Learning to Live Relationally Free (#483)
One of our listeners said it best: "Religion makes you relationally challenged." That it does, making us far more preoccupied with getting people to do what we want so we can feel safe and comfortable. Untangling all of that and learning to live more focused on others than ourselves is an amazing work God does to help us experience the treasure of real relationships that are honest, gentle and loving. Wayne takes a look at the kind of language and activity that actually subverts the relationships we desire so that we can better see how God is shaping us so that we can love others where they are and yet not be victims of their fears or insecurities. Living relationally free is the fruit of God working in us so that we have less need to manipulate others for our own desire, or to be manipulated by them for theirs.
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And the sad part about the family/friend manipulation, it’s like all is well with their world as long as you come back to church. No one seeks to know what’s really going on with your soul. Just you being in that pew somehow makes everything all better for them. Thus ends all deep conversations and self-examination. But that, to me, is to treat church and faith like some sort of talisman. “Just come back to church and everything will be alright.” Meanwhile, no one looks at or discusses the deeper issues of life and faith. Those of us who don’t like living on the surface, have a hard with this.
And I wholeheartedly agree with you about Cloud and Townsend’s book. I’d want everyone to read it–Christian or not. The teaching on boundaries is/has been one of the most important one’s in the last many years.
Finally, the jargon, whether in church, the workplace, clubs or personal relationships, not only define insiders and outsiders. It becomes something to hide behind. So, the language is used, but we don’t know whether the person knows or even engages with the deeper reality behind the jargon. That’s one reason it’s so easy to be in church for years and yet live virtually unchanged or know so little about the faith that is widely professed–people hide behind the jargon. But what does the jargon mean? If you can’t explain it, you probably haven’t full understood it.
Anyway, thanks again for a great podcast. There is much food for thought here.
I think your point about religious people treating church attendance as some kind of “talisman” is insightful. A good way to put it. When I first stopped going to church I worried what my extended family would think (all are church attenders). Sadly the issue didn’t come up for 5 years! And that was only my sister. No one else has thought to ask. Which reinforces another point you made – Christians often seem to avoid or perhaps find it difficult to have deep conversations about our experience of spiritual life. Bible studies and Theology – yes. But not the experience of walking with God.
Thanks for this podcast. It is ‘brilliant’.I use the word ‘brilliant’ because it really shines the light into the shadowy recesses of the heart to really unleash cathartic reality. Dang I can’t even find the words to express how this blessed me. i’ll be back later. I’ve got to go think on this. This is one of the best podcasts I’ve ever heard!
Ginny, you took the words right out of my mouth. There were so many points that hit home, I don’t know where to start.
Another good book by Cloud & Townsend I’ve had the fortune of reading is called “Safe People.” Doesn’t have the fanfare of “Boundaries”, but has a lot of the same concepts and builds and expands on them further, and more deeply.
Call me guilty on the ‘one-up’ deal. A lot of times I don’t even realize I’m doing it. I often think it’s just to continue the conversation, but what I know about myself is that I am very competitive and I think subconsciously, I want to look good in the other person’s eyes. I was in a relationship once where the person liked to embellish his stories, and often I would just come up with a ‘real-life’ example, just to put him in his place. I remember at the time thinking, I really don’t care to hear about you knowing so-and -so or doing such-and-such thing, just be real, be vulnerable. But he simply couldn’t bring himself to that, for whatever reason.
I have find myself living in a different world with a different language. Christianese does not work for me anymore.
I like to spend time with people and authors that put into words those question and concepts I am wrestling with. It is not that they necessarily provide clear and concise answers on “how to do”, but they are bold enough to say what everyone is thinking but are afraid to say. It also provides a basis for a developing a language of freedom that I can learn to speak. This is what I like so much about listening regularly to this podcast. It reinforces a love language that slowly permeates into my person over time.
Having read Boundaries, I also recommend reading Escape from Codependent Christianity: From Religious Control to Spiritual Freedom by James Richards. It reaffirms much of what we talk about here, about the flawed motivations of “Christian” people. While I do not agree with everything he says, I certainly recommend the book as another resource for those seeking words to explain what is happening to and around them.
And while on the subject of books, an amazing book that I am also in the process of rereading is Messy Spirituality (God’s Annoying Love for Imperfect People) by Michael Yaconelli. This one ranks up there with He Loves Me! It changed for me the language of what Christian spirituality and maturity means. It also slings freedom everywhere.
