Psychiatrist and author Curt Thompson writes in Anatomy of the Soul that there is something we crave “even more than the air we breathe.”
“Connection. There is nothing more crucial to our long-term welfare. In fact, virtually every action we take is part of the deeper attempt to connect with other humans.” We are made for it. Why then do we struggle so much in relationships? How is it that the very thing we desire most is so hard?
We all know one of the reasons. Our relationships, the connections we all want and need most, are the source of our heartache and pain. Intended or not, we are hurt by or cause hurt to those we are in relationship with. Close relationships will encounter some kind of rupture. It can be a trivial disagreement, or a shattering betrayal – but rupture happens in relationships. Relationships always involve risk. There is no version of a loving relationship that doesn’t come with the risk of heartache. Friendships, family, and romantic relationships all come with risk. Still, they are essential to our well being.
We are made for relationships.
How do we keep our hearts open and tender knowing we risk our hearts being broken? How do we remain willing to build and keep authentic, close relationships where we are seen, known, and loved and where we see, know, and love the others? Paul gives us a clue in his letter to the church at Colossae. I call it rooted vulnerability.
Paul encouraged the church to “Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” (2:7 NLT)
It was Jesus, though, who first told us how we can love the way we’re meant to love – open, tender, wise, and authentic. The rooted theme continues in the metaphor he uses in John 15.
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch cannot produce fruit alone but must remain in the vine. In the same way, you cannot produce fruit alone but must remain in me. I am the vine, and you are the branches. If any remain in me and I remain in them, they produce much fruit. But without me they can do nothing.John 15:4-5 NCV
The only way we can truly make ourselves vulnerable to the risk of love – giving it and receiving it – is to be aware of and secure in God’s love. We love well when we know we are loved well. The rootedness of our love in Jesus gives us the tenderness and strength to move toward others. When rupture happens, we will experience disappointment and pain, but because we are fixed in God’s love, we will work to repair the relationship. Arrogance and entitlement are diminished. The need to prove our point or be right falls away. We no longer want to control or power-over. Instead, we see the image of God in others and esteem their autonomy.
As we learn about, grow, and settle into God’s love – we change. Not only are we better at moving toward others, but we have the courage to set boundaries when necessary, motivated by love. We can be ourselves in relationships. We’re honest, playful, creative, and confident. Hurt and disappointment still happen, but we’re not shaken because we are rooted firmly in God’s love.
Now the question is how do we settle into God’s love? How do we live out this rooted vulnerability? It takes a lifetime, but we can learn to pay attention to what God is doing within and all around us. We can learn to respond to his invitations. We can learn to participate with him in the restoration he is bringing.
What’s your experience with settling into God’s love? What hinders it and what helps you? Send any comments or questions my way – I’d love to hear from you.