In my early days of motherhood, I was zealous about routine. I didn’t just use routines, I lived, breathed, and guarded them like a fierce dog foaming at the mouth. I also frequently shared my zeal with others—particularly my closest friends.
Now let me say, those routines were valuable. I still see the positive results in my elementary, middle, and high school kids today. But my zeal had some negative effects, too, especially in a relationship with one of my dearest friends.
This friend and I lived near each other when my children were young, so she not only knew about but was an up-close witness of my routines. She very often heard my thoughts about them, too. I was proud of them; I thought every mom should live by them.
Then one day, as we were talking on the phone, she revealed that she had been keeping a choice she and her husband had made for one of their kids from me, because she thought I wouldn’t approve. It did not align with the routines I had established for my kids, so she (correctly) assumed I would not agree with or approve of that choice.
At first, my reaction was shock. But very quickly, I realized my pride had caused her action. While it took awhile for me to understand in-depth what I needed to deal with in my own mind and heart, I did quickly seek forgiveness for my attitudes and words that had caused the situation.
At first I did this in a more apologize-yet-defend sort of way . . . then later in an “oh-my-word-I-was-nuts” sincere apology. Our friendship began to be restored as I humbled myself, and it got stronger the more God broke down my pride. I was and still am grateful for her own humility in revealing that problem to me. And most of all, I’m grateful for the friendship we still share today.
The Path of Restoration
When a relationship is broken or walking in some difficult, painful places, we can spend a lot of time wondering what to do to bring restoration. We may put effort into identifying the issues and analyzing the problems. We might have reactions of anger, hurt, and betrayal to work through. One, or more likely both, of the people in the relationship may need to be convicted of some sin and repent. With repentance, we may have some ideas about how to restore that relationship and move forward.
All of those efforts may be helpful, but we should ask: What—or who—is guiding the process and its results? Is it me or the Lord?
I hope it’s clear that in any broken relationship, like the one I had with my friend, the path of true, lasting restoration can only come through God: His perspective, His plan, and His path, followed by our obedience. God mercifully lays out a pattern for this path of restoration in Isaiah 57:15:
For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
3 Principles to Apply
Now while the relationship described in this verse is between God and man, there are principles we can apply to any relationship. We can find God’s perspective, plan, and path in this verse, as well as hope for restoration through our obedience.
Perspective: God alone is high and holy. If He inhabits eternity, then surely He is sovereign and controls all things, including relationships. His perspective alone is right, so my perspective needs to match His. He is high; I am low. This requires humility.
Plan: The plan, or ultimate result, implied in this verse is an intimate relationship with God. A relationship where God dwells with us and we receive a revived heart.
Path: Humility is the path. With our “contrite, lowly spirit,” God will bring about revival and restoration of an intimate, dwelling kind of relationship with us.
Obedience: My application and action steps from this verse are to be obedient to humble myself, asking God to remove any sin or stumbling block that might block the path to a restored relationship with Him—most often my pride and selfishness. I pray for a relationship where I am seeking and striving toward His perspective and purpose, not my own.
Our Human Relationships
In our relationship with God, He tells us in this verse that He will dwell with the lowly, contrite person. Our intimate relationship with Him will be restored.
So then, can these same things be applied to human relationships?
Well first, there are some really obvious differences in a human relationship. Number one, both people are human. And our humanity comes with sin and flesh that will always need to be dealt with in order to have relationship.
But when one or both of those people are seeking God, when one or both of those people are followers of Christ with a renewed mind (Eph. 4:22–24), humility and seeking God’s purpose may bring restoration. The promise of restoration isn’t there as it is with God, but the hope of restoration remains.
I have had to walk the humble path of restoration many, many times. Not only in the relationship I described with my friend, but on an almost daily basis with my husband and kids. This means putting my desires, self-centered thoughts, and feelings low, and seeking God’s perspective, plan, and path instead.
Humility is the salve that so often heals the hurt, broken places, so I need to pursue it. Choosing humility is the path to allowing Christ to guard my heart and mind so that my relationship with Him and others can be sincere and strong.
Humility can restore relationship. Will you pursue it?