Loved this podcast! There is one phrase that gets my yuk meter going and that is… “God has a special calling on Your life”. Especially when someone is trying to “win”someone to Christ. As a young Boy I was told this and it has always done nothing but frustrate Me! I didn’t want to be special I wanted to be loved for who I was, not who I may or may not become.
Listening to this podcast got me thinking about the dynamic of evangelism. Specifically, I recall how often I have seen people either unable or unwilling to speak of Jesus to any depth which first requires an active relationship with him, and then an ability to make a true connection with the person they are speaking with (and of course it is often called witnessing). All too often the solution, or strategy employed, is to “invite that person to church”. (The same often occurs when encountering people dealing with problems. They are referred to “church professionals”).
I believe the true church brings Jesus to others embodied in ourselves. We engage in conversations and relationships with others where are interest is them, not what we need to give them or accomplish. The process is the goal, not the outcome. It seems to me that this is very similar to relating to God. He is interested in us and the process of the evolving relationship. His focus and interest is us, our focus and interest is him.
The organizations that call themselves churches, so often present an invitation to a relationship with a system of belief, the founder of which is ostensibly the historical Jesus at best, and at worst a relationship with an operating system designed and customized by those that run it and have created a means of remuneration (and often enrichment) for their product.
The tragedy is that people hunger for meeting and knowing God, but instead get deceived and misdirected to tin imitations. They are looking for real and meaningful journeys, and end up with trinkets from tourist shops.
The good news is Jesus is building his church and when one has come to an end of one’s own efforts, they see there always was, and continues to be, an invitation to a feast, wherein he satisfies the hunger of the emptiness of our souls with himself.
I actually had the experience you talk about in the first paragraph, Tom. Myself and a co-worker were ‘witnessed’ to by another co-worker. And exactly as you said, we were invited to church, to view what turned out to be an amateurish performance of the Easter story, complete with a real-life ‘Jesus’ hanging from the Cross! Needless to say, neither of us never went back, the co-worker’s attempt at ‘witnessing’ went by the boards.
It’s hard for me to know whether religion made me relationally challenged or whether it was the fact that I was already relationally challenged that caused me to gravitate to religion. Both I think. Your podcast stirred up in me memories of a couple journal entries that I had made a few years back. I looked them up and felt inclined to post them here. They are a little lengthy and somewhat emotional. I won’t be offended in anyway if you choose to delete this.
Sunday Sept. 16, 2012
“With tears rolling down my face, I wept. “Daddy, Daddy, I went the wrong way. Daddy, Daddy I went the wrong way. They beat me, they shamed me and they drove me with fear!”
“I know,” Daddy said. “Come to me. Let me hold you in my arms. You’re safe now.”
That was the first day I purposely stayed home from a Sunday morning church service. Father had been stirring in my heart for some time that “religion” just wasn’t for me. That it wasn’t his bride at all. That it was actually the harlot. That it was a great deception. That it was actually Babylon and that I needed to come out of her. That it was like an abusive husband that I kept going back to after every beating. And when I awoke this particular morning Father strengthened me to stay away. “Well, what shall I do then?” I asked.
“What would you like to do?”
I heard the birds singing outside my apartment window and they seemed to beckon to me. I packed my knapsack and headed up to Ken Reid Conservation Area.
The air was fresh. A gentle breeze rustled through the trees as I hiked down the trail that leads to the bridge. Crossing over, I saw a heron land gracefully on the water. It was soon joined by another. They drifted into the bull rushes. Rich greens and reds and golden browns stretched as far as the eye could see.
And there were people. Nice people! People who smiled and said hello. People who stopped to talk. People who seemed to be enjoying themselves. “I like these people,” I thought to myself. And they seem to like me.
This was so different from the Sunday morning church service. There, nobody really talked to me… that is until somebody made the announcement that it was time to greet people. And even then nobody “talked” to me. They just gave a quick smile as their eyes darted on to the next person. “Daddy, Daddy, I went the wrong way!”
“I know you did.”
“Daddy, I was looking for you.”
“I know you were.”
“I thought I’d find you in religion.”
” I know.”
“I was looking for love. But they beat me, they shamed me, and they drove me with fear. I tried so hard to please them. I tried so hard to follow the rules. But I just can’t do it! I just can’t do it Daddy.”
