Friday, September 13, 2013

Relationships with God and Others (Part 3?)

Have you ever mused over a relationship (or multiple relationships) and come to some kind of understanding of God because of it?

That's pretty much what happened to me the other night. My wife and I decided we need to take a break from the chaos that has become our life and after enjoying a pleasant viewing of a movie (Planes if you must know) we wound our way to a restaurant where we spent a while just chatting a little bit about everything. It was just a time to get away from everything and be with each other.

By the way, if you are in a relationship, days like this are essential.

Regardless, we were discussing some our frustrations with different people we knew and the more I talked with her the more I realized that the way I felt is very much how God felt when dealing with the Israelites, or more personally myself.

How many times do we take for granted what is given to us? I live in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife and sometimes I neglect to remember that God is the one who put me where I am today.

How often do I, complain about things that in the grand scheme of things mean nothing at all? How often do I completely ignore the blessings that have been bestowed upon me?

All too often.

To make a comparison: We are like a bunch of kids who are upset because we don't get everything we want, even though we get way above what we need.

For instance, I can think of many different people I've met over the years who would complain that their parents/significant other/friends don't care about them because they won't give them what they wanted.

Teenagers think their parents will never understand them and think they are horrible because they got an iPhone 3 instead of an iPhone 5. One friend might think another friend doesn't care because they don't agree on something. A woman may think a man doesn't care because he doesn't meet all the expectations (usually unspoken) she has of him or vice versa.

We are incredibly fickle people, and honestly when I encounter people like that it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. When I think about it I quickly find myself seeking forgiveness for doing the same with God.

Just think about it for a moment. The people of Israel are coming to the Tabernacle daily to offer this huge bloody mess that becomes a sacrifice to God who dwells in the Holy of Holies. They have been doing this so consistently that it has become a little trivial, and has lost the specialness that came with it in the beginning. People begin to offer prayers and offerings to God to get things they want. Petty things that have no significance on their lives. And God finally speaks up and essentially says, “Sacrifices aren't important to me, what is important is the heart behind them. I want you fully. I don't want just a part of you that comes to me to 'appease' me. That's not how this works. I expect complete, total, raw authenticity when you come to me.”

And then gain when speaking to the church later in the letter John wrote to the churches. “You're neither hot nor cold.” or You don't heal or refresh, you do nothing because you forgot me and why you are even where you are today. “Since you are neither hot nor cold, I will spew you (essentially vomit you) out of my mouth.”

Ever have lukewarm coffee? You know the way it tastes when you let coffee sit for more than ten minutes (unless you have one of those thermal cups)? Pretty disgusting isn't it?

Or how about a nice cold cup of chocolate milk that has sat out to long now isn't really hot either? So it's not as warm as hot chocolate or as delicious as cold chocolate milk, it's disgustingly warm (unfortunately I've had the displeasure of experiencing that one personally).

The same can be true when it comes to relationships: Parents with kids; friends; husbands and wives. There are times when someone's complaints or ungratefulness can feel a lot like a bad stench that permeates a room, or that disgusting lukewarm flavor that leaves a bad aftertaste and had nothing tasty about it in the first place.

I begin to see what God meant when he said those things. I begin to understand more his love and simultaneous frustration with people. We are so stupid sometimes and sometimes we are so brilliant.

I know we've all heard it a hundred times though.

America is so blessed, we have so much.”

Get your head out of your butt and look around you. You aren't suffering that much.”

Need to get over yourself.”

While true, they are phrases that get a little stale, so it was interesting to experience it on a more personal level.

Just figured I would share my thoughts for a beautiful Friday.

Grace and Peace.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Faith in Relationships and God, Part 2

I suppose this is where the fun begins.

God isn’t like the rest of us.  Jesus wasn’t a guy who just didn’t get it.  If anything, he showed that he understood us so much better than we understood ourselves.  He proved that he loved the people he was with even though he knew their past, he knew their shame, and he certainly knew their hearts.

There is no deceiving God, no way to hide, no way to hurt; he always knows where you are, how you feel, and how to take care of you.
He is the only being in the whole of existence who sees you for who you really are, all the vulnerabilities, all the hurts, all the past mistakes, all the good, all the dreams, the hopes, the desires.  He sees it all and loves it.  More specifically, he loves you.

He. Loves. You.

Whether you reject him or embrace him, he will always be just a breath away.  He will not hurt you, and you cannot disappoint him.  There is nothing you can do to make him go away.

But he doesn’t invade your life either.  He allows you to make your own decisions and waits patiently for you.  He is basically exactly what we are all looking for and need in a relationship.

Might seem too good to be true, but keep in mind I mentioned what we needed in a relationship and not what we wanted.  They are incredibly different things.  And oftentimes confused for each other.

But think about it.  One of the greatest needs humanity has it to feel love and acceptance, and to have a sense of belonging.  It makes them feel safe, and it makes them feel important.  I think in our core, we all have a deep need to be significant.

And we are significant.  We are worthy of being loved.

To use an “overused” verse from John 3

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.

The point is, you are loved.

But what does that have to do with Faith in God?

Well, to really have faith in someone you have to trust them.  I personally find it impossible to truly trust someone without knowing they actually care about me and my well-being.  So, I felt that it was important to establish that God does actually care.

This is where it gets tricky.

