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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Relationship Guidelines

I'm thinking of writing a book. I know - everyone thinks of writing a book. We all have this fantasy that our wisdom is so superior, and our insight so valuable - that the world might clamor to get a copy of our book. In fact, it seems like a moral obligation to write it! Just so you know I'm not in denial on this front, I'm aware of these and other facts. The tendency to become legend in my own mind always stalks me.

That notwithstanding, there are so many things about relationships that I've learned and noticed in these past few years. Based on the interactions I have with other people, I wonder if I'm the only one who has learned or noticed these things. It seems that mankind in general is pretty inept when it comes to effective relationship skills. Simply put, we seem to not be very good at relating to each other.

So what would this gem of a book have to offer? As I think about it, it seems that we could have chapters devoted to specific topics. Here's what I think they might be:

Chapter 1 - Effectively Relating To God
Most of us really don't know who God is. The Bible uses the word "know" differently than we tend to use it in modern culture. It implies an intimate knowledge of the character and nature of - in this case - God. How many of us have an intimate knowledge of the true character and complete nature of God? I suspect very few. If we did, that knowledge would surely drive us to behave differently in prayer, worship and obedience.

Chapter 2 - Marriage
Most of us take marriage for granted. We get into marriage too casually, and often for the wrong reasons. We assume that some marriages work and some just don't. We're really not aware of what marriage requires or promises. If we were, marriage would pose a much more complex proposition for most of us. We might be driven to be much more serious about it on the front end, instead of waiting for the pain of marriage to drive us to seriousness.

Chapter 3 - Love
My sense is that the vast majority of people don't really have a truthful definition of love. 1 Corinthians 13 defines love for us in the Bible. It specifically tells us what love is. Reading that and comprehending it makes it easy to develop an understanding of what love isn't. The thing I notice about love is that it promises nothing for me. If I love someone, it is not a give-and-take kind of thing. It is definitely a give-and-give-some-more proposition. Is there nothing in there for me, the one who loves? Actually, that is the case. And the intriguing thing is that love is still worth it - despite the fact that is offers me nothing.

Chapter 4 - Friends
Who doesn't like to have friends? We all want friends. Some of us are happy to say that we have many friends. But I have learned that knowing someone and being a true friend are entirely different propositions. Being a friend, or having a friend both have to transcend offenses, insults, imperfections, mistakes, oversights, flubs, gaffs and disappointments. If you and I are truly friends, I will definitely disappoint you. We'll be so close that it will be unavoidable. But our love and respect for each other will transcend that junk that inevitably comes between us. Knowing someone, or being their acquaintance just doesn't usually survive such things.

Chapter 5 - Social Circles
So you're in a social circle. Maybe it's a club, or a small group at your church. It's a group of people that you know, whom you intentionally associate with for a purpose. Most of us would admit that this purpose is growth. Yet many of us have no idea how to grow in such an environment. What happens if the group does something you don't agree with? Do you step away? Drop out? Or do you work through it? What if some members of the group are annoying or just don't seem to fit in for whatever reason? What do you do with that. It seems to me that the groups I've been in have largely been characterized by superficial relationships that barely stand any testing at all. When there is conflict, it can blow the group apart. In fact, introduce conflict and you'll soon see just how fragile the group is!

Chapter 6 - Annoying People
Okay, they're everywhere. You know who they are. Perhaps you're even one of them! Annoying people are going to show up in every walk of life. What do we do about this? How should we respond? Often we seem to think that annoying people are more wrong, as compared to our being more right. It seems that some level of judgement, condescension and even superiority can easily creep into the dynamics when I'm trying to relate to someone that I've decided is annoying. The thing I notice about annoying people is that God created them in His image. What does that say about God? Another thing I notice is that they get into heaven. I might have to spend eternity with them! It is clear that there is a successful and effective way of dealing with people that we find annoying. How many of us are aware of that and engaged in deploying that successful method when we are faced with annoying people?

Chapter 7 - Animals
Animals and pets have become a very important part of life in the western world. Few among us would argue that they are relevant and add value to the quality of our lives. So what could be said about relating to animals? Well, it seems that we may go overboard at times. Immense wealth is spent --- and squandered --- on animals. I look at the story of creation and see that God had a purpose in animals. His purpose was that they are to serve mankind. They are dispensable, for our consumption, use and pleasure. To a large extent, they serve that purpose today. But all too often we see people going off the deep end. We see God's purposes perverted. People will claim that their dogs "are my babies." They lavish as much love and affection on the dog as God expects us to lavish on children and other people. Yet the world is full of unloved children and adults. I suspect this is not what God intended. Mind you, I'm not againt pets. I have one myself. But I know who she is and I relate to her effectively --- reserving my love and relationship skills for people first.

There are several more chapters I could write here, but suffice to say that the book the world needs to read won't get written today. It's all I can do to write this simple blog! Perhaps there will come a time when I can simply sit and pontificate --- sharing my wisdom with the world. Until then, I shall be happy to daydream about writing that great book someday!

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