I read something last week in a book that has stayed with me. The words have echoed in my heart and mind over and over again. They are from the book, "Breaking the Idols of Your Heart," by Dan Allender and Tremper Longman.
The second chapter is titled Chasing after Relationships. And after the narrative story portion of each chapter, Longman writes about various idols in our life. And in this chapter specifically, the idol: Relationships can bring me fulfillment.
It sounds good right? I think I always thought that. Especially in my lonelier seasons of life, I was convinced that if I just had a boyfriend or a best girlfriend to hang out with, I would find what I was looking for and feel more fulfilled. And I have those things now. I have a loving husband and more than a handful of dear, precious and wonderful friends. Yet I still feel a measure of unfulfillment.
Honestly, I struggle here a lot. Relationships with my family don't look like I want them to. They are not like what I have hoped for. They aren't close like my heart desires. They are distant, stale, and sometimes pretend. And it grieves my heart almost every day. And while I have changed how I relate and I take steps of loving well and loving boldly, my pain often causes me to stumble. I feel the absence of what I long for and at some point, I became convinced that if the relationships with my family could just look the way that I have hoped them to look, then I would be fulfilled.
A few interesting quotes from this book that has got me looking at the condition of my heart and where I am at in these relationships and how little I know of love.....
"Once we speak words that reveal disappointment, hurt, or desire, then the tenor of the relationship changes. A new level of tension is introduced - and most people don't want that. They prefer conflict-free, undemanding relationships."
When I look at my relationships, the relationships that are the deepest and perhaps where I feel the most loved are the ones that maybe feel more demanding. They need quality time spent together, talks about difficult things and entering into conflict to find resolution. Conflict-free and undemanding relationships are not deep or life-giving, and I am not usually loving others well there.
"For it is in relationship, especially our closest friendships and our marriages, that our lives will be most deeply disturbed....and drawn to the depths of truth about ourselves and God."
As I think about who has deeply disturbed me in this way - faces come to mind. Todd, Tracy, Russ, Ellen, Bethany, Libby, Gary, Mike, Katrina, Anna, Ted....those are just some of the people who have drawn me to the depths of truth about myself and about God. I am grateful for how they have disrupted my heart and how their love and pursuit of me has allowed me to become closer to Jesus.
"We want to be loved, but we find it hard to give love to another unless we get something in return."
This felt hard to read and it hit my heart like a tons of bricks. It has felt overwhelming to sit in the place where I know I am seeking to get something in return for my love - especially when it comes to my family. And though part of me feels like I deserve something from them, it has revealed to me the depravity of my heart and just how little I know of love and how to truly love another. It's hard to love another unless I get something in return. That is true for me - is that true for you?
"Paul describes a heart that loves with passion and depth. First, the apostle tells us that love is patient and kind. It waits for the other, and it does so with concern, not irritability. It waits. It hopes. It loves beauty and justice and does not give in to the petty pleasure of seeing the one who hurt us stumble. Love is the Atlas of the soul; it keeps holding us up. It does not quit; it does not lose memory of connection; it does not kill the dreams of reconciliation."
I'll admit that I sometimes feel like I am losing the memory of connection. I feel like I want to quit and throw in the towel, because really loving someone this way is hard. And am I waiting with concern or irritability? I have been grieved at what I have found in my heart here.
"For it is in the midst of facing how little we love that we are drawn to the wonder of just how much we are loved by God....and the truth of how we can maintain the healthy, intimate relationships we desire so deeply."
Being loved by God is something I have tried to push away for a long time. Several posts ago I wrote about letting God back in to a place in my heart that had been off limits. And since then I have been experiencing His love for me in new ways which has felt both wonderful and overwhelming. For years though, I have fought to let myself even feel loved by God and because of this, it has had an impact on how I am able (and not able) to love others. My ability to love well is directly tied to how I am experiencing God's love for me, just as I am. Oh how much I have missed out on with Him.....
"The wonder is that the more these relationships grow, the more we come to understand what real love is really about. Only relationship with Christ can give us that above-the-sun possibility."
I have looked for relational fulfillment in almost every relationship I've ever had. And I've been met with hurt and disappointment, every single time. I feel ambivalent about knowing that the only relationship that can provide me with what I am really looking for, is Christ. It feels unfair and it feels glorious too. I guess I'm longing for Eden. I'm longing for perfection. I'm longing for relationships to be as they were designed to be, but they can't because we aren't in the garden. We are not in heaven. We are here and this is simply not HOME.
"There will be a day of reconciliation for those whose lives are covered by the hope of the cross. Our deepest desire in relationship, intimate oneness, will be perfectly and gloriously fulfilled."
I wept after I read this. This is the quote that has been echoing in my heart all week long. There WILL be a day of reconciliation, because my life is covered by the hope of what Jesus did on the cross.
There will be a day when I can see my mom face-to-face and embrace like we never have before. There will be a day when I can see my brother's face and hear his laugh again. There will be a day when I can jump up and down and dance with my Grandparents whose aging bodies don't allow for such a thing now. There will be a day when my family is reconciled to me in the way that I have always desired and hoped for. There will be a day. And only because my life is covered by the hope of the cross. My hope is not covered by my family, nor my husband, nor any deep or wonderful friendship I have here.
Relationships here cannot and will not bring me fulfillment. There is much about them to be enjoyed and delighted in and there is much life to be shared in them. The really good relationships are the ones that continue to draw me to the heart of God. Yet, I will never experience here what it is my heart is truly longing for. There is only one relationship that can bring my heart fulfillment. And a little bit more each day I am opening up to receiving the love He has for me.
I deeply desire for my life, my heart, my relationships, my everything to be covered by the hope of the cross.