Spending time in a different culture brings the various relationships in one’s life to the forefront. As one assesses the various bonds of friendships, it is natural to also look at the bond between the Spirit of God and oneself, as the same dynamics are found in each.
I want to share my thought process with you.
First, we’ll look at the bonds of acquaintances. Having traveled across the USA and Canada for almost three years, there are many acquaintances in our life. These are people with whom we enjoyed fellowship, comradeship, and similar interests. While we took pleasure in our time, and even look forward to the possibility of seeing them again, the emotional tie is not significant enough to provoke any deep emotion when revisiting the memories. While we were blessed to have connected with this group, a strong, emotional bond is not present.
The next category is friends. There are those whom God has brought into our life that we choose to call “friend.” (Yes, friendship is a choice.) When their name is mentioned, or when a memory is recalled, these people evoke an emotional response. Friends are those with whom we keep in contact and draw emotional support. The emotional bond is such that there may not be a compelling need to talk on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis, but it is evident that there is an emotional tie present. Glenda refers these people as “forever friends”—those with whom there is a strong, emotional bond, yet a constant need for contact is not required. The foundation of these friendships is built on trust. While we may not speak to them often simply due to the busyness of life, it is easy to “pick up where we left off” when contact is reinitiated.
Family is an interesting category. In many ways, there is little difference between the emotional bond of friendship and that of family. Often, there is a more pressing need for contact between friends than between family members. That said, there is an undeniable emotional tie that evokes a response, especially during long periods of absence.
Within family is the category called “immediate family.” Generally, this category has the strongest emotional impact on a person. There is significant need for contact within this group and its absence generates strong emotional responses.
Within this core of one’s life lives still another microcosm: that of husband and wife. This relationship has the strongest ties. Any absence from interaction causes an emotional response. Unfortunately, this is also the most easily damaged, as there is a vulnerability that results from the openness of the relationship. Thankfully, the amount of pleasure and strength is also significantly more rewarding because of this openness. It is the proverbial two-edged sword.
I have watched my family experience the impact that absence has had on these relationships. Some grow in intensity: “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Others have diminished: “Out of sight, out of mind.” As I am writing this, is I am amused by the glaring opposition the two quotes show, realizing that the only proof of a relationship is the reaction to the absence. There is no real “litmus test” that one can use to determine the final outcome.
Now, why go through that seeming “rabbit track” when my header speaks about Jesus? Well, I’m glad you asked. You see, if we analyze the different relationships that exist in our life, we can determine the level of importance we place on our relationship with Him. Is He merely an acquaintance? Do I only talk to Him when I am at “church?” What amount of day-to-day impact does He really have on me? Has Jesus moved up into the friend role? Do I occasionally miss my time with Him? Are there times I purposefully seek Him out because I simply want some “friend” time? Maybe the tie is stronger and we look at Him as “family,” where the expectations of additional strength are present, even if the communication is not.
Where does He stand in my order of importance? Does He have the same importance as my wife? Is there anything I would, or would not, do for Him? What importance do you or I place on His presence? What am I willing to try to get by with in hopes that he does not care?
Often, when talking about my relationship with God and my desire to worship Him, I liken it to my relationship with Glenda. What would I do for her? Am I simply trying to find the “minimum requirements?” Am I comfortable with not speaking to her for several days? While on deputation, there was a period of several months in which I was away from my family. During this time, I found that I called them several times a day. Often, I had no real reason to call, but I just wanted to hear Glenda’s voice. Do I have a constant yearning to hear Jesus’ voice?
Is it okay to not be around her? In the past, my work often required me to be away from home. I did not enjoy the times away. In fact, when possible, I would push myself to be home at night even if it were in the early morning hours. Why? I wanted to be around my family. Do I view my time with Jesus with the same intensity? Do I protect, and anticipate, my prayer and devotion time?
Would it be acceptable for me to entertain other women? What if I were simply going to have coffee with a co-worker? After all, it is okay to have friends. I mean, it’s not we are doing anything wrong… just dinner, or a walk in the park…Would Glenda be “okay” with that? What impact would it have on our relationship? Would it strengthen, or damage it? One’s opinion might be, “This marriage stuff is too strict. I don’t see any problem with picking up a magazine and looking at another woman. Why not go clubbing… she knows I love her. She knows she’s the most important woman in my life! Why can’t I have a little “freedom?” Do we approach our relationship with Jesus this way? Do we look at the expectations of the relationship and try to negotiate a compromise?
I would never expect for Glenda to be happy with the above-described behavior. More importantly, I do not consider those behaviors as options, because I want to make sure that there is no doubt, in her mind or mine, as to the place that she holds in my heart. She is the most important woman in my life, and I work to prove it every day by the way I care, not only for her, but about her. I not only try to meet her needs, I also strive to meet her wants. Why? Because I love her.
Should we expect Jesus to be happy when we try to find the minimum requirements? While what what you and I struggle with may not be listed in the “sin” category, does it still make Him sad?
Do I have to tell Glenda I love her? No. Does it make her happy that I do? Yes! Do I have to fix her coffee every morning? No. Does it make her feel special because I do? Yes! Why would I not treat Jesus the same way?
I am reminded of a story about my pastor, Bro. William Sciscoe. Early in their marriage, Sis. Sciscoe commented that she did not like the way he looked in brown. Years later, while shopping with Jason, their son, they found a very nice brown suit. Jason tried to convince his father to buy the suit and he would not, even though it looked very good on him. Why? “Your mother does not think I look good in brown.” He was willing to pass up a good bargain, on a good suit, simply because he did not want to wear something that his wife would potentially not like. (By the way, she convinced him to go back and buy the suit.)
Is our relationship with Jesus that strong?