Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Human Relationships and God

This is a recent entry in my journal for a counseling class I am taking at school. The basic question was, "How do my human relationships fit in with my relationship with God?" I had such a fruitful free-writing experience that I just had to share it with you. Enjoy! After meeting with Dee, I reflected more on human relationships rather than just my own personal journey. These relationships, I am considering, are more and more what will help my personal journey gain significance. Especially in my relationship with Tricia, I have an opportunity to “search for significance” and in so doing glorify God in my relationships. I think this is because the human level is where we practice our relationship with God. If we have a triadic relationship with God and others, then the personal expression of our relationship with an “intangible” God is with “tangible” people. Certainly, the hope is that the people we are in relationship with will gain or develop a deeper “intangible” relationship with God. But I wonder if we have in some ways overlooked the aspect of how this tangible relationship affects our own personal relationship with God. This is what Dee is asking me to think about. As I reflect on this, I find that the more I attempt to practice biblical love and affection for Tricia; the more I learn to behave as the head of the relationship; the more I learn to sacrifice myself to her, since I belong to her and not myself, the more I realize how pitifully I have done this in relation to God. I find myself asking, when have I loved the Lord? When have I submitted to him as I want Tricia to submit to me? When have I sacrificed myself to him as he sacrificed himself for me? The answer is a very sad “rarely.” Is this common? I think it is, especially for ministers. In attempting to “be Jesus” to those around us, we realize just how short we are in our own relationship with God. I begin to wonder if human relationships are where God teaches us how we are to relate to him. In practicing biblical relationship principles, we learn not only how better to relate to others, but how to fellowship with God. So, then, should we work harder on our human relationships? I think we must. Without these relationships we have only a superficial understanding of how to relate to God. That is a sobering thought, that I have only had a superficial relationship with God apart from my human relationships. Have I ignored my relationship with God in order to focus on others? Where do these relationships fit in with my relationship with God? Have I been saying “no” to God when I should be saying “no” to others instead? What a turn of perspective, to first say we need to work harder on our human relationships and second to say we need to say “no” to these relationships as well. I think that the problem is that I personally say “yes” to the wrong relationships instead of the right ones. This is true of others in ministry as well. We are so caught up in “being Jesus,” in those relationships with others, that the relationships that are necessary to work on—family, close friends, Jesus—end up becoming secondary. I am seeing this happen even now with a good friend who is new to full-time ministry. He is letting his ministerial relationships and his view of what he is supposed to do as a minister “trump” his relationship with his wife and children, with his good friends, and there is a deep worry that his spiritual life is suffering as well. I myself am worried that I have fallen into the same trap. I never seem to have time to pursue devotions as I did in the past, and this rankles me. I keep wondering where my devotional time fits in with all this other “stuff” I need to do. But I was asked to rephrase that to something more appropriate, and the proper question (which I have started to ask here) is where do my human relationships fit in with my relationship with God? I think that, first and foremost, my human relationships must never be allowed to pull me away from my relationship with God. This means that the demands on my time and on my presence must be reduced, or at least told what priority they have. I cannot spend time with Tricia or with church members if I have to drop time for Bible reading or prayer. I must be willing to say “no, this is my private time with God, come back later.” Further, I must be willing to do this no matter what hurt feelings it may cause. In my relationship with Tricia, this may hurt her feelings for a while, but it will model to her that God is first in both my life and in our marriage, and that if I want to be the best husband I can possibly be, I need this time with Jesus. Second, my human relationships must never be allowed to pull me away from my relationship with Tricia. Without her by my side I am potentially like a ship without a rudder. It’s like having a Bible but not knowing how to use it. By making her my number one human relationship, I can put others in their proper place and more effectively schedule my time with them. I liken this to Jesus’ relationship with the disciples. It seems as if he never allowed his ministry to distract him from developing that relationship with the disciples, especially his inner circle. He always made sure they spent time together, quality time. In doing this, I will do things that facilitate a deeper relationship with Tricia. We will spend more time together as a couple, we will do more “couple” things, alone or with other couples, we will help each other become man and wife more deeply. She and I right now are talking about doing more things with other couples, as this is something that we enjoy, and we have found that being around other couples (especially “older” couples) encourages us and teaches us more about this kind of relationship. In making my relationship with her a priority, I can further prioritize my relationships outside of my own personal, immediate triad (God-Stephen-Tricia). We will begin to focus on relationships with other couples instead of individuals. I don’t really know where else to go or if I’ve even answered the question of the moment. I’ve rambled quite a bit today but I feel that the past 3 pages have been very informative. Let’s hope I did what I was asked!

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