God created in each one of us a deep desire to connect with others. Then why is it often so hard? Relationships take work, even the ones that are unconditional (like the relationships we have with our children – or should have with them). They all take a balance of being selfless, holding strong to boundaries, grace, and forgiveness. Balancing these things in everyday life seems impossible on top of our day-to-day responsibilities.
The Purpose of Relationships
God embodies every type of healthy relationship we could ever have, and He does it perfectly, unlike us. He gives us relationships to give us glimpses into His character, His purpose, and how He feels about us. So often, though, because the human relationships let us down, it is hard to see God for who He truly is and how He really feels about us. It’s the perfect designs of these relationships that point us to God.
Many of us run to relationships to fill the void or to repair the wounds that we carry around. God didn’t create relationships for us to be completed. Even if all of our relationships were perfect, we would still have a hole that no one and nothing could ever fill, and that is where God belongs. Without God, most, if not all of our relationships will begin to fail. Without God, there is no foundation for a deep, authentic relationship anyways
Marriage is the relationship that represents Christ and His bride. God’s feelings of jealousy for us happens when He has to share our hearts with anyone or anything else including ourselves. It’s the same feeling we have anytime we feel like our significant other or spouse aren’t reserving their whole hearts for us. Whether their job is more important to them, the kids, friends, technology, pornography, another love interest, or any combination of these or many other things not listed. It is a feeling that quickly overcomes us. It’s a feeling that, if for the right reasons, reveals the depth of our love for that person.
Marriage by design was meant to be a partnership. A safe place to make mistakes, offer and accept forgiveness, and to grow. Your spouse and you may never be best friends, and that’s okay because they were never meant to fulfill all of your needs. They will be lacking in certain areas, and so will we. That’s where we search out other healthy relationships to help meet our needs and share our own gifts in other ways that can’t be accomplished in this one relationship. This will look different for each one of us.
Friendships represent an intimacy in a different and less physical way than that of marriage. But, friendship should also be a safe place to be ourselves, share our hearts, and to accept and grow one another. The wonderful thing about friendship is that we can have so many different friends, with no two alike, and it can be so beautiful. The thing about friendship is that it easily ebbs and flows through seasons. It is a good reminder that circumstances and people change, but God never does. Sometimes it is good when friendships grow apart because the reasons could be that you weren’t healthy for one another, it was toxic, or you may have even just had different goals and directions you were headed in. There is no recipe to friendship, and that is the beauty of it. God gives us guidelines, but He also made us with very different personalities, interests, passions and gifts.
Loving one another is going to look different for each different friendship, and within the same friendship, it could look different as the seasons change. It may be easy to love one friend, and hard to love another. Friendship is our community to direct us to God, whatever that may look like.
There are different degrees of friendship. There are the acquaintances that we enjoy running into and having casual conversation with. Then, there are those who we share parts of our lives with, but not in entirety. They are the “fun” friends. Lastly, we have our friends that are our chosen family. They are those who are in it with us, through the good and the hard. They understand when we are busy. They are honest, even when it hurts our feelings. They show up when we need them most, even if it’s inconvenient and uncomfortable. We need to often remind ourselves that not everyone has to or needs to be a friend, and not all who are our friends need to be our closest friends. There are ways to love people from a distance without sacrificing boundaries.
The parent/child relationship is beautiful and unique. Partially because the same parent can have many different children, and love them all so much it hurts, but each for different reasons. When I had my first daughter, I loved her more than life itself. I became pregnant with my second daughter when my first was only three or four months old (Yikes! I know!). I had fears of not being able to love my two children equally. I didn’t know if I would or could love my second one the way I loved my first. But, I did, and I still do, and it is for very different reasons (and I, of course, love my son just as much as my girls), and those reasons are rarely because they came from me and I grew them.
Parenthood is amazing because there are many different ways to become a parent. Biologically is the most obvious one. Adoption (this is how God most often relates His parenting to us), step, foster, and even spiritual children that we mentor or come alongside others to raise. I’m sure I neglected more ways for one to be a parent, so I apologize if you feel excluded, you are just as much of a parent as those listed. We are given this privilege, no matter how it comes to us, and we begin to understand just how frustrating we are to God, yet how He still manages to love us in the end. He instilled that characteristic into us (even though it is broken in some, and they don’t nurture and care in the way God originally intended). He wants us to feel, if even just a tiny portion, of what He feels for us.
The last relationship I want to touch on is the superior/inferior relationship. As humans, all of us are equal, no matter the differences, so don’t let the title of relationship throw you off. It’s the relationships like that of a boss to employee, king to servant, teacher to pupil, government to citizen etc. Put simply, it’s when someone is in authority over someone else (so yes, the parent/child relationship can somewhat fall into this category as well). If we can’t and won’t be controlled, if we can’t follow instructions and rules, how can we serve and honor God? It seems as though God gave us these relationships, not only to reflect what He wants us to understand about His character and personality, but to also test us and/or give us some practice. If we refuse to listen to authority, and keep the system of things in order, we are definitely not going to listen or obey the Authority that our eyes cannot yet see.
In What Way Are We Allowing Our Relationships to Change Us?
Relationships test our character, they grow us, change us, and shape us. But in what ways are we allowing them to do this? What are they revealing about our character? In each of these types of relationships, and even including ones that I did not list, there will always be people who abuse their positions. They will seek us out just to use us and throw us out. This is not representative of God’s character whatsoever. This is their freewill in action.
Even those we have relationships with that are not abusive doesn’t mean that we won’t be hurt by them. We most certainly will, and especially by those who we are closest to. We have to look into the why. Sometimes they are being selfish, sometimes they don’t think before they speak/act, sometimes they are simply clueless, and sometimes they are acting out of their own hurt. We must see our relationships through the lens of God. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, we need to be selfless, holding strong to boundaries, grace, and forgiveness. These relationships will be hard, they will hurt, and we need to understand that God is trying to reach us, heal us, and make us look more like Him through these relationships. We have to be willing to go through the hard to get to the good.
Our expectations are often unrealistic, and our communication non-existent. We assume those who know us and love us can magically read our minds. If we take care of our part, God will work on the rest. Yes, sometimes He will call us to step away from relationships, whatever the capacity (divorce is a deeper topic, and I am not suggesting that here). There are ways that we are able to love from a distance. Love doesn’t always look sweet, nice and tidy. Look at how Jesus loved the Pharisees and Sadducees, not what we think of as love. But, that is how He was able to love them without compromising His boundaries. At the end of the day, erase your expectations, but not your standards. If you are walking through some hard relationships today, now is the time to evaluate if it is healthy hard or if it is toxic. You need a healthy community surrounding you, and pointing you to God. You need people to fill you up, but you also need to fill others up. Just because it may be a hard relationship doesn’t always mean it is wrong. God will guide if you give it all up to Him. He desires relationships that honor and point others to Him.
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