Allow God to Be God by Mary DeMuth, …hallowed be Thy Name. — Matthew 6:9 When you’re close to death, you tend to see your life flash on the movie theater of your mind. Which I did. But I also saw Jesus. Not in a He-is-standing-right-there way but in a majestic way. I flew from South Africa to Washington, DC, after Cape Town 2010, a humbling, invigorating conference. During the sessions, I cried so much I blew my nose ring clear out, and I experienced the holy hush that comes only when revival whispers your name. I left South Africa changed, in awe of the relationships God brought my way, and thankful for all the lessons I’d learned. Our plane stopped in Dakar to refuel before its long flight across the Atlantic in the dead of night. The man next to me had also attended the conference, so we talked about our experiences and our lives back home. Then we drifted off to sleep. In one violent drop, at 2:00 a.m. our plane free-fell probably a thousand feet. Personal items flew about the cabin. People screamed. I felt the sting of my seat belt holding me back in my chair. The next moment, the plane’s nose pointed oceanward. We angled toward the earth. For several seconds. I knew I would die. I prayed. I saw my life flash. Then Jesus. Not in a vision. Just a knowing. I breathed deeply and realized that in this last moment of life, I needed Him — Him alone. My heart that had rattled and skipped in the noseward dive instantly felt peace. The plane jerked its way to blessed horizontal. The pilot said nothing, never did tell us what happened. The holiness of God, His power, His otherness permeated me in that moment. I realized just how fragile life was, how easily a plane could slip from its air pocket and plummet to earth. I saw brevity and my smallness, just a little pale dot on a big green-and-blue planet. I thought on the enormity of God, who watches every airplane flight, who cares about each person aboard, who gathers people in South Africa, who creates every single thing every soul can see and touch and smell and breathe in. I hushed in that holy moment, settled my heart before Him, and once again gave Him my life. That’s the essence of “may your name be kept holy” — an upward focus that sets the tone for the rest of the petition. I had a holy ache after the plane dropped from the sky. In the aftermath of that nosedive, I wanted God’s name and character to be magnified by the way I lived my life. That can sound so ethereal and aspirational, so detached from day-to-day living. It echoes platitudes. But I meant it. And I mean it now as I type these words. In the past few years, I’ve learned that the way I live out the words I say has everything to do with how I interact with the people in my life. How do we make God’s name holy in our relationships? How does hallowing God make us love our neighbor better? We Can’t Love God, Yet Hate His People The two commandments (love God, love others: Matthew 22:36-40) hold hands and cannot be separated. Why? This verse makes it painfully simple: “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:20). You cannot love God and hate people. You cannot revere Him, yet dismiss the people He made. If you say you love God, yet skirt away from others in isolation, you are a liar. Not easy words to write or hear or read. A liar is someone who says untrue words. A deceiver. So when we hate people who have wronged us, yet hallow God’s name in church, we are liars. Loving others isn’t easy. And at times I don’t love well. I’d rather trumpet everyone else’s failures and barbs and minimize my own. I’d rather God forgive my mountain of sins than choose to forgive the molehill of sins that others have perpetrated against me. I’d rather bask in my self-righteous rightness than consider that I may be the perpetrator in need of others’ grace and forgiveness. After that airplane ride, I had a holy hush in my soul, but it wasn’t easy for me to transform that hush into positive action in my relationships. As soon as I came home, we faced a relational trial with friends of several years. Through excruciating conversations, we eventually parted ways. Although I do believe God parts us from others (and not all relationships are meant to last a lifetime), we experienced bewildering hurt. I didn’t always honor God through that disappointment. At times, I gossiped. At other times, I nursed bitterness. It is still hard for me to forgive. But recently God gave me insight into the situation that better helped me see it from His perspective. God’s Way to Approach Difficult Relationships What can we do to revere God in the way we handle our difficult relationships? 1. Stop Rehashing the Past We do not revere the name and otherness of God when we continually remind ourselves of the pain we experienced. When we rehash, we rehearse, then relive the pain, which ends up poisoning us further. Have you ever met someone who couldn’t let go of an offense? Do you want to be like that? Yes, it happened. Yes, it was entirely unfair. Yes, it hurt. Yes, you want vengeance. But it’s time to let go. Vent your frustration full bent to the heavens. Shout if you must. Holler. Rant. Stomp your feet. But then relinquish. Hand over your anger and pain to the One who knows how to take them. That is a holy act, and it shows God you’re more interested in being like Him — forgiving, joy filled, free — than becoming an enemy to others. 