Marriage, Preparation for Marriage

Surrounded by Sharpeners

***I felt led to write this after speaking with a friend/accountability partner a few days ago.  We were discussing the importance of a proper foundation in marriage, constant check and repair of that foundation, and the enemy’s strong desire to see that foundation crack and sink.  So she told me that she and her husband were going to read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman as a refresher.  Immediately I thanked God, and agreed that Jonathon and I could also stand a love language refresher.  All that to say, I am very blessed to have like minded friends who are seeking Christ and seeking to improve their marriages.  I am blessed with friends who speak openly and honestly about the challenges and joys of marriage.  I am blessed with friends who want to see my marriage succeed, and therefore question me about the real of marriage, encourage me to love my husband, and offer advice and suggestions when I fall short.***
If you want to do better, you need to surround yourself with better.  If you want to go higher in God, you need to surround yourself with people that are souled out.  It seems like a basic concept, yet people are not applying it.  There are times when you have to make the difficult decision to leave a person or place because God wants to take you higher.  In order for Him to do that, He needs to surround you with sharpeners.  Sharpeners are people that are also seeking Christ.  Sharpeners are people who will check you with the Word, encourage you when you face temptation, pray for and with you when you made a mistake, and most importantly pray for your strength in Christ.  That said, ask yourself these questions:
1) Where do you feel God is trying to take you?
2) Do you want to grow closer to Him?
3)Are you a sharpener?
4) Are you surrounded by sharpeners?
These are difficult questions because 1) you may not like the answer to the questions, and 2) you may have to change yourself and your surroundings.  The thing is, I know how hard it is.  I have had to distance myself from some friends in order to become the person Christ wants me to be.  You might be thinking, “Why couldn’t the friends change, too?”  That’s a great question.  Unfortunately I don’t have an answer.  God moves in different people’s lives at different times.  People are ready to accept God at different times.  The bottom line is, I couldn’t sit around waiting for certain friends.  My salvation is up to me.  Don’t get me wrong, I have shared the awesomeness of God in my life with these friends.  Some friends were intrigued and really want to know more, others are still confused about why I had to change. (I’ll talk about this change in another post.)
As a single woman seeking God’s purpose for my life, God had to separate me.  I was not strong enough to make the necessary changes where I was.  I had to move away from friends and family.  (I cried hysterically for two hours the night before I left Cincinnati.)  Then, came the really tough decisions.  Was I going to live for Christ, or find sin in a small town?  I decided to go with God.  He became my first sharpener.  Because God rewards our faithfulness, he sent me to an amazing church where I was surrounded by sharpeners.  There were ministries dedicated to guiding and nurturing single Christians.  In addition, I was able to reconnect with a college friend who was also seeking Christ.  I continued to pray for a circle of women whom I could lean on and pray with.  God obliged.  
Now in marriage I am blessed with amazing, God fearing women to uplift and encourage.  I love these women because I know that they are praying for the success of my marriage.  I can talk to them with the confidence that their responses will be for the betterment of my marriage.  These are NOT the friends that always agree with me.  These are NOT the “Giiirl, that’s why you need to leave him!” friends.  You really need to step back and look at the people who surround you.  Are these friends desiring better for you? 
“Iron sharpens iron, so people can improve each other [sharpen their friends]”. Proverbs 27:17 Expanded Bible
The verse does not say diamond sharpens iron.  It does not say wood sharpens iron.  Iron sharpens iron, just as Christian sharpens Christian.  Surround yourself with people who are seeking God’s heart.  Pray about the connections you make.  God is faithful.  As you seek Him, he will place people in your life to encourage you along the way.
Always Striving,
**Side note:  It is important to have accountability partners for the season of life in which you currently find yourself.  Of course, there will be wilderness periods.  For example, I believe it is beneficial to have married friends because they may be going through, or have already gone through a particular situation.  I do however, have friends with whom I discuss marital topics, that are not married but have a desire to be married.  These women understand that it is important to speak life into my situation because in doing so, they are speaking life into their future marriage.
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