Divinely Designed Relationships

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18) 

           At the Center for Christian Life Enrichment, we are divinely designed for relationship. Created in the image and likeness of God, we are born with certain traits that encode us for connection. Even our personalities are shaped by experiences we have with others. From our nature to our nurture, we hunger and yearn for safe, nourishing, affectionate, comforting, supportive, mature, and intimate relationships.

            And yet, we spend so much of our time trying to hide from others. As much as we long to be seen and known, we constantly try to conceal ourselves behind masks and facades. The reason, I believe, is that we see ourselves as flawed and lacking, and somehow totally unworthy of being loved. Afraid of being exposed as objectionable and unlovable, we try to become invisible, or else we project a superior air to keep everyone else at arm’s length. Out of fear and shame, we hold back our spouses, families, friends, and even God. We are even disconnected from ourselves.

This epitomized my life in the late 1980s when, as a Christian counselor, I joined a therapy group in downtown Chicago led by a man named Bob Wright. It has been suggested to me that I participate in Bob’s groups in order to become more alive and potent. I came to this experience being very comfortable with groups. I had been participating in them all the way back to high school, and I had been leading groups in the ministry for ten years.  This group, however, was nothing like any of my prior experiences. First of all, it was not a traditional group in which people talk about their issues or recent experiences. It was what Bob called an “assignment group,” meaning people were intently focused on learning, growing and experiencing genuine openness and honesty with each other in the here and now. I found it totally chaotic, confusing, and unnerving.

            Although I pretended to be engaged, I sat back and observed, silently judging everyone else. I couldn’t connect with these people because I saw myself as superior to them. The truth, however, was that I was terrified! With their emotional intensity and angry confrontations at times, the group made me extremely uncomfortable. What I couldn’t see, however, was that the source of my unease was myself—not them.  

            As soon as group was over, I tore out of there, sometimes literally running down the hall under the guise of catching my train. One night as I rushed to leave, Bob Wright raced after me and literally pushed me up against the wall. With his finger in my face he yelled, “I know your game. I know what you’re doing. You come across as if you are so caring and kind, but you’re mean and judgmental. You’re not what you make yourself out to be.”

            My first instinct was to fling this guy off me. But on a much deeper level, I had the completely opposite reaction. For the first time, I was seen and known. As Bob ripped into me, exposing me as a fraud to myself, he gave me the most loving of gifts—the truth. Only by embracing that difficult truth could I ever break through the shell I had built over the years in hopes of becoming invulnerable to pain and hurt. Only then, could I truly connect with others, to see them as they were and to allow them to see me.

     My relationships with others and God have been the foundation of my journey of transformation. Reaching out to others for feedback about myself has been the cornerstone of the remaking of my most authentic self. The truth I have received from others has been the raw materials used in the reconstruction of my most Christ-like self. I now trust that for me to become like Jesus, I must be fostering authentic community with others who are dedicated to our mutual transformation through the sharing of truth with each another.

     This blog is from the first chapter of my new book, Grappling with God: The Battle for Authentic Faith, which is going to be released soon. Watch for the pre-release resources we will be making available.

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Published: 28.03.2011 / 06:37 AM

Category: Grappling with God,Relationships,Spiritual Growth

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