Healthy Relationships – How Much Connection Is Enough?
Love God and Love Others. Jesus said those were the two greatest commands (Mark 12:28-31). You’re probably familiar with that famous instruction, but do you know what is non-negotiable in both of these imperatives? Here’s a hint: It’s not the command to “love”. Rather, it is the existence of relationships. Not just any relationships, but ultimately, healthy relationships!
You see, before we can even get to the issue of love, we have to understand these commands presuppose relational living. God actually designed us this way. First, He wants us to be in relationship with Him (“Love God”). Second, He wants us to be in relationship with one another (“Love Others”). There is no object of our love if we are not in relationship. So how do we cultivate healthy relationships?
Relationships feed our need to connect. Psychologists call this attachment. Our ability to connect, or to attach, has been under works from the time we were born. This means that by the time most of us reach adulthood, for good or for bad, we have developed healthy and unhealthy habits in connecting with others. That leaves many of us having to learn or relearn or unlearn relational behaviors.
As our pastoral team talked about this issue, Pastors Robert and Lisa Wachs shared some wisdom with the team about how this reality has formed their parenting goals.
Their approach is to raise their kids to be independent of them as parents; dependent on God; and interdependent with others. Let that sink in for a moment. This goes far beyond the realm of parenting, but speaks to this very issue of cultivating the right amount of connection in each of our relationships.
Cultivating healthy relationships is about independence, dependence, and interdependence and knowing how to hold each of these in their proper place.
That perspective got us thinking about each of these in a whole new light.
Let’s talk about independence. Perhaps the biggest challenge of parenting is learning to let go. This process begins long before the kids are sent off to college. Think of when a child learns to walk; it is not a day but a period of time where they learn how to stand, take a step, fall, get up, and repeat until they can walk without your hand holding them. We have the wrong impression if we associate independence with absence, or if we think it only happens once we launch children into adulthood.
A parent never stops being a parent, but a parent does learn how to entrust a child to make wise choices as they learn along the way.
As Proverbs 22:6 says: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
Now, dependence is much different, and hardly ever do we hear society praising those who live dependent lives. We applaud those who are reliable, yet how often do we give out awards to those who are reliant? Let’s be honest; being “independent” is at the core of what it means to be an American. Hello July 4th! However, when it comes to our relationship with God, we can recognize that we are needy and dependent creatures. And that isn’t a lousy thing.
As odd as it may sound, we never outgrow our dependence on God. John 15:5 records Jesus saying: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” How much can we do apart from God? Nothing! Our spiritual journey begins with a realization of our absolute need for what only God (as our Creator and Redeemer) can do for us.
And yet, our spiritual journey reaches a breakthrough when the Lord not only satisfies our greatest need but also our greatest desire.
“Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.” – Psalm 73:25-26
So as it turns out, dependence on God is not only for amateurs of the faith but also for those advancing in faith. In other words, it is part of our growth and maturity as Christians to continue to become more dependent on God.
Last, but not least, let’s think about interdependence. The word itself is not as conversational as the other two, but interdependence is the idea of a relational connection for mutual benefit. Hence, a community of people are interdependent on one another. In fact, we are created to be interdependent. Some of us are more inclined to participate in a community than others, however, none of us are exempt from the need for human-to-human connection for the sake of mutual benefit.
God could have created us to where we did not need one another, but He didn’t. Romans 12:4-6 says: “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”
Therefore, humanity flourishes and thrives when we operate as we are designed—interdependently.
We (as individuals and as a community) are at our best when we cultivate healthy relationships, which include independence, dependence, and interdependence all functioning in their proper place. Here at Newbreak, healthy connection is at the core of what we do. Our mission is “connecting people with God through authentic relationships to serve communities.” For that reason, Life Groups are at the heart of our community life. They are a great training ground for all of us to cultivate healthy relationships. If you are not already part of one, it is never too late to join. Click here to find one near you!
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