When I watched this video journal ‘No Man is an Island’, it changed me in a big way. It revolutionised how I approached relationships in my life. Don’t get me wrong, relationships have always been massively important to me. I’m compassionate, caring, and loyal, and I knew that relationships was incredibly important to my faith and to me personally.
But I guess my problem since, was figuring out what this looked like. When I watched this video by Mike, it threw me for a head spin (in a good way) because I have a shy/quiet tendency which (negatively) manifests into a reserved, I’m-fine facade of independence. Relationships were good, optional things to pursue, but not intrinsic to the created order. I wanted everything to look nice and smooth, a strong Christian who had her act together, even her not-togetherness (like teenage awkwardness, pimples, and failures at piano concerts).
And then, I realised that God is Father, Spirit, and Son. His essence is unity. God’s very God-ness is three whole aspects in one. I thought, thanks to kid’s Bible picture books, that God was lonely, hence why he created us. But it’s not. ‘Who is God, that he ever needed anything?’ Nah, God made us out of the overflow of himself. If you haven’t watched this video, it’s two point five minutes of really good food for thought.
This ‘no man is an island’ deal means relationships aren’t dumped on us by Jesus come 30 AD. His command to love one another as he loves me goes back to the garden. It’s the original story he invites us to return to. He made us in his image. To walk with him. ‘Male and female’, they each meet their intrinsic need for relationships too. We are made for relationships above all.
And not any kind of, ‘oh yeah, I know that person a little, I will choose THIS person to be my friend, but I can’t share the love any further or I may run out’, kind of relationship perspective. It’s a love that gets bigger the more we give it away. And it’s not an ‘everything is good guys we’re fine nothing to see here’ kind of relationship, but an honest, sometimes hurtful love. an inclusive love, an accepting the weird, love (still makes me go ouch). Love and relationships is about getting to know them wherever they are at.
It means sometimes I need to be frank with my friends and say something that might hurt, in order to kick them towards goodness or righteousness. I often think of encouragement as ‘good job!’, ‘you’ll be fine’, and ‘go you!’. It’s way more, though. It’s pushing others towards God and being the best they can be, and it often involves tough talks, going out of the way to affirm something specific about them, and funnily enough, listening. I’m finding this a lot more challenging approach to encouragement, but also more rewarding. I think it pushes through the fluff to connect the heart.
I learned when I was fifteen/sixteen I had a minefield of beautiful, fun relationships at my doorstep in my sister’s friends, the preteen girls, if I could only humble myself to relate at their level. I actually could also offer a place of warmth and safety to people only a little behind me. My first steps of kindness and umm, humility, took them by surprise, but we had so much fun because of it!
Similarly, God plonked people a little ahead of me in years who became my closest friends. They might have been married, and have kids, but their outreach to my heart, their, ‘hey, this message has been burning on my heart for you and aww you’re bawling your eyes out now’, their texts and letters and frequent catch ups, mean the world to me.
I lost my two front teeth a few weeks ago. Mm I know, crazy. They’re back in now, but the nerves are gone and I have glue kindly filing in some of the chipped teeth until they are rebuilt. I am so so so thankful for the people who are praying for me! Being on the receiving end of prayers has shown me several things, one of which is how much we need prayer in our lives, and how prayer glues us together. It puts care into action, it brings others before God who actually holds the world together, and it binds two people normally standoffish about their faith, together. It’s quite amazing.
Finally, this community thing has pushed me to accept: sometimes life sucks for us or for others. Say so. We don’t need to complain or carry on about it, but we can ‘weep with those who weep AND laugh with those who laugh’. I’m guilty of being so optimistic I shirk from the messy, hurting parts of life. It’s okay to spend time sitting with the pain and grief and anger. To quote Mandisa; ‘God can handle our honesty’. So I’m learning to spend time withe people who aren’t doing so well even if I don’t know how to help them. Or really empathise with people, putting myself in their shoes, rather than giving pat answers. And I’m learning to tell each person I talk to how I am feeling right now without the ‘it’ll be okay’ end of speech. It’s brought me to a new depth of relationship I am enjoying so much.
I guess it all boils down to honesty and humility, really. Honesty to say how we feel, what we think, and how others feel and think, and humility to admit that we aren’t perfect, we don’t have our lives together, and humility to share our spiritual life with others.
It’s hard, but it’s worth it.