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Recalculating: Navigating Boundaries in Friendships

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I once had this cute little navigation system where you could customize the voice giving directions. Each voice profile had it’s own personality with phrases and quirks that matched the style. My companion of choice was a young Australian guy who was pretty ‘lax, but threw in a surprisingly sassy comment every once in awhile to keep things interesting. One night, after a church conference in upstate California, my friends and I piled into my Pontiac to head home and plugged in our destination to that GPS. Thanks to a weak signal, it was taking a good while to load, and we had a classic case of post-conference hype. Throwing on the jams and anxious to start the drive, we shrugged off the kind request from my Australian dude to “hang tight” and started haphazardly following another car. Surely they were headed to the interstate too, right?


About a twenty minutes later, the GPS signal finally kicked in. And as soon as it did, this was his anthem:

Recalculating… Recalculating… Recalculating… Recalculating…

Literally over and over. I realized I had definitely made a mistake here. Finally, my navigation system cracked out in his thick Australian accent, “Recalcu––sigh. Your going the wrong way, mate! Turn around as soon as possible.” As everyone in my car erupted into laughter, we realized we had been going the exact opposite direction of the interstate. We had managed to go so far off-route that the only thing we could do was just turn around on the sketchy country back road we were on.

Maybe that’s how you feel about a relationship today. In this journey called life, it’s easy for us to just haphazardly navigate the path of friendship, only to suddenly realize you’re in a place you didn’t intend to be. I have. And if you’re finding yourself way off-road today, this is for you: it’s never too late to recalculate or turn around.

Last year brought me a boat-load of challenges in this area. I have by no means figured it all out this year, but I did enter 2016 with more wisdom for the road than I had before. And before you let any kind of popular internet list like “15 ways to friend-zone someone”, or “5 easy ways out of a complicated relationship” to steer your route, please allow me put those to rest. While some of these directions might give you temporary relief, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to truly navigating relationships well. The complicated mind games and strategies, as sure-fire as the world claims them to be, will come back to bite. I know this first hand, and I’m sure all of us can recall of a time where using this poisoned advise has backfired. Honestly, the more experience I have with messy friendships and with the wisdom of the world, I start to identify that much of what the world has to offer is rooted in manipulation. That is not the strategy that our Jesus wants us to have when navigating this area.

“An honest answer is like a kiss of friendship.” –Proverbs 24:26 

Honesty. I am convinced now more than ever that this is the way that we as believers should handle our relationships. I think about the more successful moments I’ve had in either turning back when I’ve made a mistake or detouring a bad situation altogether. They were based around having open, vulnerable, and most importantly honest conversations with that friend. It takes boldness and a humble heart to speak the truth in love, but it’s so well worth it. Talking about expectations, intentions, and perceptions in a straightforward way helps to bring clarity, and clarity is so important for proper navigation. Foggy or even misty communication in those situations allow the other person, and ourselves, to keep driving down a road in poor conditions. Gone unaddressed, it could lead to a crash—often bringing physical, emotional, and spiritual consequences along with it.

So, how do I recalculate? 

I’m glad you asked. The cool thing is, we have an internal GPS that we can tune our hearts, minds, and spirits to. It’s God’s own spirit, deposited into us when we believe in the grace-gift that is life through Jesus Christ.

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.” –John 16:13a

He has come. He is living and active within us, guiding us through every stretch of life’s journey. If we choose to listen to the warnings He heeds, the wisdom He gives, and the direction He nudges us in daily, we’ll stay in step with what God wants to do in our life. We can start fresh, right in this moment, and ask Him to show us the way.

“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” –James 1:5

He desires to guide and bless our life. The wisdom He gives can help us make choices in line with His will. When we are in His will, we are blessed beyond measure—and not just in this life. The Bible teaches us we are rewarded in heaven for how we steward our days on earth. Because our hearts steer our course, influencing every aspect of our life, it’s absolutely critical that we bring our heart into alignment with the heart of our great God. And in that process, every decision we make matters.

In her book The Best Yes, Lysa TerKeurst shares a decision-making principle that has helped me tremendously. She explains how we can “chase down” a decision by following it all the way to the end in our minds:

“The decisions we make today matter. Every decision points us in the direction we are about to travel. No decision is an isolated choice. It’s a chain of events. So we’ve got to get good at chasing down our decisions. We need to look ahead to see where they will take us—and make sure that’s really where we want to go.”

Look around at where you are today in your relationships. Are you in a place you don’t want to be? Is there a decision you’re making that could take you off-course if you chase it all the way down? Take some time to talk with God today about what steps you need to take to recalculate. I pray you have boldness to speak the truth in love, to open up and have honest conversations, and ultimately to follow God’s lead in navigating friendship with the wisdom He gives. And let’s stay the course! He will be faithful in our obedience to bless us in an amazing way, both in this life and the life to come.

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