I have been debating all week whether to post my thoughts on a certain topic, but finally I’m taking the plunge. (Also thanks to the humble reminder that there are only a handful of people who will read this anyways.)
re•la•tion•ship 1: the state of being related or interrelated 2: the relation connecting or binding participants in a relationship: as a: kinship; b: a specific instance or type of kinship 3: a state of affairs existing between those having relations or dealings; b: a romantic or passionate attachment
Lately I have been thinking a lot about relationships. My relationship with my husband, my relationships with my friends, others’ relationships while dating, others’ relationships with their friends. I have also been observing a lot of things about relationships that I disagree with. But what makes me qualified to judge the way others handle their relationships? Well nothing. But I am a “learn from my mistakes” kind of person (which is apparently a minority), so in a sense I think that I am merely wishing others would already know what experience has already taught me.
Enough of the vague analogies. I am just going to lay it out there and hope that one of two things happen: 1. I realize that my theories are flawed and let it go, or 2. others will realize there is at least a fragment of truth to what I say. As always, I speak from a Christian perspective because well, there’s no taking that out of me. So here we have it…
a. People, women especially, have a hard time understanding the meaning of the phrase, “guard your heart.” The reason protecting your heart is so important should be obvious. But perhaps how you do this is the bigger issue. If the heart is the inner core of a person, then the thoughts, feelings, desires, will, and choices they make are all a part of that. God examines the heart of man, not simply his/her outward appearance, for this very reason.
I believe that guarding against a rebellious spirit and cultivating a spirit of submissive obedience to God’s word is the first and most important step. Some common “diseases” that weaken the heart would be anger, giving in to temptation, and pride. If each person is tempted by their own evil desires (James 1:14), then I would also venture to say that sin always begins in the mind.
But how did I get from guarding your heart to sin? Because when we fail to protect our hearts, then sin enters our lives. And after that, all sorts of consequences are introduced into our lives that never needed to be there in the first place. So friends, please take this seriously because everything you do flows from it.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” (Proverbs 4:23-27)
b. Your world does not revolve around the person you love. “Heresy,” you say! But God will always be my first love, not my husband (or children, or anyone else!). The times when I put my husband before God, I create an idol in my life. Sadly, I see this so often. I see wives, fiancées, and girlfriends place such an imbalanced importance on their spouse, fiancée, or boyfriend that God’s will for that person quickly gets pushed to the backseat. There is a reason the Apostle Paul said he wished we would all remain single he was (1 Corinthians 7).
I am so blessed to have a husband that helps me keep this in balance, because on my own I would give in to this temptation (because we are tempted by our own desires, remember?) much more frequently. Jesus was the only one who has done this perfectly, so let us “walk in the manner that He walked” (1 John 2:6). Jesus’ focus was submitting to the Father’s will, serving others, and prayer.
When I see couples that turn away from the things that brought them together, or from the things that were once so important to them, I wonder if they realize. Falling in love is beautiful and provides a great opportunity to testify to God’s greatness. But with all great opportunities, there is also the option to decline. It is easy to get caught up in the emotions and feelings, which when challenged bring forth pride and rebellion; but relationships that last have to be founded on something more substantial.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)
c. All friendships have their place, and no two friendships are exactly the same. However, there are certain qualities that should be consistent. If a friend loves at all times, but a brother is born in adversity (Proverbs 17:17), then it doesn’t matter what is going on in either of our lives, whether life is easy or hard. And if someone is truly a friend, then count on either being let down or being put in your place, “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).
A friendship is a relationship that is only as good or close as those individuals choose to make it. A friend is someone you respect and that respects you, but it is not based on worthiness but likeness of mind (Amos 3:3). So we have to be on the same page, and if we’re not then work at it until we are. Openness, honesty, and trust are key components to a healthy friendship.
Sometimes sacrifice is involved. Sometimes we do things for our friends that are hard. Sometimes friendships rarely convenient. And sometimes we have to put the good of our friend above our own selfish inclinations or prejudices. Just like in marriage, friendships are rarely 50/50; they should be 100/100 but sometimes they are 80/20. What a great testimony of God’s love I find when my friends show me love even when I don’t deserve it.
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:13-15)