2. Lament When You’re Hurt When we’re hurt, we tend to retreat, nurse wounds, or lash out — any number of unhealthy reactions. What would happen if we trained ourselves to turn to God in praise instead? The Lament Psalms offer encouragement in these kinds of situations. They start with a rant and end in praise. It’s a great road map for us in our hurt and helps us revere God even when we’re bewildered. Lament Psalms typically follow this pattern: Talk directly to God as an introduction, and state your case. Detail the problem; hold nothing back. (Sometimes this is done repeatedly throughout the psalm.) Pray, and ask for His specific help. Confess your trust to God, even though it’s hard. Praise God for all He’s done and will do. Spend some time after you’ve been hurt to write your own Lament Psalm. Give yourself permission to say it all, to be raw and honest. You’re not going to surprise God. He knows all this anyway. It’ll be a way to experience catharsis and a pathway toward praise. Because ultimately if you’ve spent yourself on the page, you have a better ability to turn heavenward in praise. It may seem counterintuitive to praise God after someone has hurt you. But the process of lamenting helps turn the corner from angst to alleluia. Don’t let another day go by without letting out your laments to Jesus. He will use the process to set you free. If I’ve learned one thing on this earth, it’s this: people who live in gratitude toward God have the most joyful lives. 3. Don’t Make People (or Their Opinions) Idols Lifelong injury and bitterness come when we deify others, making them idols. What is an idol? It’s something (someone) that you run to first when you need help. It’s your first response. It’s what you feel you need to be happy. An idol represents control. It’s anything (or anyone) in your life that is more important than God. The truth? People will disappoint. They can’t fill continually. Only Jesus can do that. Remember what He said to the woman at the well? Jesus told her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13–14). He is the only One who can give living water, the kind that fully satisfies. Sometimes we wrap God in an idol cloak of others, reasoning that we’re loving those people for God’s sake or bowing to their needs to build God’s glorious kingdom. We measure our identities by how well we love those people, how successful we feel when we nurture. Although it’s not wrong to love people (obviously), it sneaks toward idolatry when our identities are tightly wound to the harmony of those relationships. Conversely we endure abuse by those idols because we value their mistreatment more than we believe we’re worthy of being treated well. We believe we deserve the abuse of others. In this broken state, we forget God’s powerful story: We are loved; we are worthy of protection; we are made to be cherished, not abused. It’s time we let go of people as idols. 4. Place People in God’s Hands, then Take Your Hands Off To revere God — to hallow His name — is to trust Him at this foundational level. God is a God of relationship. And He has a sovereign plan even in your friendships. Instead of letting someone’s rejection sideline us, why not look at it like this: God gave us that friendship or relationship for a specific time in our lives. We learned from that interaction. We had the privilege of loving someone else. That person enriched our lives for a time. But now it’s time to trust God to move forward — still keeping an open heart in case God chooses to reunite. That was what the apostle Paul did with regard to John Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. On his missionary journey alongside Barnabas, John Mark abandoned them early to return home to Jerusalem (Acts 12–13). His departure caused a rift between Barnabas, who wanted to give John Mark another chance, and Paul, who was through with him — which goes to show even Paul had relational stress (Acts 15). Paul let go of John Mark and Barnabas, but eventually as God healed him and John Mark proved trustworthy, Paul reconciled with him and said to Timothy, “Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry” (2 Timothy 4:9–11). Like Paul, we’ll experience heartache and disappointment with people. Sometimes we even separate. 5. But God loves reconciliation stories. He loves to bring things back around to create wholeness and restoration. I have taken this verse to heart: If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men (Romans 12:18). All you can do is do your best to reconcile, to look at how you’ve hurt someone, to ask for forgiveness, then move on. You’re not responsible for someone else’s choosing whether to forgive you or to move toward you in relationship. Clean your slate first. Go to God, and ask Him what He wants you to do in terms of reconciliation. Then do it. At that point, you honor God in the relationship. You take your hands off the relationship and place your friend (or enemy) into God’s capable hands. You may never reconcile on this earth, but if the person whom you’ve struggled with is a believer, there is great hope in the life to come. There, the person will be all he or she should be, fully healed, fully free. And so will you. In the land of eternity and endless sunshine, that relationship will be fully restored. Revering God and hallowing His Name in your relationships means actively placing every person in your life in God’s care. It means choosing to worship Him even when conflict sours a friendship. It means placing God above all other people and finding your ultimate fulfillment in Him alone. In that, you experience great freedom and joy.