You were Beautifully Made for Relationship.

I read today that most Canadians consider marriage to be passé. At best, it’s a social event on a calendar designed to last as long as two people want it to. More than half of our country are not in a marriage relationship. Is it cost, culture, community or confusion which is pushing this trend?

Relationships all over the world are interrupted by guilt, fear and shame. The issues on the surface, which we think are driving us apart, are really covers for what is happening deep underneath. In our culture, fear of “not being enough” or of “being too much” are entry points for discussions about the heart of a struggle.

Gary Smalley, (The DNA of Relationships, p. 21) lists a wide diversity of core fears we might feel in relationship. Some of them include feeling ‘helpless, powerless, impotent, controlled, rejected, isolated, alienated, abandoned, left behind, disconnected, failure, unloved, defective, inadequate, pained, hypocritical, inferior, cheated, taken advantage of, invalidated, ignored, devalued, unfulfilled, dissatisfied, humiliated, lack of dignity, disrespected, manipulated or deceived.’ Identifying the core fear is an important part of understanding what is happening inside. If you had to circle two or three core fears which ones would you choose?

Jeremiah 17:9 states that “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? ”We may not understand ourselves as much as we think.

Smalley identifies a “Fear Dance” that we can easily get into in our relationships. A relational crisis might start when I feel hurt. I then want something. I fear the loss of relationship. I react in an effort to change the other person. Now they hurt. They want something. They fear the loss of relationship. They react so that I now hurt – around and around we go.

We can easily see the other person as the source of the problem and the source of the solution. We expect them to change so they can satisfy our needs or wants.

Smalley (p. 27) combines our core wants and fears when he says:

We want acceptance so we fear rejection; we want grace so we fear judgment; we want connection so we fear disconnection; we want companionship so we fear loneliness; we want success so we fear failure; we want self-determination so we fear powerlessness; we want understanding so fear being misunderstood; (see the rest of the list at the end)

You get the point. When we put the pressure onto someone else to deliver what we want we set up a tension which will ultimately get us dancing in circles with those we care about. The reason for this is that human beings in themselves are not able to deliver all we hope for on their own and this taps into their own fears.

A church is a body of believers all with their own wants and fears. If you’ve been in a church for very long you know that people you come to lean on will not always meet your wants and this will tap into your own fears. In addition, when you have others leaning on you then you will realize you are inadequate to meet their wants and this will tap into their fears. The easy solution tried by many is to run to another church and to replay this scenario over time – or just to isolate yourself and never reach out to anyone to avoid unmet expectations.

If we’re going to be one then honesty is key. What ‘wants’ are at the core of your life and what ‘fears’ do you seeing being played out in you and in the lives of those around you?

(The rest of the list)

  • we want love so we fear being scorned
  • We want validation so we fear being invalidated
  • We want competence so we fear feeling defective
  • we want respect so we fear inferiority
  • We want worth so we fear worthlessness
  • We want honor so we fear feeling devalued
  • We want dignity so we fear humiliation
  • we want commitment so we fear abandonment
  • We want significance so we fear feeling unimportant
  • We want attention so we fear feeling ignored
  • We want support so we fear neglect
  • We want approval so we fear condemnation
  • We want to be wanted so we fear feeling unwanted
  • We want safety so we fear danger
  • We want affection so we fear being disliked
  • We want trust so we fear mistrust
  • We want hope so we fear despair
  • We want joy so we fear unhappiness.
  • Have You Really Left Home?

    This is an incredibly challenging time and place to find a new home – especially if you’re young. Spaces and dollars are few for many of you. It takes a reorientation of your expectations to find your roots and to dig them down so that you hold on and grow where you are.

    This day is often focused on encouraging people to stretch themselves and their dollars to reach out and demonstrate your affection for others in your world. Dinners, cards, flowers and calls are intentionally shared. Those in marriages are encouraged to push their expressions of intimacy even deeper. It is sometimes easy to give something other than yourself to accomplish your duty.

    Donald Harvey has written a book called “Love Decisions” focusing on a dad’s talk with his daughter about the potential for love and her preparation for it. The first question he brings up is “Have you really left home?”

    His biblical focus is on Genesis 2:24 where we are told that a man will leave his father and mother and cling to his wife so they become one flesh. A person who is ready for lasting relationship both detaches and then attaches. Some who have been already married haven’t really effectively detached from their birth families and they find themselves constantly torn between two loyalties.

    The issue isn’t only about moving your body out of a shared space with your birth family. It is about making the primary motivation for your mental and emotional decisions based on a foundation other than your parents. Of course, family will always be important and have some degree of influence on many of our decisions but it is the degree of that decision making which shows whether you have left home or not.

    Preserving a healthy family relationship, while developing other positive relationships, is an important part of developing some level of independence. You don’t have to rebel or move far away to establish this readiness.

