relationships, boundaries, and skating lessons

Once again, I appreciate the honest blog post here about being stripped of all things churchianity – the Christian subculture – and rediscovering an honest relationship with God, and letting him lead us himself. It has spurred more thoughts of my/our own trek that I’d like to share.

I want to talk more about relationships among people and God. This has been a recurring theme with my wife and I, and I believe this topic is common to anyone truly on the detox journey out of the church business ways to something real. After 20+ years in the church business way of doing relationships, my wife and I came to the hard realization that we didn’t really know how to do them well, and that we had allowed others to do our thinking. It wasn’t good enough anymore to know someone who knew God (or thought they did). God wanted us himself – the thrill of a lifetime!

We didn’t know how to take time with relationships – the years it really takes. Taking time to gradually go deeper rather than rush in head long. And how to recognize good indicators that the risk was going to be a good one, and be in touch with the desires of our own hearts. Did I want this relationship? Was there truly a sense in me that God was doing something in it? David prayed like his desires and God’s desires were one and the same. There was once a season I prayed each day, “Lord, help me feel today.” It seemed like I had spent all my life dialed in to what others indicated was the “right” thing to think and feel, that I had very little idea what God was really saying me, now that I was coming to know he speaks to us mostly through our own guts.

We didn’t know how to have honest, meaningful conflict resolution. Where you say the hard stuff without shredding the other person (though you wanted to). And they get to say the needful things, and maybe you actually come to new understandings together over time. Or maybe not, even after many years. But you don’t violate yourself in this process, yet be as generous as you can toward the other person’s prosperity. So many relationships in the church are based out of a man-made hierarchy positioning, which Jesus banned from the body of Christ. Thus, boundaries were mowed over so much that we had no concept of where they even used to be.

We had very little idea how to be peers, egalitarian, co-heirs in Christ with others in the body. How to truly live like the playing field is level, and only Christ is above the rest.

We didn’t know how to live like the imaginary relational boundaries we had around church businesses were just that – imaginary. To think that we actually lopped off relationships when people left our “church” (business), and felt nothing for it. Ludicrous! Same thing goes for the imaginary relational boundary between the man-made church subculture and those not yet among his followers. What? You can actually have FRIENDS that aren’t saved?! And even allow yourself to learn things from them that Jesus-followers are supposed to own the corner market on – such as grace, generosity, integrity?! Oh yes.

Indeed, this epidemic of relational violations is the primary driver for us getting off the church business merry-go-round to rethink all things church, which led to rethinking all things Christianity. A frightening, yet invigorating journey! I think a serious detox from the church business way brings you face-to-face with the horrendous handling of relationships there. In the end, I came to believe that, as an adult, I had no one to blame by myself. I mean, what was I thinking doing these things? But that’s the point, I wasn’t thinking. Hardly anyone in my Christian circles was. I guess we just didn’t suspect the violations there, but it was the same for the Lord and his first followers. We’ve had to essentially learn from scratch how to do relationships with God and people.

I would say we’re seeing two things these days: one is that as we’re learning, in the midst of safe, “go-slow” relationships with 5-7 other families, how to do healthy boundaries with relationships, we’re finding new boldness to be appropriately vulnerable again. The other thing, of course, is we’re sensing the Lord leading us to take more risks, gently nudging us beyond our comfort zones. It’s like so much of the kingdom of God revolves around relationships, so pressing in to them appears to be important to him.

I’m doing ice skating lessons with my daughters (5 & 7). I never had a lesson before, had no clue what I was doing, and it showed. So I’ve been avoiding ice skating all my life. My wife, however, is pretty good at it and takes our girls now and then. Lessons came available nearby, so it was my chance to have Father-daughter time and try to eliminate some embarrassment on the ice so I could skate with the family. About the 2nd or 3rd lesson they taught us how to stop. It’s kinda like a snow-plow action, and with some practice, it works! The unexpected result was that I was finally bold enough to risk some skating moves because I knew I could bring myself to a stop without having to fall down or slam myself into the boards. I see a correlation to doing just about anyting in life, including relationships.

13 Replies to “relationships, boundaries, and skating lessons”

  1. Yeah, learning to have relationships without all the “training wheels”, it definitely feels like learning something as a child… Things are way more complicated, yet way richer and incredible, when you don’t have all those institutional fences to that more or less funnel people around like cattle. It’s like finding yourself on the open range (relationally-speaking), and you have to rely on God to show you what to do every step of the way! Thanks for sharing this….

  2. Yep… I’m actually here, Page… reading. 🙂

    Good stuff that I can store away in my mind, as He leads me into relationships along the way. One might say that I feel very lost with it all, and certainly ‘not sure’ on the vulnerability part. I’m still just finding my courage, thru my own blog… to slowly just BE ME, regardless of who agrees with me or understands.

    I’m not used to relationships, outside of “the business” of church, and it’s fake and shallow boundaries. What you’ve said here is very helpful, in not trying to rush those relationships as they come. Thanks for saying it.

    That question you ask: “Do I WANT this relationship?” Wow! What an eye opener! And, I can’t believe that I have to say that, but I do. What a profoundly simple question. Not “SHOULD I be in this relationship?” … or “What can this relationship add to ME?”… but “Do I WANT it?”