“I know you can’t. Come to me and I will give you rest for you soul.”
That was the first day I called God Daddy. And I knew I was on my way to knowing his true heart.”
Monday Sept. 17 2012
I didn’t like what religion had done to me, but the stark realization was beginning to dawn on me that it hadn’t really done anything to me that I hadn’t been open to receive.
I was angry about the expectations it had put on me, but what power did those expectations really have if I wasn’t trying to please somebody. But who? Who was I trying to impress? And why?
Was it me? Somebody else? God? Perhaps I was disappointed with myself. Perhaps somebody else was disappointed with me. But God? Was I actually trying to impress God?
The absurdity of it began to dawn on me. I was still thinking that I had to do something to gain God’s approval. I was still trying to establish my own righteousness. God had already done that in Jesus on the cross. I thought I knew that already. But religion is a system that thrives on people’s sense of shame. It prods people along with guilt and fear. It was actually coming between me and my Father. I was always trying to “fit in”, to “be accepted,” to “please somebody” I realized it was appealing to an unmet need in me, and I knew that I would have to abandon religion all together in order to walk free with my Father and find my security, my identity and my significance in him alone.
Unbeknownst to me, I had been seeking to find my identity and my significance and security in religion. It wasn’t working. And I was becoming more and more religious, rigid and controlling myself. I needed to leave for my own sanity. So I set out on this very scarey journey.
Religion was like an addiction to me and I began to go through withdrawal, just as you would with any drug.
Religion had become my life. Monday night outreach. Tuesday morning prayer meeting. Wednesday music practice. Thursday bible study. Sunday worship. Plus whatever extras were going on. I barely had time to notice that I wasn’t actually living loved. I wasn’t actually living at all.
I was still filled with insecurities and disappointments and a whole lot of shame. I thought I had this all worked out when I got my “doctrine” right. When I got my “theology” right. But it takes walking and growing in the father’s love for out souls to be restored.”
Thanks Wayne for all you’ve done over the years.
Thanks for sharing part of your life Shelley. I often go to wilderness places to rest in God. I too have seen people there and thought how happy they look, how peaceful, and wondered why Christians always look busy, frazzled, carry false set smiles on their faces, don’t listen well, and have so little time to talk. I have been one of them. It was an exhausting life.
I believe in god and jesus……but i hate the christian life. Really unhape since i am 17 and ‘enrolled’ into believing. Hearing from him, follow his nudges, being led by his spirit. Christians are in a way happy people and very uncertain and frustrated . Why is this so hard when belonging to the lord of the universe. Where is freedom and pleasure. This comment has nothing to do with this podcast. I am a frequent listener and i always end up being unhape sad jealous. For you guys seem to get it and live a nice life with passion friends guidance succes etc. My life sucks most of the time. Can’t live with or without. Stuck..since i left IC don’t know how to pray either. Have fun y’all. Grtz from a dutch sis.
Hello..a quick response to your posting. My heart resonated in that the system I was raised in was Dutch Presbyterian and I know well your reference to “belonging to the lord of the universe being difficult” and “why is this?” As my heart and mind are being reshaped it seems that His gentle methods are so contrary to the harsh, demanding and pushy means that ppl use to bend us to their ideas/preferences. An analogy I’ve thought of is imagine moving a dresser on wheels and while moving that dresser making sure the wheels were locked. I’ve often sensed in my growing up that this was made difficult when this was human thinking rather than what Jesus thought. I am still very much in the painful process of Him untwisting…at times moments of encouragement…b/c He is patient, this process is much longer than many of us expect. May He give you encouragement in unexpected places..and reveal His heart more and more to us.
Boundaries, I did read the Townsend book years ago. It seemed to hold wisdom but more from a formula perspective and not from a character perspective. In fact as life took an ugly turn for multiple years involving the bottle, the whole thought of boundaries was more like a red flag to a bull. The message of the book as heard thru my filters only fueled the torment within – later I can say the cry for help within. From an unexpected source I found clarity and peace was not in trying to apply boundaries but that boundaries (others as well as my own) are easier to live in as I began walking in the light of His value of, love for me and to see His heart for others. Boundaries “happened” not because I put my foot down but because I choose to see myself and others thru His love, grace and redemption. I have found all relationships to be less tense knowing they can be lived from a Connection and not some standard. I am not the Holy Spirit in someone’s life but I do have the freedom to come along side the Holy Spirit in theirs and He is not a boundary violator.
