Can a System Ever Love? (#461)
Can any system humans design to justice to the transcendent beauty of Jesus' church as she takes shape in the world? As more an more people are coming to the conclusion that our systems don't function well, especially when people need to know the reality of love, rather than the rigidity of a program. Wayne dives back into the mailbag for a discussion about our religious systems and why they are destined to fail at the critical moments of life. The more we come to know his love, the more we lose hope that any system can reflect God's love and life. That opens the door for some pretty powerful lessons and a way of living that expands his love in the world.
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A couple of recent God Journey podcasts have been exceptionally close to home for me. The first was the angel feathers podcast several weeks ago. I posted a comment that my husband’s younger brother had a heart transplant & wasn’t doing well to the point where they were talking about amputating his legs. A family member’s pastor said he prayed & saw a vision that the brother was walking around on his legs. I was upset at the time because I was afraid it would give my husband false hope & the update since that post is that his brother not only lost his legs but his life a couple of days later. When we were told his brother passed away, my husband got his Bible, walked over to the trash can, & tossed it in. Of course, I pulled it out, gave him some space to process things, then asked Father to comfort him as I know he was just acting out of emotion/grief. But I couldn’t help but wonder how that pastor’s “prophecy” added to my husband’s disappointment. (Granted, the brother IS now walking around with a perfect heart & legs…in heaven!) But today’s podcast hit on another current family situation. My husband’s dad collapsed at my brother-in-law’s viewing last month & has been in hospital ever since. He’s doing better but now needs kidney dialysis 3x/week. The hospital needs to release him on 11/21 but they haven’t been able to figure out a way to get him to a facility for dialysis once he’s released as the remaining children all live out of state, my mother-in-law doesn’t drive & no facility services their rural WV “hollow”. Doctors are saying he’ll die in 2 weeks w/out dialysis. I suggested they call the church that my MIL has been attending 3x/week & paying tithe to for years. When she asked for help, she was told that no one could drive him because the members either work & can’t take him or are old & don’t drive. I can’t tell you how angry I was when I heard this. I immediately thought, “Everyone in the whole congregation falls into these 2 categories? There’s no one who can help? Then why doesn’t the pastor do it? Isn’t he getting paid to ‘shepherd his flock’? Wouldn’t that include driving or at least arranging rides for an elderly member’s spouse so he can get the dialysis he needs to keep him alive?” But after listening to this podcast I realize that “sitting in a meeting with someone doesn’t incubate real relationships” & I’m moving away from my “disappointment in people that I think should have to care but don’t really care”. Unfortunately, my in-laws don’t have many great friendships as they virtually never get out (besides her church attendance), so there really are very few in their lives who even want to help. But, thanks to Father, He’s arranged a solution: my husband’s parents have agreed to move to their eldest son’s home in SC where they’ll have their own little place but will have family on site to assist & will be much closer to medical care. We are all relieved about this & some of us will be moving them next week. So thank you – again – for sharing real-life stories that help move us a little farther along on our journeys. After all, Father is still “working on the symptoms of my condition!”
Hopefully I don’t go too far afield from the topic, but what struck me after listening to this particular podcast is that all my relationships, outside of family, are/were performance-based. they were formed in school or at work, and when those variables were taken away, in time, many if not most of the relationships went away.
Now in my forties, I am beginning to feel the ramifications, as I maintain very few close contacts. One in particular is especially troubling, as it is a nearly life-long friendship that I now see is entering a ‘long, cold winter.’, simply because we have little or nothing in common anymore. And, borrowing from the lyric of a popular song, ‘I’ve had enough of the forceness of a worn-out relation.’ I can see through the differences to try to make the friendship continue to work, but, unfortunately, the other party can’t. And it is something I’m having a very difficult time letting go of.
The transition from performance-based relationships to, for lack of a better term, relationship-based relationships, has been a difficult one for me, as I am just getting to put my arms around the concept, and trying/allowing to make/have them happen.
Ron, I completely understand where you are at.
16 years ago, at the age of 40 I discovered how isolated I was, how my life revolved around programs and projects. I had just concluded working with a group of people for almost 2 decades years in the church and when it came to an end, what I thought were close friendships simply disintegrated. Add to that some other personal issues and no one to talk to, I was faced with the challenge of starting from scratch.
I discovered I did not know how to make and keep friends. I prayed for someone to be an accountability parter and God put someone in my heart to contact. That was 16 years ago and the friendship with this one person has deepened into a David and Jonathan type of relationship that is beyond anything I expected or thought possible. But it was work. It took perseverance and forgiveness and at the beginning, more perceived effort on my part than the other person gave. it sometimes was very hard. But in the end deeply rewarding. This experience has also given me the skills to build other relationships, most of which are built on transparency and conversations around what God is doing in our lives.
An important thing to note is that because you see the need within you for this, it makes you to the catalyst to make it happen, in that you have to put yourself out there, You cannot initially expect others to come to you. This can be disheartening at times because others may not see the same need with the same clarity that you do. The journey therefore is up and down, with moments of great joy and also frustration and sadness. Just remember you do not need 10 close friends, just one or two. But you may be testing out a number of them at any given time to get there.
Take courage, my friend, the Lord know what you need. Some friends are for a reason, some for a season and some for life. I pray that you experience a rich and deep journey into friendship. There are many of us out there who are looking for it.
Thank you John for the kind words.
Having grown up in an abusive environment where developing survival mechanisms was the order of the day, those survival mechanisms work in reverse when it comes to relationship-building. I am often seen as cold and aloof, and I wonder why I feel a sense of rejection much if not most of the time.
I often hearken back to the days in new social environments when I was a young boy, when it was better to be seen and not heard and play the foil to validate others’ sense of self-worth. I can see how those behaviors and roles have been a detriment in outside relationships. At times, I don’t know where to start. To borrow a term from a popular Disney movie, I feel ‘Frozen’.
Spending my working hours dealing with a shfiting and often demanding customer clientele, for me it is a relief to be able to spend my off-time not having to perform, not having to work at attempting to build relationships. You may not understand this, but often, to me, loneliness is a gift. But, as I conveyed here in my first post, there is a sense of uneasiness that I long for more. And it is your words and advice I will cling to.
Yep, you’re right Wayne; this takes time. I’m in the middle of it now, but I would say at the 51% mark, just over half. It has taken God a long time to work through my stubbornness and get me to see where I am so broken and so tied to the validation of others in my life. I would say the last 30 years and most of that time I blindly refused to listen to his nudges. I was in control of everything, but in reality nothing. Now my Father can love me and help me see his love. I could tell you a story of career and friendships lost, and how God has stripped all of what I have held to as important and is now revealing to me the true me that I always was. He’s beloved child. Thank you Father, and thank Wayne. Signed a shlub.