See, I have found over the years that for me to trust others, I need to be trustworthy myself.  I need to exhibit the qualities that I desire to see in other people (within reason).  If I want my wife to prove she is trustworthy I must also be willing to put forth the effort in doing the same.  It is just the natural course of relationships from my own experience.

My relationship with God isn’t really any different.   There is still ebb and flow, give and take, and a need to show trust and be trusted.

This gets incredibly difficult when things don’t always go the way we expect.  Admittedly, there are days when I have felt that God betrayed me or hurt me on purpose, but I have to remember that despite how I feel, the reality is that God doesn’t do anything without purpose, without reason.  I, in my finite mind, cannot always understand the movements of an infinite being.

That doesn’t really make it easy.  If anything it makes it more difficult.  But I find that if I can shut down my pride for a few minutes then maybe I will begin to see that, as Solomon put it, “There is a season for everything.”  Sometimes we have to wait; sometimes we have to weather a storm; sometimes we have to make it through the tougher parts of life to get a little stronger so we can go a little further; and sometimes things are gravy.

Just like a relationship with another person.

I feel like, ultimately, having faith in another person, and having faith in God when it comes to relationships is really no different.

Furthermore, I would argue that they are actually intimately intertwined.

My relationship with God actually does affect my relationship with my wife and with others.  If I am being adamant in speaking with God, meditating on who he is, what he has done for me, and what he has to say both in scripture and in my own personal time with him then I find that my relationships with other improve immensely from it.

But when I neglect to do those things my relationships with others stagnate, I tend to be more irritable than usual and poor attitudes slowly creep into my core.

And I don’t want that.

I don’t want that at all.

Grace and Peace.

p.s.  Dear friend,  I hope this has helped you even a little bit.  If you want to discuss this more in person you are more than welcome to come find me.  You know where I live.  :)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Faith in Relationships and God, Part 1

I was asked by a friend to write out my thoughts on faith and how it plays out in relationships and with God.  I’ve been mulling over it for about a week now, and I’m still not entirely sure I’ve gotten all my thoughts straightened out but I thought now might be a good time to start the writing process and see where the journey takes us.  Without further ado:

I guess the first thing that needs to be addressed what the definition of the word faith since it will be the basis for the rest of the post.  There are few different points under the faith definition but I am going to just use the two points that I think are reflected at the heart of the question:

Faith [feyth]
1.       Confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another’s ability.
2.       Belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.

That is what we are really talking about here when we talk about faith in relationships:  A showing of trust and confidence in the face of uncertainty or lack of proof.

I think I want to start with faith in relationships.  I feel that perhaps this will be the easier of the two to address and I want to make sure my thoughts have worked themselves out a little more before I talk about faith in God.

Throughout life every human experiences a series of relationships.  Every encounter with another human or any living creature develops a form of relationship.  Whether it is an acquaintanceship with a co-worker, an affection for a pet, or love for a significant other, we are all in some form of relationship.  Each of these relationships tell a little bit about who we are as people.  How we react to different personalities, what we reveal to others at differing levels of intimacy, and how we handle conflict (perhaps the most revealing of all).  Every relationship requires some semblance of trust that the person you are interacting with is not some psychopath who is going to slit your throat when you aren’t looking (although we all know there are other ways to be much more hurtful).  The more intimate you get with another, the more faith or trust is required until eventually you get to the point where you are completely vulnerable to the other person.

When you reach that point there is no turning back.

And it is scary.

And dangerous.

But it is also freeing.

I can’t even begin to mention the times when I have been so thankful that I can really and truly be myself around my wife.  It is such a blessing to be in such a relationship with her that I can come home and not feel the need to “wear my armor” so to speak, and she has said the same to me on a number of occasions.  It is a beautiful thing to be a part of.  But being in such a relationship has the potential for some of the deepest wounds.  One small word, one phrase, one little thing is all it takes and that trust gets completely destroyed.

Many times when things like that happen, it isn’t even meant.  It is just something that was said or done in the heat of the moment.  And it happens too many times to too many people.

And sometimes those people never trust again.  They never open up because their heart is too damaged, too wounded, and they are too scared.  And that fear keeps them from opening up again which is what really needs to happen if they are ever going to heal.

The problem, of course, is that we are all people.  There is not a single perfect being out there.  Not a single individual who will take all of who you are and at some point not hurt you.  It is in our nature.  I deeply love my wife, and I know she trusts me to take care of her both emotionally and physically.  She trusts me to not use the secrets that she has kept to herself until she shared them with me against her.  She trusts me to keep those same secrets to myself.  She trusts me to respect her wishes, and she certainly trusts me to have fidelity in our relationship with each other.

And I trust her to do the same. 

It’s taken four years to get to that point, and it has been a painful process at times because despite our trust in each other, we don’t always pull through like we should. 

Because people are broken.

But we have to keep removing callouses that develop around our hearts or we will get to the point where we don’t love each other any longer.  And I don’t mean that in the sense of the emotional experience of love.  I mean the commitment and choice to love.  The act of putting the other before self, of showing patience and kindness, of getting angry at the injustice of how someone treated the other, or keeping complaints to yourself because the only reason you’re aggravated is because it is inconvenient to you.

It is a two way street, and it requires balance and finesse.

That’s why so many people will spend a lifetime toughing out the imbalance until they find it.

That’s why so many people give up on something so beautiful, because they don’t realize they can actually work through it if they wanted to.  They just don’t want to because it hurts in the now.

But we are worth so much more than this.

Grace and Peace.  Part 2 coming up Wed.