Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hebrews and the honeymoon phase

Long term relationships are a big focus in my life in this season. They are the kind in which you have fights and disagreements and you don’t, or can’t, just walk away. They are the kind where you have to learn to be vulnerable and honest; to learn to work it out. You need to be willing to change and grow together all the time if you want your relationship to be lasting and fulfilling. They are the kind that I have never been good at.

My relationship with the Lord is one like that, except that He is always right. I always smile when I think, “Thank God, He’s perfect, because if it wasn’t for that, our relationship would never have come this far. Where would we be if He had hang-ups and baggage like me? I’m grateful that He is perfect enough for both of us.”

Unfortunately relationships become imperfect the moment imperfect humans become involved, but thankfully all hope is not lost.

Quite recently the Lord and I haven’t quite been on speaking terms. I felt angry and disappointed and it was hard for me to be close with Him. But God knows all about long term relationships and He knows all about me. In the process of mending me and us, He showed me Hebrews 3:14: For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as we did when we first became Christians, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. It made me think of the early days of our relationship.

When you first fall in love you want nothing but to spend time together, doing everything together. You almost lose sight of all your other friends, your hobbies, etc. (even if just temporarily). These things simply seem to fade into the background while you have only one focus: each other.

Then you decide to get married and things simply seem perfect. Each one puts his best foot forward. You look deep into each other’s eyes, you are sincerely interested and you listen intently. You make a big fuss over every special occasion and every anniversary; you buy gifts and flowers for no reason, guys open the car door and pull out the chair at the table. Neither seems to be capable of saying or doing anything wrong and you shower each other with devout love and affection. Everything seems like moonshine and roses. This season of seeming ‘perfection’ is often referred to as the honeymoon phase. But then the inevitable happens: life.

The bills need to be paid, work is stressful, it sometimes demands some overtime, one comes home feeling tired or upset (or both) and you don’t necessarily whisper words of love and kindness. Feelings get hurt and misunderstandings happen. Special occasions that once would never go unnoticed, might be forgotten, even if only once...

All of the misunderstandings, disagreements and hurting is not easy to deal with when you’ve promised to be faithful till death do you part. These deep relationships in our lives are not that easily tossed out of the window and just forgotten about. They are the ones in which we love passionately and also feel passionate hurt and anger when things don’t quite go according to plan. This partner becomes the closest person to your heart and then they become the same person who has the ability to hurt you most in that deep special place where it matters most. How do you walk on without walking away...?

I’m learning that in these times the best thing you can do is to work it out in love!

Staying put takes a lot of courage when all you want to do is run away. These are the times to communicate when you least feel like it. These are the times to give the benefit of the doubt when you so badly want the person to be guilty so that they can owe you emotionally. These are the times when feelings of guilt have to be off loaded and forgiveness has to uploaded. These are the times when mercy and grace becomes real to us when we realize that we had disappointed and disobeyed many times, and on the other side of it we had found grace and forgiveness from a loving heavenly Father.

It is the worst feeling when you’ve been wrong and there is NO WAY you can change or reverse it. How do you go on when you can’t turn back the clock even when you desire to do so with all your heart, and you are at the mercy of the one that you hurt; the same one that you love with all your heart?

There have been times when I’ve been through difficult experiences with God when I felt so much anger and shame that all I wanted to do was run. There’s been many of those times that I felt as if God and I have been shut away in a room, just the two of us, isolated from the world outside. In my mind’s eye I’ve always imagined this little girl sternly folding her arms over her chest and sitting in the furthest corner of the room, with her back turned, openly displaying her hostility. She has decided, “Alright, I will s-i-t, but I’m doing nothing else!”

However, in these images I could never imagine God any other way than having such indescribable love, patiently waiting for me to be ready so that we could work it out. In the end I’ve always come around, we’ve always worked it out, I’ve always grown richer for the experience, and I’ve always felt a deeper connection with the Lord because He was so willing to love me despite of my imperfection and issues. I don’t think it is humanly possible to resist God’s perfect love, even if you try to do so for a while. It breaks through all your defenses. His love is relentless.

In this difficult place with the Lord Hebrews 4:6 helped me remember just how much I actually love the Lord and how that was more important than the issue that I was angry about. The Lord showed me why I was angry and how we need to mend the brokenness. I had to make the decision to put the anger aside and to allow my love to be stronger, and also to allow myself to be loved. I had to choose to let love be bigger than my anger.

Being separated from the one(s) you love most is just as painful as the hurtful experience that you’ve had with them. Even more heartbreaking is when you see the person’s remorse and you know that there is nothing they can do to fix things – there is nothing they can do to fix you – how can we hold it against them still and refuse to forgive and reconcile? In the end we hurt ourselves even more when we push away so that we cannot be hurt again. In the end we are the only ones sitting alone behind the brick walls that we erect.

I’m learning to say, “Lord, all I want to do is withdraw, but I know that it is not the way forward. Give me the courage to forgive. Give me the courage to overcome, and mend the brokenness. Give me the grace that I don’t ruin all the good for the few bad. Teach me to love like You. Teach me to forgive like the many times you’ve forgiven me. Teach me to never position myself where I cannot receive Your unconditional love for me, Lord.”

All things come to an end, but love goes on forever. God’s definition of love resonates in my heart as I decide to go on that ‘second honeymoon’... 1 Cor 13:4-7: Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when other do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him...

There are three things that remain – faith, hope and love – and the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor 13:13)

Just because it is not perfect, does not mean it is not (can not be) beautiful!!

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