In second grade, my son, Jered, had a classmate, Kyle, who qualified as a first class sandpaper person. One Monday morning, Kyle came to school with both arms in a cast from wrist to elbow. The teacher explained that Kyle would need a friend to help him do class work, eat lunch, go to the restroom, and in short, be his personal slave for eight weeks. 

 

In the silent, tension-filled classroom, it seemed as if everyone was holding their breath, hoping Kyle would somehow disappear. He didn’t. Disappointment clouded the teacher’s face until Jered said, “I’ll do it, Miss Chism.” A sigh of relief erupted as everyone stared at Jered in gratitude, unable to understand why he would link himself to this abrasive kid, but clearly glad he had.

 

Over the next few weeks, Jered discovered that Kyle wasn’t so bad after all. In fact, they became friends. Then Kyle’s behavior began to change. The other children, watching this unlikely friendship unfold, surmised that if Jered liked the sandpaper boy, there must be something worth liking. After eight weeks, the class of now-wiser children included Kyle in every activity. When the casts came off, so did the old sandpaper person. All he needed was a cheerleader. Maybe that’s all your sandpaper person needs. 

 

Choose thankfulness.  Philippians 4: 6b “Always be thankful, for this is God’s will.” 

 

Choosing to be thankful for sandpaper people is one of the most important choices we can make, as well as one of the most difficult choices we must make to bring any measure of health to the relationship. Thankfulness is a foreign language to sandpaper people, their native tongue criticism and displeasure. The last thing any sandpaper person expects to encounter is an attitude of thankfulness. Yet, it is the first step God commands us to take. 

 

Right now, begin thanking God for allowing you to experience pain at the hand of a sandpaper person. Praise Him for the shattered dreams and crushed hopes that have come as the result of a difficult relationship. Trust Him to take what the enemy meant for bad and use it for good in your life. If you want to experience victory in your most difficult relationships, thank God for each and every one. 

 

Sandpaper people are not only a reality of life, but opportunities from the heart of God. God uses difficult relationships in my life as catalysts through which He lovingly upsets my comfortable plans and purposefully redirects my safe and sound steps. Every relationship, difficult or easy, is wrapped in God’s love, faithfully delivered with His permission and wrapped in His plan. 

 

The world is watching, as is every sandpaper person in our lives, pushing every limit to see how we will respond. It is through these difficult relationships that we grow and mature in Christ. The rough edges fall away as we welcome the lessons sandpaper people bring.

 

Taken from Mary Southerland’s newest book, Sandpaper People, which was released in July 2005 by Harvest House Publishers. Mary is a pastor’s wife, mother of two, author, speaker and founder of Journey Ministry Inc. For more information, visit Mary’s website: www.marysoutherland.com or email Mary at journeyfriends@cs.com.