Archives For Relationships

Seeing & Still Loving

Tim Jackson —  November 20, 2012 — 5 Comments

Recently, while revisiting and revising some material on grief and loss that I wrote over 20 years ago, I ran across this amazing quote from C. S. Lewis that deeply encouraged me and thought I’d share it so that maybe it will do the same for you:

“He sees because He loves, and therefore loves although He sees” (A Grief Observed, p.84)

What do those words stir inside of you as you read them?

Fear? Disbelief? Hope? Or maybe some feeling altogether different.

For me, all three emotions were provoked.

Fear. Being “seen” can often be an unnerving experience because it’s so revealing. Think about it: When was the last time you were seen, I mean really seen for being who you really are? For most of us, that exposure comes at the worst possible time–after we’ve messed up and got caught. How did that go? Totally exposed? Feeling naked with no where to hide?

Just ask the woman entrapped in adultery and thrown in front of Jesus to be judged (John 8:3-11). She expected condemnation, knowing that even death was a real possibility at the hands of her accusers. She knew what she’d been doing was wrong. Nevertheless, being seen and exposed to all (in an open public courtyard) had to leave her feeling ashamed, vulnerable and terrified of what was coming next.

Disbelief. Could it be true? Really? Could I be totally exposed, my flaws revealed and still be loved? My friend, Larry Crabb once shared that for the vast majority of us it was a rare thing to experience “being seen at our worst in the presence of love.” But that’s what grace is all about.

Total exposure usually brings only shame, ridicule, disdain and judgment. But what Jesus offered this vulnerable woman (and us) was radically unexpected: The eyes of truth and a heart of gracious love. He turned the tables on her accusers who weren’t concerned about her at all and then refused to condemn her, even though he clearly saw her sins. Instead, He invited her to leave her sinful lifestyle and step up into a new kind of life that only He could offer.

Hope. Being exposed and not wiped out because of our sin is the scandalous gift of love that God offers to everyone of us without exception, no matter where we’ve been or what we’ve done. That’s what Jesus offered this woman entrapped by accusers and enslaved by her sin. He looked, He saw, and He fully loved her (John 8:11).

And that’s what Jesus offers to each of us–The Hope of being completely seen–warts and all–and  being deeply embraced with the lavish love of God (1 John 3:1). That’s the transformational love of God that is beyond even our wildest dreams.

And the best part about it . . . it’s really true! And it has the power to change us, starting on the inside and working it’s way out.

So, what was it like the last time you were really seen? How did it end? Has there been a time in your life when you’ve tasted the lavishness of God’s loving embrace after you were seen in a not-so-flattering light? Your stories are encouraging to others who fear being seen and loved.

Thanks for sharing.

The Fear of Love

Tim Jackson —  July 23, 2012 — 8 Comments

I recently chatted with a young woman who survived growing up in a dangerous home with an evil father. Oh, he looked normal enough to outsiders—kept a job, paid the bills, went to church, and played the part for the public—but in private, he was a cruel, sadistic beast who preyed upon the insecurities of his wife and children.

How did she survive? She became a runner. She learned how to outdistance the problem, literally and emotionally.

In junior and senior high school, she ran track. She was a fierce competitor. She’d had lots of practice. Putting distance between herself and a threatening adversary became second nature not only on the track, but also off the track in her relationships.

Now that she’s found a good man who—unlike her dad—can be trusted, she’s discovered that she just can’t stop running. She readily admits the undeniable longing for love deeply embedded in her heart. But while that desire entices her, it terrifies her even more!

Why? Because she’s realizing that running has become a way of life.

The truth is, all relationships are risky and have the potential for both pain and pleasure. Running is her way to manage that potential for pain in her relationships. Admittedly, it helped her survive an abusive situation, but now it’s sabotaging her potential for joy in a relationship with a man who truly loves her.

It’s her fear of love that’s paralyzing her from moving forward.

John Eldredge wrote in Wild at Heart, “The only thing more tragic than the tragedy that happens to us is the way we handle it” (p. 106).

