Posts Tagged ‘relationship’

Last Sunday I went to church and our Pastor annoyed me. Not because he was wrong but because he was right; and on top of being right he spoke with a humble passion and grace which made him even more annoying because I could not discredit him for bad delivery. His sermon was on Christian maturity as described in Ephesians 4, but what grated most against my fallen nature were his comments on selfishness.

I have never thought of myself as a selfish person but as I sat in church pondering the struggles I have had in the last several months, I began to realize that most of them are rooted in a world view that revolves completely around my own comfort. One of my greatest struggles in recent days is what I like to call “relational paranoia”. Yes, I made that up all by myself, but put simply it means that I am constantly worried that I will do something stupid in a relationship that will ruin it for all eternity without any hope of redemption.

Now, this might seem like a demented form of humility but from the sermon on Sunday I am reminded that it is actually prideful and self-centered in the highest degree. Instead of my focus being on the love of Christ and how I can best bring that to life for those around me, my focus is on my own performance. Instead of viewing people as people I am viewing them as my audience. I then strive for an affirmation that should already be there from knowing that I am wholly loved and accepted by the God of the universe and this striving becomes not only exhausting but paralyzing. I am not free to simply love people because I am bound by my own selfish need for affirmation. Please don’t misunderstand me to say that affirmation has no place in relationships because it most certainly does, but when it is the motivation for my actions it becomes something it was never meant to be.

So how do I find freedom? As a mom, I so desperately want to be able to teach my girls how to freely love people without the bondage of this “relational paranoia” but how do I get there myself? I must change my direction. When the voice inside my head begins to tell me that no one really likes me and relational fall out is just one slip-up away, I must turn from this and look to my Savior. If His righteousness is enough to make me right before a holy God then it is certainly more than enough to make me right before men and that is where my security is found. My performance will always be subpar but Jesus takes me as I am, gives me His perfection and sets me free to love each person where they are at not based on the amount of affirmation they give me. As strange as it may sound, what I really want is to forget about me and let the love of Jesus reflect in how I treat all those in my life. This shifts the focus from things I must do to maintain feigned awesomeness to the things Jesus has already done to love me and that I can now do for others. Forgetting about me = freedom.

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My mother is a very wise old woman and one of the many great sayings she has passed on to me over the years is “Rules without relationship equals rebellion.” To be truthful, I never really thought much about the meaning of that statement until recent days, but as my husband and I desperately strive to find the balance in cultivating good relationships with our children while also disciplining them effectively it has taken on a new depth.

In the Scriptures we are given lots of commands regarding God’s desire and plan for our lives. Some people see these commands as protection and a source of life, but most people see them as outdated and restrictive. So what makes the difference between the two perspectives? Relationship. People who have a relationship with Jesus Christ do not see the Bible as simply a collection of irrelevant, oppressive rules, but as a love letter from their Father. It’s a narrative that reveals the very nature of God and His design for a most beloved creation. However, for those who do not know the author, they simply discard whatever words do not suit them and live a life of rebellion against the God of the universe as though He doesn’t even exist. Rules without relationship equals rebellion.

This same principle can be applied to us as parents. When we are all about the rules in order to manage the chaos of life and not much about cultivating relationships that can withstand the chaos, then we lose the heart of our kids. This is something I fear more than death itself. If I make my kids behave the way I want them to, but never get to their heart what have I gained? However, as much as this question haunts me, the fact remains that it is much easier to enforce a rule than it is to spend time engaging the heart of my children. Thus is the battle between what I should do and what the weakness of my flesh wants to do. It is a battle that often leaves me feeling hopeless, inadequate and exhausted. However, I would like to share an example from my past that always reminds me of how important it is to keep fighting and I hope it will encourage all my fellow parents out there to not give up either.

Once upon a time when I was somewhere around 15 years old I wanted to do something really stupid. I had been homeschooled all of my life and had just started working at McDonald’s. I was young, innocent and fresh meat to a crew full of teenage boys hopped up on hormones. It was these teenage boys who invited me to go on a road trip with them and a group of friends to Galveston for the weekend. I wanted go so badly! I was high on all the attention I was getting from a bunch of cute boys and felt this was a good time to spread my wings and fly. So I asked my dad if I could go. Instead of simply saying no, my dad took me out for ice cream at an old Dairy Queen Restaurant to discuss the matter. After we got our frozen treats we sat down and he patiently listened to me divulge all the reasons why I felt it was reasonable for him to let me go on the road trip. Looking back, that must have been absolutely painful for him to listen to but listen he did. After I had made my air tight case for going to Galveston with a group of teenage boys that were practically total strangers, my Dad very respectfully laid out all of the reasons why he felt it was not a good idea for me to go. Of course, in all of my 15 year old maturity, I disagreed with him. We went back and forth for a bit until my dad finally said to me “Angela, I know you cannot see my perspective and you think I am being ridiculous but I am asking you to trust me. I have taken care of you your whole life and I am asking you to trust that I am looking out for you even when you can’t see exactly where I am coming from.” He wasn’t angry with me and even though he had every right to appeal to his authority as my father, he appealed to his relationship with me instead and I have never forgotten that.

Needless to say, I didn’t go to the beach that weekend and now that I have two daughters of my own, I look back on this story and thank God for my Dad’s steadfast protection. The relationship that he built with me allowed me to trust him as a person even when his rules didn’t make sense to my young mind. This is what drives me to keep fighting for my relationship with my kids; so that when push comes to shove and obeying the rules can mean the difference between life and destruction, they know who I am as a person and they know that I am always looking out for their ultimate good. This is how it is with God and this is how I as a parent demonstrate the reality of God to my kids. So no matter how much I fail, I will keep walking in the direction of relationship, because in the end nothing matters more than God becoming real to the little souls that He has entrusted me with.