I am intrigued by that phrase “trespassing”. I’ve been conflicted about the things I read through the social media that I sense are not true regarding politics or religion and occasionally I am tempted to give my opinion on that. But whenever I do comment to a post, I’m conflicted if that is the right approach even if that media is public domain entitled to free speech. Not everyone views or understands the social media that way. Unless there is abuse involved or an invitation for my opinion, I do not need to trespass into areas I am not invited. Not sure if this resonates with anyone, but I feel more relationally free now in understanding how the term trespass could apply to my own life and how I relate to people.
Nancy, for what it’s worth I don’t see commenting in social media as trespassing on people. They can read or not. I do think some so push a point of view on their websites that it wearies people of their pet theologies, but that still isn’t trespassing. People are free to express, others to comment, and that’s not a problem. The only time I’ve felt trespassed on in social media is when someone hijacks a post on one topic and intentionally tries to make it about something else, or uses it to advertise their own products or websites. It usually isn’t what we’re doing, but why and how that impacts others fairly or unfairly…
I don’t think my response went through so I will try this again. Yes, Wayne I see what you are saying. I mostly am thinking about what sort of friend I want to be on FB. The few times I have disagreed with someone’s political/theological post, that person gets fairly angry even though we both know this is social media. I don’t view myself as trespassing necessarily, but for some folks that may be the way they perceive my response. I see their immaturity and I’m not trying to lack courage, however I’m not interested in losing relationships in that particular way. So I think about this a lot now and it has been very freeing for me though I don’t expect others to feel the need to adopt that idea. Thanks for your ministry 🙂
“Religion makes you relationally challenged.” That is such a a powerful and thought provoking statement. I have recently just walked away from planting a church in the South. At the heart of my decision to do so was what this statement and Wayne went on to speak about.
Every time I stepped out to meet and “recruit” “leaders” I would simply found my “yuck meter”going full tilt. Finding leaders is no more than “code” for finding those who have one foot in and one foot out of their own hollow chocolate easter bunny. A hollow a Easter bunny is how explain to people what I see going on in today’s church from behind the vale. My goal as a church planter was to parachute in, meet the natives, present “my unique” vision for a new and better and full bunny, hoping to find enough people on the edge and dissatisfied with hollowness of their own situation and recruit them to mine. Speak to enough people and you will soon gather a team. A team that church plant statistics prove will not be with you in three to five years, about the time it takes for them to realize your bunny is as hollow as the one they left.
I was not sent to find people and love them for where they were or who they were, but instead to look for people and gather them for what they could do for me and how they could contribute to my cause. This puts every relationship you have at greater than arms length. A true relational challenge. The very nature of the mission causes you to evaluate each connection based on are they a giver or are they a taker, are they contributor with recourses or a consumer with needs, will they aid the speed of my venture or cause me to stop as I pick them up or slow my pace to walk with them.
With fresh eyes I could see the broken and hurting of the community. I had a choice, ignore the needs and decorate the chocolate Easter bunny or stop and bind up the wounds and try to set captives free. I chose the latter. This called for bringing people in close without regard for what they could do for me. but instead for how God could use me for them.
This is a new walk with many unanswered questions. I am finding that all questions are stilled in his presence. Not that they are answered, but they no longer need an answer. When we are given his presence and the feel the air of his breathe upon us all restlessness ceases and peace and contentment are found.
God Bless! Enjoying the Journey!
Alan, I applaud your courage. A well-set Yuck Meter is a great blessing, but it sure makes for a challenging journey. Thanks for sharing so honestly about your experience and may God take your real passion to equip others for a better journey and show you how it can come alongside people and bless them without managing them. Blessings to you!
One day I will share the whole story, or least an amended version, with you. You have been greatly instrumental in planting seeds that have bore fruit in my life and in others that I have sown into. Truly a natural process working by the hand of the master gardener. So many vast and beautiful pictures of His Kingdom in which to describe.
Thanks for being a “Yuck Meter Tuner”. It’s not a job or a title; its just your gift!
Thank you again and Blessings! (This message will self destruct in 10,9,8…, hurry up and hit delete before this gets any worse!) : )