December 15, 2016
Yesterday we discussed God’s utmost desire and concern for us—being in relationship with Him. And not just an eternal relationship, but an everyday relationship like you have with the person you are closest to, with that frequency, openness, vulnerability, heated discussion and laughter. Don’t get me wrong, He certainly wants our obedience as well, but if He had to choose between relationship and obedience, our relating with Him is much more important to Him.
A major piece of my transformation occurred when God sent my beautiful wife, Martine, into my life. To me, she perfectly embodied the principle of relationship trumping the importance of obedience. She loved me and loved relating to me, even with all my flaws. She never let my shortcomings interfere with her love for me. She was able to forgive and continually tell me it was OK. Connecting with me and relating to me was important to her. Those were the messages she consistently sent to me. She really does love me unconditionally, although I give her conditions that sometimes stretch the definition and limits of the term unconditional.
Pursuing a relationship with each other was more valuable to her than my ability to do all the husband activities just right. She didn’t simply say it. Instead, she really believed it and she still lives it out daily in almost every way she interacts with and toward me. This revelation dramatically changed my life. You see, that was different from the message I perceived as I grew up, and certainly different from what the world of sports taught me or what I learned within the U.S. academic system.
Fortunately, it dawned on me, (well, I guess it could have come from my wife’s or kids’ frustrations with me or the Holy Spirit convicting me), that I was trapped in a distorted pattern with people who were close to me. I was definitely communicating to them that their obedience to my wishes was more important to me than their relationship with me was. I was acting like Straight-A Jane from the yesterday’s devotional instead of Absent-Minded Mindy. I was acting like Martha and not Mary, or the older brother of the prodigal son and not the father.
Unfortunately, the message that I tended to convey was that I expected them to be perfect before I could be happy with them, accept them or relate to them. It was never my intention. It wasn’t what I truly wanted from those close to me. Talk about false pride! For me it’s a battle that I fight each day, and some days are better than others.
Today, examine the subtle communication you give to those close to you—your spouse, kids, parents, siblings and friends. Are you showing them they are valuable to you just for being themselves? Or do you only have time for them when it fits your agenda. Are you only interested in them when it meets your needs? Do you make efforts to serve them? Or do you communicate that they need to “serve” you first by doing everything just to your liking? It’s an examination of our hearts that is difficult but necessary in order to identify our idols and to grow. Whether you prioritize obedience over relationship or you prioritize relationship over obedience is your decision, so choose well.
O Father, You are so amazing. Thanks for Your love and thanks for sending Martine to be Your example to me, to open my eyes and show me Your ultimate desire for relationship with me. I pray for wisdom, courage and humility as I try to embody Your desire to those around me, so I will be less judgmental and more loving and accepting. Open my heart to Your love and acceptance so I can pass it to others. I pray these things in the name of the one who is pure love, Christ Jesus. And all God’s children say AMEN!
“I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:18-24