I am privileged to work with my best friend, so I enjoy "hanging together" just a little more than some of you may with your best friend. At work, our "hanging together" may take on the form of struggling through some "drudgery" of examining data, creating complex process flows, or learning how best display the plethora of data we have in order to present information meaningful to those who must use that data to drive the process of complex care forward in our healthcare environment. It can also mean we laugh over a silly joke, notice when the other one just needs a neck rub because the tensions are building, or just plain sit quietly with each other while trying to beat the next level in that gem matching game. If anyone sees us walking together, it is me on the right and my BFF on the left. Why? She hears me better on the right! So, I have learned to position myself on her right because that is her "better ear". Now, to the "unknowing" this may seem like a little oddity they might notice about the two of us, but to those who have come to know us well, they understand perfectly why we "position" ourselves this way. One thing remains true no matter whether we are at work, play, or on vacation together - closeness matters! We want to spend time together because we learn from each other, are encouraged by the strength the other possesses, and just plain enjoy the company of one another. I think our heavenly Father might just want us to come to this same realization about what life is like when we have Christ as our "nearest and dearest" companion in life!
I always remember that the Lord is with me. He is here, close by my side, so nothing can defeat me. (Psalm 16:8 ERV)
As I indicated, the closeness of my BFF in relation to where I am sitting, walking, or working is something which matters to us. Our offices have always been rather close, but when we downsized a while back, I had the privilege of moving right next door to her in the office! I hear her clacking away on the keys and there is something just plain comforting about knowing we are side-by-side, knee-deep in our work, but near enough to each other to appreciate the other is "there". Proximity seems like a little thing, but it isn't really, because "proximity" matters as much in relationship to another human being as it does in our relationship with Christ. As much as we might want to be around other human beings, quietly going about the regular stuff of life, but knowing they are there right beside us if we need them, we need to appreciate the nearness of Christ as we walk through the various things our day holds. In recognizing the "proximity" of Jesus to the matter at hand, we often recognize we are not standing in our strength alone to face it, but have the benefit of his strength to help us with the challenge standing in our path.
The nearness we maintain with Jesus is going to determine our perspective when faced with challenging situations, especially anything which presents a little bit of temptation in our lives. When Christ is near, we don't feel as "free" or "uninhibited" to just pursue whatever our fancy might lure us into. When my friend is near, I may think twice about having that candy bar, or indulging in a decadent dessert. Why? She knows I need to be attentive to my weight, so she helps me be accountable for what goes in my mouth. Now, notice I said she "may" make me think twice - it doesn't work all the time! Sometimes we are both tempted with the same lure to the indulgent dessert! No one is stopping us then! As excellent as she is in helping me be accountable to my desire to lose a little weight and reach a healthy cholesterol level in my body, she is human just like me and at best we are weak - even together! On the other hand, Christ is a whole lot stronger than either of us, so when he whispers in my ear that I don't need that cookie, chocolate bar, or whatever it is, I kind of listen and "lean into" the strength he gives me to resist that urge.
I know we deal with issues way bigger than whether we are going to indulge in that dessert or not, but I hope that illustration will help us to understand why the "proximity" we maintain to Christ is important. The "nearness" of his strength and ability to help us navigate through some of the more challenging temptations in life matters because not everything will be as "simple" as resisting the dessert menu. There are things like the temptation to respond in anger or hostility when someone disappoints us, or the desire to engage in actions which will damage a relationship we are in that give us "big" challenges and we need his nearness to help us navigate those challenges successfully. It didn't really matter to me how much I relied upon Jesus' strength and ability until I finally recognized my continual failure and subsequent disappointment when faced with temptation was really because I had not maintained that closeness to him. Now, whenever I see myself drifting into things I know I shouldn't be doing, I pull back, recognizing I have allowed myself to drift a little out of that deep, intimate closeness with Jesus. I have to renew that relationship frequently - just like I do those I have with my friends on this earth. Sometimes we don't recognize the value of the "nearness" until we have drifted away. Just sayin!