is refining you and conforming you to His image through the Sandpaper People in your life?
For my good and your good and for the glory of God, would you join me in getting over our collective selves, and beg God to reveal what He wants us to know? Even go so far as to ask for MORE Sandpaper People to Holy rub us the right way? Do we dare?!
(Note: I’ve been on the road since my post was published; forgive my delayed response? Why, thank you!)