Monday, July 31, 2017

Path to Sanctification: Difficult Relationships


I remember telling one of my friends during a conversation that being a Christian will be so much easier if I didn't have to interact with people. I mean, if I could just wake up, say my prayers, read my Bible and not have to deal with humans, I'd be an A student in this "holy walk" (lol). This was, of course, a joke but it opened me up to the reality of interpersonal relationships and how they are an inseparable part of our walk with Christ. In fact, all of our faith is summed up into two major


buckets- love God, love others. And as we all know,when two or more complicated beings come together to form some kind of a relationship, complications are multiplied. And quite frankly, when I look at my own self as an entity, I don't need to be around people to sin, I can do that all by myself (lol). The beautiful thing about this complication is the simplicity it brings to our livelihood. You simply cannot do life on your own and it is amazing to see that God uses these very complexities to teach us valuable lessons we will most likely not be able learn if we were alone.

Vulnerability 

The most difficult line to cross in any relationship is the opening up of one's self to the point of vulnerability. We hold back on being vulnerable for fear of being judged, hurt or both. The truth however, is the depth of any relationship is a function of how vulnerable the parties are willing to be and I have found this to be true in many of my relationships. On the other hand, trust is the benchmark for vulnerability; we most often become vulnerable with people we feel we can trust.
To put this into perspective for us as Christians, we see an immense proportion of vulnerability displayed by our savior the moment He took on human flesh (2 Corinthians 5:21). The one thing that's almost counterintuitive for me when I think about this is the reality that we expect the fallibility of humans to almost always mean you will get hurt, judged , taken for granted or all three; yet, the very thing that opens us up to deep interpersonal relationship is this very vulnerability.

Death to Self

So, if you read the first couple of paragraphs, you can almost see the victimization of self that seems to jump out to anyone who may be as critical as me. It's easy to build up a wall around one's self and tag everyone else "fallible humans" capable of breaking one's fragile heart. Now turn the tables and try to see ways you may have hurt someone, from something like making a joke out of someone's insecurity to physically/emotionally inflicting pain. When the tables are turned and you see how you are just as capable of causing just as much havoc, the concept of grace and the seemingly counter-intuitive sacrifice Christ made will start to make so much sense. When we subject ourselves to the same level of criticism we give  others and see how much of our mess-ups people have to put up with, we learn to walk the hot charcoal of sanctification through difficult relationships. And this, my friends, I struggle with so much. I carry a magnifying glass to "set things in order" in my relationships with people but my defenses tend to go up the minute my own buttons are pushed. Typical mortal behavior innit?

Sanctification in the Little

I have friends that think like me and some that don't; Some of my friends sit at an extreme end of the temperament spectrum away from where I'm at and oh, the joys of having such relationships in my life! Sometimes I'm just like: "Why won't they just get it?!"  For example, I used to hate confrontations. Something is wrong, I push back into my shell and expect you to realize you've done something wrong. Over time, I saw the effects of this on my relationships and it hurt to see the huge bone of contention that slowly created a rift between my friends and I. Relationships (and I'm talking platonic) take work, when two mortals come together to share depth, it is always messy. One of the reasons I hated confrontations was having to explain myself to others but I am learning to see how sitting with someone you care about to work through things has a way of teaching you some of the practicality of the fruits of the spirit.

Sanctification in the Big

While you choose to have some people in your life, some are just there by default; like family. Dealing with a parent who abandoned you as a toddler, or an Uncle who raped you as a child or even as parents, dealing with a very rebellious teenager. How do we work through such relationships? Even if we don't ever get to the point of trusting those people again, how do we work through forgiveness and moving forward to the point where these difficult/failed relationships don't affect the other ones in our lives ? I hope to share some of my own experiences in a later post to kind of drive home some points and to be honest, I don't even have answers to these questions. I most often see the results of sanctification in such situations a long time into the journey.

To sum things up, many relationships will push us out of our comfort zones at different points and I just want to encourage us to be on the look out for how God sanctifies us even in those difficult interactions and LET HIM. When we continue to see the immensity of the grace that was extended to us on that cross, our perspective begins to shift when we have to deal with difficult relationships.

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