Oddly enough, for many it’s the fear of losing love that shuts love down before it even has a chance to take root and grow.

This young woman’s fear of intimacy, of getting close, of finally being loved paralyzes her heart, preventing her from exchanging her running shoes for a pair of dancing shoes.

For many who have suffered the torment of growing up in an abusive home, their capacity to trust others to deeply love and care for them and not leave them is greatly diminished. They find it next to impossible to believe anyone will stay in their lives for an extended time, much less for a lifetime. They are always waiting for the other shoe to drop, dashing their hopes for a meaningful relationship yet again.

The solution for many is, “Just don’t get close to anyone. Outdistance the pain. Never commit. Keep moving, and you’ll never feel the pain of abandonment or abuse again.”

Unfortunately it works for a while . . . with some of the pain. But it’s a thief. It steals. It kills. And it destroys one’s opportunity to playfully splash around in the refreshing waters of committed love.

But there is hope. The antidote to our fear is perfect love. The problem is we are not perfectly loved. Or are we?

John, the apostle of love, said it best: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18 NIV). It’s God’s perfect love for us that can infuse us with the courage necessary to take the risk of loving others. And that’s the antidote that can transform any of us from “runners” to “lovers.” John’s words are a necessary reminder when we panic and start lacing up our running shoes. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

So, what shoes are you wearing these days? Running shoes or dancing shoes? I love to hear your thoughts and stories.

 

 

“Recalculating”

Jeff Olson —  April 12, 2012 — 4 Comments

A comedian once mused that he wished someone made a GPS for husbands. It went something like this:

GPS: “Compliment your wife on her appearance.”
Comedian: “Hey honey, you look really good tonight.”

GPS: “Ask her about her day.”
Comedian: “How was your day, sweetheart?”

GPS: “Pretend to be listening.”
Comedian:
“Oh…yep…really…”

GPS: “Compliment your wife’s hair.”
Comedian:
“Uhmm…Hey, your hair doesn’t look as gray as it did yesterday.”

GPS: “Recalculating.”

The Bible is far, far more than a GPS, but it records Jesus dropping “GPS like” directives to help us “recalculate” how relationships are to work now that He had come.

Here are just few:

“Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31, NLT).

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37, NLT).

“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39, NLT).

“There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent” (Luke 24:47, NLT).

The life, death and resurrection of Jesus birthed a new way of doing relationship with others and with God. The fallen way of selfishness and revenge and pride is now being replaced with His Kingdom way of love and reconciliation and humility.

As theologian NT Wright puts it, “It’s a way nobody’s ever tried before, a way that is as unthinkable to most human beings and societies as—well, as resurrection itself. Precisely. That’s the point. Welcome to Jesus’ new world!”

Non-condemning Friendships

Jeff Olson —  February 3, 2011 — 1 Comment

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about two things:

Fishing and Jesus.

Honestly, I think about fishing a lot. It’s a topic that has been especially on my mind  since I’ve come down with a serious case of “cabin fever.” We’re in the heart of Winter where I live…and Spring can’t come quick enough for this angler.

And as a Christ follower, wanting to know Him and have more His life flow through me, I continue to learn about how He deals with me and different kinds of people. In most cases (there were certainly situations that called for a different approach), His first priority was to establish a non-condemning friendship. Jesus welcomed people from all different walks of life into relationship with Himself before He ever addressed a single issue in their life.

So as an avid angler, I’m often drawn back to stories about Jesus and fishing. One story in particular, has been most compelling. It’s the time Jesus, newly resurrected, appeared to His disciples along the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-23). Similar to the first time they met Jesus (Luke 5:11), they had been skunked after a long and frustrating night of fishing. Then Jesus shows up. He suggests casting their nets to the other side of the boat, and the fishing goes nuts!

It’s a great fishing story about a bunch of friends who went out fishing, possibly to clear their heads from the staggering events of the past couple of weeks. And what a journey it had been for these men. The man they had given up everything to follow had been arrested, tortured and executed. Then before they know it, He’s alive and appearing to people here and there! But now what? What could possibly happen next?

