Has your desire to keep your house neat and tidy made it seem more like a museum than a home and alienated your family?
Has your desire to succeed in your career stolen the time you should be devoting to your marriage?
Do you find yourself pointing out others spiritual immaturity with no regard for their feelings and no self-control to stop yourself?
Do you find yourself irritated by the freedom others enjoy, and do you find yourself mentally thinking of ways they could better spend their time?
Are you hospitable toward others but rarely have time for your own family, or more specifically your husband/wife?
Do you have a business partner that you no longer work with because you have concluded that your differences are too great to EVER make the business work?
Do you know someone that you find "spiritual" yet "theologically unaware"?
OR are you courting someone and sitting in church with them thinking you could never attend their church EVERY Sunday after you are married?
Are you thinking your spouse must be the most non-mechanical, unable to cook, talent-less hack you could have ever picked out of the gene pool?
Do you have a friend that you love but you feel you will never be on the same page with spiritually?
Can you relate to any of these scenarios? Surely there is SOMEONE in your life who drives you nuts. Is there someone you would like to tweak to better suit your needs, make them a little more compatible to yourself? Have you ever felt that spiritual disconnect with someone you know and love?
Have you ever fought over silly insignificant things? Do you sometimes find that other's opinions mean more to you than they should? Have you EVER thought it would be so much easier be alone than to deal with the drama associated with being IN relationships?
YOU are not alone. Every single one of us has had similar struggles, and if someone tells you they have NEVER had relationship issues, RUN, because they are hiding the truth.
In this chapter the authors ask us:
"What are the daily thoughts, desires and habits that make a relationship good?"
"Why do you struggle with one person one way and s different way with another?"
The questions are written with the understanding that relationships do not magically appear out of thin air but are actually built, and as with any structure they must be built on a good and solid foundation. Without the foundation, no amount of hard work or prettying up that structure will make your relationships what God intended them to be.
Remember back in "No Options" we discussed injecting God and theology into discussions about human relationships? Do you remember what the authors said? "It seems jarring because we misunderstand theology, we see theology as a systematic study of religious thought that has little to do with everyday life. But rightly understood, theology is the real life story of God's relationship to us and our relationship to us lived out in a broken world."
So, by this definition, WE are "doing" theology every day by the decisions we make, the words we speak, the feelings we have, and the attitudes we nurture in our hearts. All of these responses are rooted in our perspective on the nature of God.
Good relationships are always built on the foundational stones of IDENTITY and WORSHIP. If we want our relationships to be what God designed them to be, the rebuilding, restoring, and reconciling must start with a solid NEW foundation. The source is our heart, from which comes our thoughts and motives and shapes what we do and say. If our heart's foundation is solid and based on God's truth, His design and His purpose for us then our relationships will reflect that even though we are flawed people living in a broken world.
When the authors refer to identity they are not referring to your name, birth date and social security number, they are talking about how you define yourself. What talents, qualities, experiences achievements goals, beliefs, relationships, and dreams you use to say, "THIS" is who I am. For example, on twitter you have just a few words to describe yourself, I chose "Benevolent mother of four, delighted wife of one, redeemed child of a King". This is how I present myself to the world.
Worship also is not just referring to the order of service at your church on Sunday, but more. What the authors want us to realize is that because we are HUMAN there is always something MORE we are living for. Some desire, some goal, some treasure, purpose, value or craving that is controlling our hearts.
The bible reminds us that God wants and DESERVES to be the center of BOTH of these things, of our IDENTITY and our WORSHIP. It will be when we are living in the biblical since of WHO we are in Him and RESTING in who God is that we will be able to build healthy relationships.
We can speak many words about what we believe, but the authors say, "The theology you live out is much more important to your daily life than the theology you claim to believe"
So what is it you believe, and do you need to be reminded of who you are? Have you forgotten? Have you grown weary? Are you tired? Have you become discouraged? Stay with me....we're getting to the good stuff, I promise.
We all have within us a desire to know who we are. We tell ourselves, "I am ____, therefore I can ____" and we live that way. We all do it.
Part of God's plan though, as we seek to find our personal identity is that our quest would drive us back to Him as our Creator, so that we can find our meaning and purpose in Him. The authors explain that the identity we assign ourselves affects how we respond to each other. For example:
If someone thinks they are smarter than you they will be unable to accept advice from you, or if someone believes they deserve your respect, they will always be watching to see if you are being respectful and giving them what they deserve...do you see how damaging this can be to relationships?
"Where you find your identity will have EVERYTHING to do with how hard you respond to the hard work of relationships with others."
Wrong reactions come from forgetting WHO we are and right reactions come from remembering.
Let's go w-a-y back to the garden and look at the discussion between Eve and the serpent:
Serpent: "Can it be that God has said, You shall not eat from every tree of the garden"
Eve: "We may eat from the fruit of the trees of the garden except the fruit from the tree which is in the middle of the garden. God has said, You shall not eat it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die."
Serpent: "You shall not surely die."
He came to her right away with a lie, What's this I hear? That mean old God you serve won't let you eat from every tree in the garden? So she corrects him, but then she adds something to the original instruction. He challenges her. You won't die.
God designed that they live within the boundaries He set for them. He gave them an identity. They forgot that identity when they made their own decision apart from the boundaries set for them. If you continue to read you will see that Abraham and Sarah forgot too. They plotted to fulfill God's promise their way rather than to trust God. Keep reading, the children of Israel surrounded by pagan nations terrified, intermarried with the other nations and began to worship their gods. Keep going...King Saul when he was victorious in war forgot his identity and kept back part of the plunder for himself.Keep reading...the disciples scattered when Jesus was arrested...and Peter...well... All of these are examples of real people who forgot who they were, making terrible choices.
