Who’s Your Nathan?

Sunday’s sermon featured a close up look at a pretty dramatic scene out of 2 Samuel 12, where the prophet Nathan rebukes King David over the Bathsheba business. Our minister (Andy Buchanan) made lots of good points, but here are two top takeaways:

Sometimes, we have to be Nathans. We may need to confront someone about a choice or behavior that runs counter to God’s good plan for their lives. When we do, it can make sense to come at the problem sideways (like Nathan did with the story about how the rich man took the poor man’s lamb) instead of barreling straight in with the conversational equivalent of a taser to the face.

Good to know.

More often, we need to have Nathans – people who can (and will) speak hard truths into our lives. It’s tough to spot our own whoopsies, and in a world where “follow your heart” has become a favorite counseling mantra, we can easily find ourselves slip-sliding away. The heart, don’t you know, can be a tricky thing. And finding your Nathan is not like the dentist, where a twice-a-year scraping gets rid of the plaque. As Paul put it in his letter to the Hebrews, “Encourage one another daily…so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

So…who are your Nathans? Who can help you skirt the sinkholes – or, if you’ve already fallen into one, take you by the hand and help you find your footing?

The value of frequent check-ups (not to mention the inevitable transparency that comes from living with someone) might make your spouse a good candidate. Or perhaps your Nathan is a close friend or co-worker who shares your faith, someone who knows what you look like without makeup (both the Cover Girl kind and the public “face” you wear).  Or maybe you’ll get really lucky, like I did, and have a neighbor come up to you after church and offer to be your own personal Nathan, since – quote – he has “already started making a list of your top ten sins.”

Thankfully, I’ve had a lot of Nathans over the years, including my college roommates, Susan and Barbie. They spent four years keeping me straight and then, knowing that their work was far from over, walked the aisle as my bridesmaids:


Back then, we didn’t know we were each other’s Nathans. All we knew was that there was punch that shouldn’t be guzzled (the fact that it was served in trash cans served as our first clue), boys that shouldn’t pitch a tent in our hearts (happily, Robbie made it past that screening process), and outfits that should never, ever be worn. (That last one was, perhaps, our biggest blind spot.  But it was the ’80s, so we have mostly forgiven ourselves.)

Spiritually, emotionally, and physically, we had each other’s backs. We tended to value candor over tact, and our go-to line – whether the bad decision had to do with our behavior on Saturday night or our hairstyle on Sunday morning (yes, I did perm my own hair, thank you very much) – was, “Can I just be brutally honest?”

The answer, of course, was yes. Always.

Brutal honesty got me through college. And even now, 30 years later, I know I can count on Susan and Barbie to tell me the truth, whether it’s about my parenting, my marriage, my friendships, and even these blogs. (Susan, who got a perfect score on her verbal SATs, was the very first person to email me with corrections when I started this thing.  That’s my Nathan!)

jbsLast May, these gals were on hand to watch Annesley get married.  Later this month, they will host a bridal shower for Hillary. Some folks might look at these expressions of love and say I am blessed to have such good friends. And I would agree, but not just because Susan and Barbie show up for life’s big moments (or because Susan lives in another state and has to cough up a serious chunk of time and gas money to get to Virginia Beach).  I cherish their friendship because of what it has been in life’s little moments – the “encourage each other daily” moments – where they have been, and will continue to be, brutally honest.

We all need Nathans. If not for the Bathshebas in our lives (and we all have ’em) then for the other really important blind spots.

Like our hair.



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