    I don’t know if I’ve really ever asked that of myself before.
    I just took what I THOUGHT I could get. And, lots of times, with a subconsciously selfish motive of “what can THIS person do for me?”

    In fact, having been raised by a narcissistic mother… I’m only just now learning that I even have a personal right to ask that question. Boy… now you’ve opened a real can of worms that I won’t get into. Suffice it to say, that I always thought that it was someone else’s right to mostly decide that FOR me.

    Anyways… thanks!!

  3. Free,

    Yes, when I prayed, “God, help me FEEL today” – same as, “help me have my own thoughts today” – that had it’s roots back in my family experience as well, where I too didn’t feel my thoughts/person was valued. I often felt this set my up to fall into a parental kind of church experience. There came a time when I was pulled into a very different church experience around 1985 (I briefly considered the simple church kind of thing then, but was quite certain people would think I’d lost my marbles, and I doubted the whole idea), but God really used this place in many ways. One was that they refused to parent people. I actually got mad at them for not “caring more” for people by parenting them, and doing their thinking for them – though I didn’t use those words. So far was I from understanding truly following the Lord ourselves. God used that season to set me up for a career where, again, the culture includes refusing to parent people. I see most of my adult life as God shepherding me into wholeness in this very area, step by step.

    Thanks for sharing your journey.

  4. Page,

    I love what you have shared here, very healing words of life.
    I got here via free spirit’s blog, I’m going to book mark your sight.

    I especially resonated with the ‘false parenting’ scenario that I have been awakened to for a long time within the Matrix of religion birthed out of the father of lies desire to keep those the Father of love-truth has Fathered in and of himself. Not any chance of missing heaven, but missing out on a growing, deepening knowing of Who’s we are, and the glorious out working of that truth, Who we are!

    The endless regime of surrogate and foster parenting that has usurped the divine right the Father of our spirit, which He holds alone!

    His richest and best to you in your further discover all that He has yet to make known to you and your family.

  5. Richard – I certainly agree that the enemy, who’s intent is to steal, kill and destroy, is busy about his work among the saints, and happy to rob us of our inheritance. But thanks be to Jesus, who has beat him and empowers us now to chose his ways of life! Thanks for your comments, will take a look at your blog.

    Page

  6. I’d like to share that one thing my old IC was good at, was emphasizing relationships. My family has many good, close friends due to that, and they are still our friends even though we have left the IC. We believe we are still one in the body with them, and we make sure they know that we love them that way even though they are still in the IC.
    One issue, however, was that along with the ‘relationship’ push, came ‘accountability’ push. My old shepherd LOVES the verse about “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” and that is his basis for the ‘accountability structure’, which always had him at the top, of course. Not that he didn’t make himself accountable, but he was still the ‘head’. This focused on ‘confessing your sins and struggles’, and using principles to overcome our sin nature. There never was a focus on Jesus alone, with asking HIM to change our nature. It always seemed to be man-effort-centered. (you can see an example of this from his comments in one of my blogs)
    Anyway, I believe I am blessed to have families still in the IC that are still very close brothers and sisters because of the growing together we did while in the IC.

  7. Gordon,
    Sounds healthy. We keep coming back to believing relationships are the foundation God builds the Kingdom on – both ours with him and with others. The “accountability” topic comes up a lot in the transition out of the church business to the simple/organic flow. Curious what your thoughts are for how accountability happens in the latter?

  8. Well, to answer your question Page, I have to think about my best friend Wes. He and I did the accountability thing every Sunday after church for quite a while (sometimes had included another person or two). But by then it had changed from the ‘pastor led’, ‘confess your sins and how hard you are trying to battle the flesh or overcome the items on our list’ type of accountability, to brothers encouraging each other in the Holy Spirit, discussing what the Lord was dealing with in us, teaching us, or leading us into.
    Side note- I had started to believe the ‘list of sins’ that we were “working out how to avoid or battle against” was a perpetual battle, because we were doing it in the flesh, and focusing so much on ‘don’t do the sins’, instead of focusing on ‘get closer to Jesus’. I was feeling that if I got closer to Jesus, matured in the Spirit, then the strength of the Spirit was going to help me keep from sin, instead of my flesh trying to fight…well, what my flesh actually WANTED to do in the first place.
    Anyway, Wes and grew so much in a deepness of relationship with the Lord and each other, that ‘accountability’ no longer had a negative connotation, nor was it a scary embarrassing concept like when we were accountable to a leader-led small group of men. When we would miss a Sunday or two, there would actually be a desire to come back together and share. We continued to meet after leaving the IC (our two couples basically left the IC together) because we had come to believe our time together was more ‘church’ than when we ‘went to church’. It had become so exciting to see the Lord using us in our daily lives, teaching us to be good husbands, fathers, employees, and friends, and learning to truly trust the Holy Spirit’s leading in our lives. And that is how I would say it happens in an organic flow; we share the things the Lord is doing IN us and with us, we allow each other the right to ‘call to the carpet’, we challenge each other to growth, encourage each other in Spiritual maturity, and give God all the glory!

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