Are you ready? My TWO favorite words are coming: BUT GOD!
Read Hebrews 11
You may be asking yourself what does any of this have to do with relationships...EVERYTHING!
The authors remind us that much of the drama of God's people is a drama of identity. While many of the above examples are not about relationship, they are about telling yourself WHO you are, which impacts the way you deal with the issues that affect your daily life.
You either gain your identity out of your sense of who God is, and who He has made you in Christ OR you will seek to get your identity out of your circumstances, your relationships and your successes. Let me ask you a Dr. Phil like question, how's that latter been workin' for ya?
Let's look at Ephesians 1-3; Colossians 1:21-23; Hebrews 10:19-25; I Peter 2:9-12 and I John 3:1-3 these are just a few of the many Scriptures that state where our identity is found. The authors remind us that much of our disappointment and heartache we experience comes from our attempts to claw something out of human relationships that we ALREADY possess in Christ.
Our culture does much to make us unhappy with our circumstances as we look around we are constantly bombarded with images telling us we need to be thinner, better looking, and drive better cars. Our yards need to be greener, our fences stand taller and our houses more adorned than the next guy.
The reality is we can be happy where we are with what we have.
No human was designed to bring you happiness. Have you ever heard a couple struggling in their marriage and they make a conscious decision to bring a child into the marriage thinking that will "fix" whatever problems they had? How many times has that worked? Or how about the young woman or young man who leaves home to marry thinking that THIS will be the answer to their misery? When you seek to define who you are through relationships with other sinners you are asking them to give your soul that inward rest that can only be provided by God.
Listen: The authors said it like this, "If I am seeking to get identity from you, I will watch you too closely, listen to you too intently, and need you too fundamentally."
BECAUSE of this watching I become acutely aware of your weaknesses, and I will become angry, frustrated and hopeless. Not JUST because you are a sinner (like me) but because you have failed to deliver the one thing I seek from you, my identity.
II Peter 1 tells us that His divine power has bestowed upon us ALL things that are requisite and suited to life and godliness, but WE must be diligent to employ every effort to exercise our faith, to develop self-control, steadfastness, patience, endurance, virtue, knowledge, godliness, and brotherly love. The Scriptures tell us AS these qualities abound in us they will keep us from being idle and unfruitful.
BUT, if we lack these qualities, we develop a type of amnesia. We forget.
When we remember, that in Christ we possess everything we need to be the person we need to be, we are free to serve others in our relationships with humility, with patience, with gentleness, with forbearance and with love, loving them the way Christ loves us.
Have you ever heard the expression, "One man's trash is another man's treasure"? Jesus reminds us that the thing we value will control us. In Matthew 6:19-24 He is very clear, we CAN NOT serve two masters. Think about it, the authors make the point that when you finally grasp the "thing" that you claim you need to make yourself happy you are, for the moment at least, happy, encouraged, and satisfied. But when that "thing" doesn't live up to your expectations, and it won't by the way, you become discouraged and sad and frustrated. Real love and esteem for others is always rooted in our worship for God.
The word WORSHIP is not just the formal religious activities that go on in the church building. The authors say that worship is an identity before it is an activity. YOU and I are worshipers, that is WHY we worship. And the thing that controls us? That's the thing we worship.
There are three ways that worship is connected to the way we love and esteem others, the first is:
LEARNING TO WORSHIP GOD AS CREATOR
Look at Psalm 139:13-16 this passage tells us that we are created by God. His hands formed us. Every part of us was formed by our amazing God. His attention was focused, He didn't make any mistakes, down to the last detail of our hair color, our personalities, our skin color, and even birth defects, all were and are a part of His plan and make each of us uniquely "US".
We lose sight of this Creator aspect of Him when we demand that He change others into an image that is more pleasing to us. We are different for a reason.
LEARNING TO WORSHIP GOD AS SOVEREIGN
Who reading this can say that their life has gone according to their plan? If your life has gone according to your plan, email me, I'd really like to hear about it, because I know, and Paul has confirmed that our story has been written by another. You see, God has specifically determined the details of our lives. Each of us have different stories, because God determined where we would be born, to what families, in what culture and in what period of time. The authors said it like this, "When I look at you, I need to see God's Sovereign hand writing your story perfectly. The person you are and the responses you make to life have been shaped by His Sovereign choices and your responses to the story He has written for you."
They go on to remind us that relationships are formed at the point that those two stories hand crafted by the Creator intersect, and that the problem is, that an awful lot of carnage takes place at that intersection.
Failing to honor God as sovereign and in the influences He has placed into your life and the way they have shaped you means that I will try to take God's place in your life. I will attempt to clone you after my own image. My way will be the best way, my culture will be the best culture, my customs and manners will be MORE appropriate than yours, etc. I will ALWAYS be frustrated.
Haven't you ever noticed that much of our frustrations IN relationships stem from how different the person is from ourselves and our response to that difference?
LEARNING TO WORSHIP GOD AS SAVIOR
To worship God as Savior there has to first be that confession that we in fact need a Savior. We are sinners, in relationships with other sinners. Elisabeth Elliott, when speaking to her daughter about marriage warned her, you will marry a sinner, because there is no one else to marry. It would do us well to remember that when we deal with others that they are just as frail and fallen as we are, and to remember that the grace we want extended toward ourselves should be extended towards others.
When we forget that we are in relationships with other sinners, when we forget that God is redeeming us all, day by day we become self-righteous, impatient, critical and judgmental and give in to the temptation to change the other person in ways that only God can. We become too casual about our own sin and too focused on the sins of others.
Good relationships are rooted in IDENTITY and WORSHIP.
When we remember who we are in Christ, and worship God for Who He is, it is then we can respond with patient, gentle, hopeful and courageous love.