    Here’s what Harvey (p. 18) tells us. “When you have truly left home, you will demonstrate independence versus dependence – you will act versus react. And your decisions will have more to say about you than about other people. The bottom line will always be, “This is what I think is the best thing for me to do,” and you will act accordingly. If, instead, your behavior is a reaction to others, then maybe (you guessed it) you still haven’t left and there’s still some work to do before you’re ready to make any real lovedecisions.

    “Leaving home is not as simple as it sounds. It isn’t just a by-product of age. Nor is it always indicated by a change in address. It’s a process – one that requires many steps and encounters many interferences. Still, it is not only an accomplishable goal but one that must be attained before you are ready to make any significant lovedecisons. Assess yourself and your relationships. Have you made the break from home and dependence to self-sufficiency and independence? Are you somewhere “in process”? Or are you still clearly tied to your parents?

    Developing a faith that is your own is an essential part of this readiness for intimacy. If your heart has learned to love God and to be loved by him then it is tuned to understand how love works in the human realm.

    Don’t You Love It?

    On the verge of Valentine’s Day the flowers are filling the shops and cards and chocolates are finding their way into grocery bags. Does giving a special gift one or two days a year make up for everything else we do or don’t do the rest of the year?

    Okay, I don’t live your life and I don’t know what you deal with. Gifts may not be your love language.

    At Faith we’re talking a lot about Gary Chapman’s “The Five Love Languages.” A short workshop with our Daycare staff left them wanting more. A few of our couples, staff and friends have been able to connect a little better when they found out the hidden secrets that a hug, a note, an act of service, a gift, or a little bit of time could make in someone else’s life.

    The image we are given is of something called a love tank. Imagine a water tank for something concrete to get hold of this. When we speak our love language to another or when they speak our love language to us we are filled up. When others act or speak in conflict with our love language it is like a puncture wound in that tank which then drains us. Healing can take time so taking care from the start of a relationship is important. We’re not all as together and strong and resilient as we look on the outside.

    We’ve been calling the whole family at Faith to think a little more intentionally about the relationships in their social circle. A love language is a channel through which you communicate your love for another and through which you receive love to maximum impact. Chapman lists the five mentioned earlier.

    The key to effective communication with love languages is to discern what another person’s love language is and to speak to them in the way that they best appreciate. In order to discern watch how they attempt to show you they care and try responding in kind.

    Several of us discovered to our great surprise that some of our quiet leaders had the love language of touch. More than anything, a hug upon greeting meant the world to them. Others of our leaders could last a week when a card with encouraging words was put into their hand – or a two minute phone call of appreciation was shared.

    A few long for others to stop for a few moments and spend some quality time just being with us in our space. They could get gifts, notes, calls and all kinds of good deeds sent their way but it wouldn’t have the same impact.

    Acts of service are key ways that some of our volunteers show they love. Faithfully completing the tasks behind the scenes is their way of communicating as clearly as they can. You’ll see some of these big hearts in hospitality or other hidden ministries.

    But for some – gifts are what it’s all about. Valentine’s Day or any day is a good day to give a gift and to get a gift. Watch who is giving you the gift when they have no real reason to do so. That person may be giving you a hint.

    Do you know your love language? Maybe you’re fluent in all five or maybe you’re working hard to learn another one to communicate with someone you know. If you don’t know someone’s love language check it out on line and start making a difference right where you are.

    What if You’re Not Alone

    Have you ever been certain that you were alone until you heard that noise in the darkness? Was it a
    creak from the house, a footstep in the hallway, a mouse in the wall?
    Sometimes we live our life as if we’re alone. We go through dark struggles and feel alone; we engage
    and break relationships as if it is only us; we drive our cars and walk the streets as if we are alone; we
    eat, we watch and we pray as if we are on our own. We even sit in church singing and listening as if no
    one else can sense the motives of our hearts, the thoughts of our mind, or the distractions of our
    memories and hopes.
    But what if we remembered that God has invaded time and space – not just two thousand years ago
    when Jesus walked in Galilee – but now, wherever we are. Not just invaded our time and space but
    infiltrated our mind and heart.
    David, the psalmist, says in Psalm 139:1-5 NIV, “You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. You
    know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my
    lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word in on my tongue you, LORD, know it
    completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.”
    Many of us, like former atheist C.S. Lewis, don’t want God to “interfere” with our lives.
    The book of John records testimonies like that of ‘doubting Thomas’ for a reason. In John 20:30-31 we
    read “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this
    book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by
    believing you may have life in his name.”
    Every transformed life in our world is a creak in the dark for souls that feel alone. The question to face
    now is, am I the creak that others can’t miss, or am I the one needing to stop and realize that right in the
    middle of what I’m facing right now, I am not alone?