I’ll never forget the words I read as I sat on my lumpy couch, in my tiny apartment, with that newly published book cupped in my hands; the year was 2007.
It was my first year out of college, and a majority of my life-giving gal pals were scattered across the country, and I was fried. Over-hard, baked, and scrambled to a pulp. My soul’s tank was running on empty, and I was losing serious hope in people.
I was weary of the giving, and I was tired of all the one-sided everything. I was exhausted from my question-asking and their taking. I was over the “I-invest-while-you-sit-there-and-drain-me” conversations. I felt like a vending machine; I felt like I was the continual pour-er; and I felt like I was only wanted for what I could do or be for them.
And though I would like to neatly frame this whole period of my life as a season with a simple cloud of sadness over it, I can’t.
I was angry.
I felt gypped; I felt used; and my radar for “anyone who wanted something from me, but wasn’t wiling to give anything to me” was sounding a loud alarm. Seriously. I was a hound dog on a mission for people who were “takers.”
In conversations, I was tallying their lack of questions. Over coffee, I was sniffing out their potential “me agenda.” And during any and all interactions, I was trying to assess if they genuinely cared and truly wanted me.
And though I am sure there are many factors and experiences that contributed to this angry and worn-down place I was in, I believe I could boil it down to two, major factors that grew their roots in my high school years.
- For many years, I had no boundaries.
- For many years, I idolized relationships.
I poured, and I kept pouring. I gave, and I kept giving. I invested, and I kept investing. I lead, and I kept leading. And when others didn’t pour, give, invest, or lead. I just kept giving, pouring, investing, and leading. It was a hamster wheel and a bath drain for this over-achieving, people-pleasing, connection-desiring soul.
I wanted authentic relationships, and I wanted deep connection; I yearned to share honestly and openly with other souls who would share back; and I desperately wanted to be wanted for me and not for what me could do. And I wanted all of that from more than just the handful of people who were all things deep, intentional, and two-way with me.
So why didn’t I push back and assert myself? Why didn’t I share my needs and shed the ones who couldn’t meet me half-way?
I didn’t want to lose relationships; I didn’t want to anger or upset the “me-doing, me-giving” dynamics; and I didn’t trust that people would want me if I didn’t perform or refused to pour.
Truly, it was a nasty cycle that had been going on for a good, solid decade.
So when I read the words of Timothy S. Lane in that university-owned apartment at the ripe old age of 23, I melted into a puddle of mess.
“He uses the difficult seasons in our relationships to allow us to see what we typically live for besides Him.”
And if that wasn’t enough to punch my soul in the gut, these words followed shortly after:
“If our heart’s foundation is solid, based on God’s truth, design, and purpose for us, we will be able to build healthy, God-honoring relationships even though we are flawed people living in a broken world.”
Again, another sucker punch to the heart.
The heart-wrenching truth was…
He was using these broken relationships to reveal my brokenness.
He was revealing my distorted beliefs and my shaky foundation.
He was exposing me to my heart-idols; the ones that were fashioned from dust and shaped like humans.
As I sat on that couch in 2007, I wept tears of conviction.
And if you were sitting across from me, you would have not only seen my streaming tears, but you would have also seen the title of that beautiful, life-changing book.
Relationships: A Mess Worth Making
The specific content of those pages, I cannot recall; the whole lot of all the chapters and all the sentences was a ball of messy truth for my busted and tired soul. But when I had finished, I remember telling people, “When I die, everyone at my funeral is receiving a copy of this book!”
This book was that good and that timely, and the Lord used Tim S. Lane’s words to speak HIS.
I’m not going to suggest that my outlook and perspective changed overnight. Nor will I suggest that my chains were promptly loosed and my idols sent packing immediately following (the struggle is still real), but I do believe that book was a turning point in my life.
During that year my hope was re-positioned and my heart was re-adjusted. Though I can’t articulate all the truths and thoughts that sprung from that moment on the couch and the weeks thereafter, I remember learning the following invaluable lessons as I peeled back the layers on my heart’s fears and tore down the idols on my soul’s shelf.
- A right view of Jesus will give you a right view of yourself, others, and you in relationship with others.
- Relationships are messy and yet absolutely necessary. Without them, we don’t know we need a Savior and with them, we learn that no one else will satisfy.
- Relationships provide a perfectly imperfect environment to preach the Gospel and extend grace to one another… on a daily basis.
- You are going to have people in life who don’t like you, no matter what you do; that is part of living in a broken world.
- You can win the applause of the whole world and all its people, but it doesn’t matter if Jesus isn’t clapping.
- Saying “no” can be healthy, even if it’s not accepted, applauded, or appreciated.
- You’ll wake up every morning looking for something or someone to worship; people will inevitably be a tantalizing counterfeit.
- Love doesn’t work well when you’re loving with the motive of reciprocity and the hopes of returned love.The goal of love has to be LOVE.
Hopers, relationships aren’t easy, and they certainly aren’t tidy, but I truly believe that relationships are a mess worth making.
We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19