You need a Nathan

One of my favorite blogs—The Resurgence—recently posted an entry called You Flat Out Won’t Make It Without These Two. I thought it was very practical, very insightful, and very challenging. Please take a moment to read it:

Jonathans and Nathans

The challenging part is to make sure that I’m open to Nathans. We would all probably claim that we want to have Nathans in our lives, but I doubt that’s the case. While in the Air Force, I’ve often encountered leaders who claimed they had an “open door policy” and if you ever needed to bring anything to their attention then they would be open to it. Yet, it was sometimes the case that when I took them up on their offer, even slightly, they didn’t respond well.
I’ve seen the same with myself and other Christian brothers. We claim we want that Proverbs 27:17 experience of “iron sharpening iron” but we don’t really consider what that might look like. We don’t consider the fact that we might actually get called on foolish or sinful behavior! I remember when I first became a Christian and got confronted about some foolish behavior. I really liked a girl named April and we were studying alone in my dorm room. Out of nowhere, my pastor called me; turns out that God had prompted him to. He told me I needed to be more careful, that it was unwise to spend time alone, in my dorm room, with a girl I was attracted to. He was right and I knew it, but I secretly resented him for months.
Truthfully, at that point I was too immature to appreciate how much he was trying to love me. He was trying to be a Nathan to me and I failed to submit to his authority or even appreciate the courage and integrity he demonstrated by confronting me about an area in my life that was not “above reproach” (Col 1:22). I realize now that my reaction to his confrontation  was prideful and rebellious and I’m still ashamed of how I responded. I was a fool (Pr 12:15; 15:12, 32; 19:20; 23:9; 29:1 and many others).
In fact, in the last year or so, this is an area where I’ve deliberately tried to grow and God has blessed me with at least one Nathan who I know isn’t afraid to speak hard truth into my life. It’s been a tremendous blessing and, by the grace of God, has challenged me to grow in several areas. I’m grateful for our relationship and truly appreciate his honest words.
But the point of sharing this is to challenge you to consider if you want a Nathan in your life. Are you willing to be confronted in areas where you’re immature or need to grow? Are you willing to be held accountable? In our individualistic culture, this is not a popular idea. We believe that no one has the right to tell us what to do; “you’re not the boss of me!” We’re a very rebellious culture and I think it’s cost us dearly.
It’s wise to actively, humbly seek council from others and to actually listen to their advice (Pr 17:10; 19:20; 27:9). It will require humility and a willingness to be honest with others. It will require the integrity to actually repent when you’re confronted about unwise or sinful patterns in your life. And it means you’ll need someone to love you enough to put up with you if you respond like a jerk…like I did. I pray that God will bless us all with wisdom, humility, and a Nathan!

Perspective

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Does your perspective prevent you from seeing things accurately?
A while back, Connie and I were eating at our favorite lunch spot—Europa Bakery—and I noticed that the painting on the wall was intentionally slanted as part of the ‘artistic expression.’ (I included part of the ceiling fixture and the thermostat so as to have reference points in the photo.) Connie was sitting with her back to the wall—the same wall that the painting was on—and I grew curious. “From her perspective,” I thought to myself, “would Connie be able to notice that this painting is completely un-level?”
I asked her to look at the painting and tell me if it was level. She couldn’t really tell from her perspective; a fact that I found to be very surprising considering how obvious it was from just an extra foot or two away from the wall. A few weeks ago at church, our pastor noted that, if close enough to your face, a dime could block your entire vision. Back off just a couple inches and you can clearly see past the dime. A similar phenomenon had happened with this painting. Connie was so close that she couldn’t see how slanted the painting was.
Which got me wondering how often I am blinded by my proximity to an issue. Are there things in my life that are “skewed” that I can’t even see because of how close I am to the issue? Perhaps I see everything clearly, but my perspective is the problem. Or perhaps there are things going on that seem big but really aren’t as big of a deal as I feel.
I think this is exactly why it’s so important for us to be connected to a good group of believers who will challenge us. Everyone quotes Proverbs 27:17 and acts as though they hope to find someone to help “sharpen” them. But have you ever stopped and thought about what that actually looks like? Consider the fact that there has to be collision and friction between the two pieces of iron. Any rough edges have to be smoothed out and undesirable materials have to be removed—almost violently!

I pray that I will be able to openly accept loving correction from others. I pray that God will give me the wisdom and insight to examine my life as objectively as I can for His glory. I also pray that I will have the humility to listen to my fellow Christians when they hold me accountable.