There have been times in my life that I have been richly blessed with deep relationships. There have also been times that real relationships were so few and so shallow that I struggled with deep loneliness. Ironically those lonely years occurred when I was struggling with emotional pain. And even while I was begging God for deep friendships, I guilty of isolating and pushing people away. My isolation didn't look like living in a cabin in the woods, it took the form of hiding behind the busy roles I played--a wife, a home-schooling mama of five children, and being involved in busy ministry as volunteer youth worker.
After one long season of loneliness, I began to crave connection but realized I was somewhat terrified of being vulnerable enough with others to connect. I searched the Scriptures for what relationships should be like. I started with Matthew 22:37, "...You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Saw and the Prophets." To me this verse indicates that the Christian life is a life that can only be lived out in the context of relationship--first in our relationship with God and then i our relationships with other people.
I looked at Jesus life and realized and realized real relationships are both radical and risky. Jesus' relationships were radical as they were governed by sacrificial love. Of course His greatest sacrifice was His life. Most of us will never have to lay our physical lives down for others, but to love well requires many daily sacrifices Jesus made in His relationships. This includes the sacrifice of time, of comfort, of energy, of plans, of emotions, and of resources. This is a radical concept in our culture, which tends to applaud isolating qualities of independence, business, and self sufficiency. We can learn a lot about radical, risky relationships by looking Jesus' relationships in the gospels.
Christ took risk simply by calling people into relationships. Some happily came, some didn't. To offer friendships is risky for us, too. We may experience rejection. We may experience having someone accept us, but be unwilling to give us as much as we pour into the relationship. We may experience someone accepting us, but then bailing out at the first sign of distress, conflict, or hard stuff. Hopefully some of our relationships will become mutually balanced relationships with staying power like Christ had with most of disciples. And, yet we shouldn't be surprised by these risks, for even as Christ's friends who were the most committed to Him deserted Him when the going got rough.
Real relationships are risky because they require disclosure. Christ took many risks in disclosing things about Himself and His mission to others. As He disclosed, many flocked to Him--some with good motives and some with bad. As He disclosed some got so angry with Him that they rejected Him and eventually had Him killed. In these days, we are beginning to experience similar risks and have similar outcomes when we take those risks. When we share our hearts, our pasts, our dreams, and our beliefs, some will like us while others will be hostile towards us. Yet, we're called to be like Christ and to reach out to others, pouring both love and truth into their lives.
Without real relationships our thinking and viewpoints can become skewed and distorted. This is because we have the tendency to develop blind spots. I have fortunate enough to have had precious friends point out parenting flaws and give me creative ideas for disciplining and discipling my children. I have had other friends point out disrespectful flaws in my relationship with my husband, giving me the opportunity to grow and change as a woman and wife. I have also had friends who lovingly pointed out the differences in what I said I believed and what I was showing I believed through my actions, giving me the opportunity to help my head beliefs become heart beliefs that drove more consistency in my life.
Real, radical, an risky relationships draw others to the faith. Acts 9:36-42 describes Dorcas as a woman who was always doing good and helping the poor. The poor in her days included women who were widowed and she often made them clothing. When she became sick and died, the widows gathered to grieve and they sent for Peter. When Peter arrived, the widows showed him the robes and other clothing Dorcas had made for them. Peter cleared the room and raised her from the dead and widows rejoiced to see her. The Bible says many believed after the miracle, but I can't help but also believe that some were initially drawn by the love they had observed.
Radical, risky relationships have the potential to be avenues of healing. When I think of healing relationships, I think of the relationship between Naomi and Ruth. Naomi was grieving and had became depressed and somewhat and bitter. Who could blame her. She had lost her husband and both of her sons. In her bitterness she doesn't seem all that loveable to me and does what she can to push her daughter-in-laws away. She decided to move to her home town and pushes so hard against her girls that one actually leaves, but Ruth refuses to leave her. Even though Naomi is so bitter she claimed God has come against her, Ruth makes a committment not only to stay with her, but to follow Naomi's God. Naomi's pain ran deep in the loss of a spouse and both sons. Yet, Ruth, even in her own pain as a young widow was committed to helping Naomi bear the pain she felt. Ruth loved so well that others in her home town told Naomi she was better off with Ruth than her own sons. Eventually God provided a kinsman redeemer and provided a husband for Ruth and a grandson for Naomi to love.
I love that God created us for relationships. I hope that we, as believers. don't ever just settle for shallow and comfortable relationships. I hope that we will find the courage to form real, radical, and risky relationships, for it is in those types of relationships that we become the most like Jesus.
Wednesday, July 22, 2020
Real Radical Risky Relationships
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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!
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