One of the most compelling aspects to the story is how Jesus meets the men where they’re at without condemnation. Jesus didn’t lay into them  for wasting time fishing on the Sea of Galilee when He had clearly called them and spent 3 years grooming them to fish for people (Luke 5:10). Instead, He asks what most curious onlookers ask fishermen—“Catch anything?” (John 21:5). He then immediately offers them a fishing tip that led to their second catch of a lifetime. He even cooks up some fish for breakfast (John 21:6-9).

Jesus had some important and challenging matters to discuss with these men that morning, especially Peter, the disciple who had denied knowing Jesus three times the night before He was crucified—but first things first. The first order business was to reaffirm their friendship. In spite of all that happened, Jesus wanted to reassure Peter and the men that they were okay.

Non-condemning friendships first—that’s one of Jesus’ most enduring trademarks. Thankfully, it’s how He relates to any of us who’ve drifted off course. And whenever possible, it’s how He calls us to relate to others.

What do we do when we realize that what we thought was a friendship may not be? What if we thought someone was a friend, but we find out that we are not as valued as we thought we were?

That happened to me. I’ve realized with one particular person I’m the “back-up friend.”  The one you call when no one else is around. The one you talk to when your other friends aren’t at the party yet. I’m the friend you’ll do things with when your other friends are busy. One time, I helped this friend move from one house to another. I remember she fluctuated from ignoring me to being snippy with me that day and at one point she called me into her bedroom and frantically asked me to help her change her bed sheets because her best friend was coming and she didn’t want her to see her dirty sheets.

It really hurt to finally see the picture. At first I could hardly face it.  I didn’t want to look at it. I felt a sense of shame, like if I looked at the image of our “friendship” I’d see something wrong with me. But as I’m getting more clarity, I’m feeling less like that. I’m not as afraid to accept this relationship for what it is. It may not be a friendship, per se, but it is a relationship in which I can love her.  I won’t be a doormat, but I can love her more intentionally.

I have true friends who love me. As a matter of fact, a true friend pointed this out to me (Proverbs 27:6.) I don’t know where this “back-up friendship” will go; I care about her, but I’m not sure I want to continue being second string.  Many of us have friendships that are difficult like this and it hurts. Often we don’t know what to do. Maybe if we blog about it, it will help.

Just finishing up editing some great discussions on forgiveness for the HFML website with author Dan Allender and Pastor Rod Van Solkema that I think you’ll find challenging. I know I did. One of the noteworthy remarks that I just can’t shake from our discussion was Dan’s comment that:

“Forgiveness is an act of defiance against evil.”

Does that strike you as an odd statement? It did to me. In fact, it takes me back to the surprise I experienced when hiking in Glacier National Park in Montana this past summer.

To my amazement, I witnessed beauty above the tree line in a hostile environment that totally took me off guard. Wow! The  delicate wildflowers that sprouted out of solid rock were breathtaking. My photos just don’t do them justice. They were exquisite! How could such delicate beauty not only grow out of solid rock but flourish in a hostile environment that seemed so utterly antagonistic to their survival?

That’s forgiveness. It’s a reflection of beauty and mercy that defies hostility and adversity. It’s overcoming evil with good.

Too often, I’m afraid, we as Christians have mistakenly fallen under the spell of a maudlin view of forgiveness. We’ve misinterpreted the oft-quoted “turning the other cheek” phrase of Jesus in Matthew 5:39 into a doormat kind of theology. We’ve settled for passive pleasantness and called it forgiveness. It’s not.

Forgiveness isn’t a command to “just play nice.” That requires a flight into a la-la land that has no reality in the real redemption story. Sweeping dirt under a carpet is no way to clean a house. Neither is it healthy to deal with those who are bullies, gossips, liars, deceitful, and a host of other forms of overt and covert relational violence that riddle our churches, schools, homes, communities, neighborhoods, and all relationships. It just gives them more power and permission to reek havoc on those who are more vulnerable.

