One of Jesus' followers was brave enough to ask Him the question! It went something like this. "Hey Jesus; cut to the chase, bottom line us, what is most important?" His answer? In a word--relationships!
37 "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38 This is the greatest and the most important commandment. 39 The second most important commandment is like it: "Love your neighbor as you love yourself.' 40 The whole Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets depend on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:37-40, GNB)
Most of us don't have a lot of 'relational hope'. I mean; come on--relationships? Don't you think it odd and even frustrating, that the very aspect of our existence that is the most challenging is what He declares the greatest in importance? Everything else; all that Moses and the prophets received as "the absolute how-to manual for living" hinges on loving God and loving other's as we love our-self.
Really? Has God not noticed that relationships bring us the most confusion, pain, and separation anxiety? And yet; they are also pregnant with the potential of the most fulfillment, meaning, joy, purpose and connectedness? Relationships carry within them great effort, difficulty, mystique, intrigue, potential and passion. And more times than not; all within a span of minutes! Pause for effect. Let that sink in.
But, but--I have even questioned God about attaching His Royal Law of Love to relationships other than the one to him? It is a little bit more realistic too grasp loving Him! After all, He loved us first! And He did it with a lot of flair and panache'! "But here is how God has shown his love for us. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8 NIRV)
But; too suggest that we love our 'near' ones (neighbors) as we love ourselves? Really? Seems like a set-up from the git go. It is! It's a set up for needing large; no, vast ocean filled amounts of forgiveness, mercy and grace every moment of every day! Love does not happen apart from mercy, forgiveness and grace! And He is the only source for all three!
The further I travel this relational journey, the more I'm serendipitously surprised and intrigued by his 'relational' (not to be confused with rational) forgiveness, mercy and grace. It's almost as if he put relationships in our lives as the 'proverbial carrot' to draw us deeper into Him. Ya think?
Here are a few of the life lessons that have helped me clear up this relational 'mystery' we all find ourselves in. Of course, becoming a hermit or a 'poustinik' (A desert Monk who lives totally alone in silence) are two other options-though not highly recommended.
"You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts--limbs, organs, cells--but no matter how many parts you can name, you're still one body. It's exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything." (1 Corinthians 12: 12-13a, Msg)
Too many of us continue to celebrate our tenacious individualism instead of learning how to flow within Christ's Body. "Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps...be your own man or woman...if I don't do it, no one else will...don't take the risks associated with connecting and trusting others."
These sayings and more form the "mantra" (a mystical formula that helps to shape one's system of belief) and the foundational thinking of a "do it yourself" non-relational lifestyle. The end of this philosophy is emptiness! Or worse; the 'narcissistic' delusion that everyone else exists for you.
I've had to ask myself; "why is it so difficult for me to connect with (and remain connected with) those God has placed around me?" After many years of relational struggles I have come to one key conclusion. Fiercely facing myself in the mirror until I could believe Jesus was looking back at me.
"But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Corinthians 3:18 NKJV) And as a result, I've been enabled to receive some God-sight as to what is going on at the heart of my relational struggles.
Getting to that conclusion has tragically required some relational crashes; not un like King David or any number of other prominent Bible characters. The good news; Grace happened in the midst of the crashes. Springing from the tough times a healing journey emerged.
Within the healing has emerged a holy resolve to risk opening the mirror of my heart to God and authentically say like King David, "Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I'm about; See for yourself whether I've done anything wrong--then guide me on the road to eternal life." (Psalm 139: 22-24, Msg)
This has been fruitful, but not easy! But, I can honestly report that I don't regret one second of the relational heart work that has been invested in the process. At the very same time that I faced me in Him in my heart mirror... (just trust me-don't try to figure it out-it is a part of the mystery of the Gospel).
In those moments He showed me the relational skills and coping mechanisms I had previously relied on. Even though they didn't work the best, they were a function of His Grace to get me too the mirror. Even that helped me face myself with a previously unknown transparency.
Yes, I have suffered much wrong; been abused, let down, disappointed, betrayed and even rejected. Some of it was even imaginary! And I've also been the offender more times than I wanted to believe. We all have to one degree or another. But, in the heart mirror we finally start making peace with our relational past. Then and only then can we move forward into a hope-filled relational future. One where we receive and give his forgiveness, mercy and grace to our-self and our offenders.
Facing yourself with fierce honesty is the harder part of healing and change! Seeing His unique way of love gets easier the more you focus on Him in the mirror! And one day you catch yourself loving him, yourself and others. And then others start catching you relating and loving His way. You and they start really liking His way! His way becomes the easier way! Here-in is relational hope!
Getting Relationally Hopeful, Ron Ross