In case you haven’t noticed it, my needle is stuck in a bit of a ‘relational’ groove. For the last three years, I’ve been immersed with the Lord in the most unrelenting and dynamic dialog about the art of communication and personal interaction I’ve ever experienced. In fact, let’s call it a crash course, as some parts were not quite under control, even though there was precision in His directing touch. It’s not that I was clueless, but this has been a real eye-opener. In light of the fact relationships will be the only thing we actually take with us into eternity, I’ve come to the conclusion that they need to be high priority. As we age, and the inordinate drive for identity through work begins to diminish; suddenly we realize the singular importance of friends, family, and marriage. It occurs to us (belatedly), that we may not have given these things the ongoing attention they deserved. Some areas have become neglected. Others are just a big, snarled mess we’ve deliberately avoided dealing with.
The other day I was searching through my jewelry collection for something specific. Back in the 1970’s and 80’s, I often did special music for weddings, anniversaries and funerals. It was the ongoing custom of the time for people to give you a set of earrings with a matching pendant, usually sterling or gold. I collected quite a haul of them. These were super-fine chains of incredibly intricate filigree, with a delicate pendant of pearl, a cross, or some other small charm attached. Of course, it’s much too bulky to store these things in their original boxes. I’ve learned to lay them together, rolled in Kleenex, and tuck them away safely in a plastic ziplock. I discovered this trick the hard way. If you’ve ever made the mistake of thinking that you could just drop these little dainties in a drawer and you’d be fine, nice try. Don’t ask me how, but these crazy trinkets could become utterly balled up with themselves and each other in the blink of an eye. They get so unbelievably knotted up, it’s nearly impossible to separate them again. Even wearing two or more of them at a time ends up in an intertwined tangle. I’ve spent hours under a bright light, with two straight pins and dogged determination, picking them patiently apart, knot by knot. Of course, there’s the overwhelming impulse to gather up the whole heap and just call it quits (that’s how I’ve gotten many a treasure from the second-hand store!) It’s also tempting to break that one string that looks like it’s the key instigator in the jumble. However, there’s something in me that just can’t do it. These ridiculously exquisite, cobwebby little treasures are just too shimmering beautiful to shatter.
People are much like these delicate keepsakes. Our sense of ourselves can be fragile and easily broken. We’re brittle, flimsy, complicated, and at times quite unstable. We twist, kink, snarl and jostle together in difficult webs of interaction that the enemy of our soul has a field-day with. It’s like we’re looking to get ourselves all knotted up, at the slightest provocation. Unfortunately, it’s easy to handle connections roughly, thinking ‘it’ll be fine, I need to stand up for myself, it’ll all come out in the wash’! Time reveals otherwise. As adults, we grasp the fact that it got gnarly because we didn’t treat wonderful things with proper respect. God, life and time forge us together, but what we do with these ties is up to us. Though the metal be precious, the bonds are fragile. The mess exhausts us, but we come to the ultimate conclusion; some things are much too precious to discard. They’ve got to be untangled.
Of all vexations on the planet, few can rival the pain of a grueling relational bond. It’s so easy to get ourselves into repeating behaviors with each other that kill our desire and joy, and cause us to write people off. In the New Testament, three succinct principals teach us how to dissolve the incredibly dysfunctional patterns we repeat. Amazingly, they rescue us immediately from deep trenches of negativity and the co-dependent behavior we’ve mired in for so long.
Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. (Ephesians 4:25) Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice... Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:26, 31, 32)
To sum it up, this is what we’re aiming at:
Don’t lie: speak the truth, but don’t use it as a weapon. (No Hypocrisy)
Embrace, acknowledge and deal with your own issues and negative emotions. (No Offence)
Remember that you’ve been forgiven, so let love make you tender. (No Agenda)
This is revolutionary, almost radioactive material! What might actually happen, if we purposed to hone in on these three simple principals and apply them unstintingly to every encounter we have? Prepare to be astounded at just how quickly the Lord dissolves our despair, and works some old-fashioned, copper-bottomed miracles. If we’re still looking to our own wisdom to sort out the mess, it’s time to get real. Can we humble our hearts and embrace these simple but astringent attitudes? Face it: when it comes to delicate handling, we’re all thumbs. We need supernatural, Holy Spirit intervention. Let’s see what He can do with what we’ve managed to tangle so thoroughly.
It’s true that big, bold, in-your-face jewelry is currently all the rage. I can’t remember exactly why I went hunting in the archives for those long-forgotten keepsakes. I only know that when I unwrapped them, those silky, glimmering chains re-captivated me with their understated loveliness. Apparently, beautiful old things of quality always retain their value.