Relationships and church

18 07 2008

If you have ever been on the home page of wordpress.com you have noticed how many blogs they host – the number today is 3,592,233. That is a heck of a lot of communication – perhaps overwhelming but if your antenna is tuned well there is much that can be fairly easily gleaned – and it is very helpful if we desire to navigate rather than drift through this liminal time. Aside form getting information, blogs are good at connecting us not just personally but conceptually – you can explore your imaginations/concepts/ideas and see if they resonate with anyone else. I think finding those resonates provides a much need sense of direction and quite possibly a clue in confirming what God is up to.

I recently experienced one of those resonates in reading David Hayward’s blog. From his “about” he is a pastor, musician and artist who lives in New Brunswick, Canada. Here’s what he had to say in two recent posts:

Communal Risks: Friendship

Although there are many communal dangers, I want to talk about the difficulty community brings to friendship. I told Lisa this morning that I feel like there’s a stone of sorrow anchored deep within me. On one level I trust all will be well. This is where any hope I have resides. At another level I see through a very dark glass and live in a world without any glimmer of hope at all. Being in the church has its good parts. When it’s good it’s awesome. But it is also a very difficult way to live. Like one friend said to me recently: she’s found the church to be a place of incredible pain when it comes to relationships. She’s surprised she’s still committed. But she’s right. Where there’s any spirit, the flesh wars against it. Which is why mixing friendship with religion and community is incredibly delicate, risky and often painful. When there’s agreement, things sail. When there’s not, there’s severance, divorce, destruction and indescribable grief. That’s been my experience. I could choose to have a few friends, kindred spirits, and keep it at that. Then go to a church where I can remain anonymous, get my liturgical fix and go home to my buddies afterwards. But no. That’s not me.

Or I could just keep faith out of my relationships altogether. Don’t even bring it up. But unfortunately faith isn’t just a hobby with me, an intellectual pursuit, a passing interest, an anthropological obsession. Somehow, faith, spirit, religion, relationship with I AM, has gripped my life to such an extent that it’s become essential to who I am. It is integral. To neglect it or deny it or suppress it in my relationships would be at least inauthentic and at worst suicidal. I can’t stand relating on a superficial level, pretending to be something I’m not pretending you’re someone you’re not. I have to be all out there or not at all. I resist becoming a rubber stamp endorsing what others do just to avoid conflict and make the mood in the room comfortable. I wish not to dial down just to stay in relationship with someone. And this has brought me the loss of many, many friends. It continues to happen to this day. And it tears my heart out every single time.

Let’s see: keep friends but deny who I am and live on a superficial level; or live freely as who I am and risk the loss of relationship? Believe me, the choice is a difficult one.

Fatigue

Fatigue = “a lessening of one’s response to or enthusiasm for something, typically as a result of overexposure to it.”

Some of you might say that I need to get out more. Take breaks! Go fishing! Take a ride on your motorcycle! I do that, but that only helps momentarily. There is something deeper that is wrong. It is more serious than just overexposure. I believe that it is somehow related to the fact that much of what we do isn’t related to real life. Somehow, we find ourselves sucked into doing something that isn’t essential to who we are. We carry this gnawing suspicion that we are serving a system we don’t believe in. Most of our energy is consumed slaving under meaningless duties. Years ago I took a time management course because I felt I was wasting too much time on useless stuff. The seminar was expensive. I left that course very passionate about organizing and managing my life. After a few months, however, I realized that all I was doing was organizing and managing the same old useless stuff. I had a revelation that managing my life was meaningless unless my life itself was changed.

Years ago I read a book by Easum and Bandy called Growing Spiritual Redwoods. I don’t recall anything else about the book except one declaration that the future church would not support codependent relationships. I remember how radical and dangerous an idea that was because that would pretty much empty most churches. Imagine if you stopped supporting codependence in all your relationships. Do you wonder how lonely you’d become? Most of what we do is fulfill other’s expectations of us. We grant other’s their desires.

Something else I’ve noticed: one week I decided to analyze the phone-calls and visits I was getting at the church building. The greatest majority of them were business related… that is, almost all of them had to do with somebody wanting something or trying to get me to want something. It’s like when you’re having supper with your family… that’s when the tele-marketers call.

It’s one thing to be actually engaged in life and relationships in a healthy way. It’s another to be entangled and trapped in an artificial pseudo-life and in unhealthy codependent relationships. I don’t think I suffer from overexposure to church and ministry. I compare it to fishing when you are being inundated with black-flies and mosquitoes. The fishing itself is a pleasure, but after a while the perpetual menace of insects exhausts you. It’s the distractions that kill us. Like someone once told me: “It’s hard to drain the swamp when you’re up to your ass in alligators!”

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