And let’s face it: everyone struggles to love well. Or maybe it’s better said, we’re just poor at it. Violations of love (otherwise known as “sin”) infect even the best of relationships, making the need for forgiveness–either giving it or receiving it–an ongoing necessity in order for relationships to deepen and grow. No healthy relationships exist apart from a genuine heart of forgiveness that longs for restoration (which, in reality, is the Gospel story replayed day in and day out within the context of our relationships).

While forgiveness is often thought of as weakness, in reality, it’s a demonstration of incredible strength.  Forgiveness doesn’t flee from the face of evil. Nor does it stoop to the level of evil and fight fire with fire (Rom. 12:17).  Paul reminds us of the marching orders for the Christian in Romans 12, that our call is to an authentic Christlike love that joins with Him in the battle for good and against evil:

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good . . . do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It’s mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord . . . Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12: 9, 17-19, 21)

Forgiveness is the unlikely weapon that God has given to us to defy evil. To look someone in the eye and be free to say without malice, “Your sin doesn’t control me. And you’re powerless to stop me from not only desiring to do you good, but choosing to do good to you as an act of kindness because of the benevolent kindness that God has shown to me.”

Now that ‘s a process of overcoming evil with good that requires humility and gratitude for the God who has addressed the evil within us with His mercy and grace that “forgives us our sins and purifies us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

So, how bout it? Today, in your one of your “difficult” relationships, are you up to being a little flower in a less than hospitable environment? Are you willing to be that splash of beauty that’s undeterred by adversity? Forgive someone the way that God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you (Eph. 4:32) and that’s what you’ll be . . . the beauty of forgiveness that defies evil.

I was recently watching 100_1416the 2007 film Into the Wild. It’s based on the true story of Chris McCandless. Upon graduating from college in the early 1990′s, McCandless had become disillusioned with his conventional life. Without saying a word to his family, he up and sold all his belongings, withdrew entirely from the only life he new, and eventually ventured deep into the Alaskan wilderness—alone.

McCandless underestimated the rigors of the Alaskan wilderness and eventually died months later—alone. Before his tragic death, he appeared to have a change of heart regarding his decision to live as a loner. These last words were found scrawled in his journal:

“Happiness only real when shared.”

Being a loner is not what it’s cracked up to be. In fact, it was the first human experience God spotted as unhealthy — “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone’” (Genesis 2:18).

There are good things in life that  bring us joy. But they will only touch our souls when we share them with others.

We can’t get away from it. Our Creator wired us with a dual need for companionship with Himself and with other human beings.

Lasting joy can only be found within relationships.

“Hold On Loosely”

Jeff Olson —  July 11, 2009 — 4 Comments

Soda TopThe other day I stopped at a fast food joint for a quick bite to eat. It wasn’t the healthiest of choices, but I was looking for something easy and cheap.

I placed my order at the drive thru, picked up my beverage and chicken sandwich (minus the sauce), and was good to go.

—or so I thought.

A few minutes later, as I went to take a sip of pop, the plastic lid on my paper cup, which I didn’t realize was just partially fastened, popped off. Instinctively, I squeezed the cup to minimize the damage, but it only made things worse. I can assure you that 20 ounces of diet coke can make quite a mess. By the time I arrived at my office, I looked like a little kid who had wet his britches.

Along with being certain I was born to spill things,  the incident brought to mind how much can go wrong in a relationship when we hold on too tight. If we become the clingy-needy type where it becomes all about us, it’s only a matter of time before we end up squeezing the life out of the ones we claim to “love.”

The New Testament speaks about a better way to approach relationships:

“Don’t look out only for your own interests,

but take an interest in others, too” (Philippians. 2:3-4).

Without mutual consideration, relationships become one-sided and oppressive.

If we feel the lid is coming off of a relationship, smothering and putting the squeeze on others is anything but mutually considerate. I’m pretty sure the 1980′s band 38 Special had this sort of problem in mind when they sang,

Just hold on loosely, but don’t let go

If you cling too tightly

You’re gonna lose control

Your baby needs someone to believe in

And a whole lot of space to breathe in

We all struggle with selfishness, but if we’re after healthy, Christ-like relationshipsholding on loosely is the best way to go.