Did you ever wonder why the various people in your life are there? First there is family. They are there because of biological relationships and marriage. Then there are friends which we “pick” to be there. As the old saying goes, “You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family.”
Next are people with whom we choose to have a professional relationship with, like doctors, dentists, auto mechanics, lawyers, etc. Then there are co-workers, bosses, employees, managers, business associates, etc. Some of us have team mates from a sports league or fellow volunteers from a charity we engage with. We may have fellow worshipers from a church or synagogue we go to. And, of course, there are those who are our neighbors and other people that don’t fit into one of the above categories.
We all interact with quite a few people in the course of a week. But, why are these particular people in our lives? Is there something deeper about why certain people are the people we interact with in a given week? Does it go beyond happenstance or “our choices?”
A tumbler is a barrel or a drum in which you place stones, or parts, along with some grit in order to polish them. Round and round the drum turns. The items inside are forced into each other, interacting with some friction enhanced by the grit, to wear down the rough edges of the objects in order to achieve a smooth and polished result.
We and the people in our lives can be like the items in a tumbler. We are all going round and round, being forced to interact with each other, sometimes easily, and sometimes with a great deal of friction.
It is easy to simply view people in your life in terms of what they can do for you; a utilitarian view. You can also view people in terms of mission or ministry. These are people whom we are to “love on” and help. But, what if God has this particular set of people in your life to help shape and polish you as well as for you to help shape and polish them? What if you are in God’s tumbler?
This, of course, is not the only reason God allows or places people into your life. There are the practical and missional purposes as well. But, I think it is valid to consider how God is “polishing” your life when bumping up against others, especially when there is a bit of friction. We grow through struggle. This was true also of Jesus’ life. The Bible says;
Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. Hebrews 5:8 NASB
Jesus came in contact with all sorts of people during his life on earth. While he healed, helped and discipled many he also clashed with many. Some helped his mission, some ignored him. Some tried to control him and some betrayed him. Through it all, Jesus learned experiential obedience to the Father and was made perfect, or mature. As a result he became the man God the Father intended him to be.
After describing the work of ministers (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers), Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus;
15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. Ephesians 4:15-16 NASB
Noticed in this passage the special work of each of the various parts of the body of Christ (not just the professional ministers) and that they contribute to your becoming the man or woman God intends you to become. Not a generic man or woman, but a particular you, a part of the body of Christ who measures up to the standard and stature exemplified by Christ.
But, how does this happen? Well, for example;
From the irritating we learn patience and to appreciate calmness
From those who persecute us we learn endurance and to appreciate peace and security
From the educated we learn knowledge and to appreciate how much there is to know
From the lovely we learn beauty and to appreciate beauty
From the helpless we learn to give and to appreciate how God reaches out to us
From the lonely we learn to be a friend and appreciate God’s presence with us
From the dysfunctional we learn to bring and appreciate order
From the poor we learn to give and appreciate what God has given us
From the ones who truly love us we learn what true love is and gain a desire to share it with others
So today, why not reflect on how God may be shaping and polishing you by the interactions you experience with the people in your life. Pay special attention to the ones you feel cause discomfort and friction. God may be using that person to polish your own rough edges. And, remember, it is Christ in you (Colossians 1:27) who will give you the ability to see and understand what God may be doing. Welcome to God’s tumbler!
7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; 2 Corinthians 4:7 NASB
17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 NASB
1Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4 NASB