Often, the best source of wisdom comes from those who have walked out something in trial and error, and have learned from their experiences and are able to articulate them well to others. Similarly, the best reception of wisdom is the humble of heart, whether by choice or circumstance, that is hungry and ready to receive that wisdom to apply to their lives.
This is a continuation along the lines of navigating relationships amidst self. There are wonderful people that surround my life, humble people who have been through a lot and have experienced a great deal of restoration through the peace and healing of Christ, and have a genuine desire to impart to others. I have been a fortunate recipient of their love and knowledge, and I am compelled to share the things I have gleaned from them over the years, as relationships, personal well-being and discipleship are deep-set passions of mine.
Want versus Need: being the self-focused, idol-holding person I have been most all my life, I have been somewhat masterful at knowing how to be a good, nice person, and even genuine in my desire for God and care for people, while still holding to selfish motives and mentalities. Anytime something were to bring me face-to-face with those idols, those selfish ways, I avoided or broke that mirror completely. But when one genuinely seeks God in a way to truly know Him more and rid the strongholds of life to make room for more of Him and service of others, that person may just find themselves in a place where the answer to that prayer is almost inevitable. I began to experience such, knowing all along it was a gateway to being able to fulfill so much more of what resided in my heart than I otherwise could have, but never before having the courage and freedom from my vice grip to do so.
When it comes to relationships, I have always had a very strong internal grip on wanting that special one–perhaps one could say it had me more than I held to it. When we hold onto something too tightly, even something good, even something from God Himself, it can not only suffocate at our hands, but holding it dampers or even suffocates our own soul, our walk with God, our personal development, and overall well-being. Such was the case with me, and thus the dreaded juxtaposition between want and need.
I remember the days all to well when I would receive wisdom in limited fashion when referring to idols, holding onto things too tightly, putting relationships ahead of God, letting God have what is dearest to us, and so on. Agh–this particular region of my heart would always cringe–I see easily in retrospect–at those things when I came across them. I did not want to face them or admit them. I did not want to lose what I was holding onto so tightly. I was afraid because it meant everything to me, to an inordinate measure. It was truly an idol.
I needed to find a way to lay this thing down. But there was more to the issue than just idolatry, or stronghold. When we are in a place of deficit in the area of relationships, it does not have to be an idol for there to be a need to attend to the soul in a special way. Previous trauma, abuse, neglect, or other forms of dysfunction or unhealthy relationships can easily contribute, as well as other areas of life that need attention that would severely affect healthy relationship (like crutches, unhealthy coping mechanisms, bad habits).
I had the privilege of receiving counsel from a wonderful source, who has great insights based on their own path coinciding with their studies and training. Here is something shared with me that summarizes this well, specific to this person’s experience but laden with universal principles:
“At first, I didn’t think discontinuing the relationship I was in was the answer. But I didn’t know better. I was used to conflict and being upset and not having peace in relationships. (That was the norm for me, and that’s the natural way I handled the good relationship.) I have always chosen to just make it work. But I also didn’t know any better with personal, spiritual health (before really surrendering all to Christ). And it with that particular relationship, it was the best I’d ever been and the best relationship I’d ever had—but I didn’t know I had a ways to go yet. I realized later my boyfriend’s presence was a pressure for me to perform and ‘do better’ to keep the romantic love with him, but ‘doing better’ is not real healing you know.
“People will white knuckle it for a while maybe, then revert to old ways because white knuckling it never takes you far, it’s too hard. Then they’ll burst out and claim their mate should love them regardless, that the issues, hang-ups or habits aren’t who they are, that the relationship can work through these little spats, that their mate is judging and pressuring them. They don’t get it initially that they need more deep, personal healing to be healthy enough to choose, have and walk in a healthy relationship. They need to be healthy on their own first. They need to be in a place where they won’t settle for less—all the conflict, the turmoil, the strife they’ve been used to and has previously always been the norm, as well as the lower standards they’ve allowed in their own life. Even having the possibility of a relationship with that person is enough to keep them stagnant in their own personal growth alone with Jesus—that special person will be a more important goal, even if they try to receive healing from God, it will be limited because their mate is the goal, not healing. I truly know. I’ve done that.”
In my own context, I have done this so many times, too many, forcing the issue, trying to make things work, and not attending to self in seasons of singlehood enough to allow freedom in certain areas. I would be too intent at wanting the next or right relationship to allow God to make me whole and complete as a single person, not being so needy, and working on developing maturity and selflessness in the areas of my need.
So, my question to you, the reader, is, do you have areas you are holding onto that you know deep inside need to be brought before the Lord? Are you holding too tightly onto a person you are in a relationship with, or to the concept of having a relationship in general? Or old, familiar habits and ways of handling disagreements, stresses, challenges, instead of healthy coping and turning to God as your source? Do you have a genuine desire, amidst your struggle in these areas, to be free, to give God everything, to receive His help? You know much of it is beyond your will power, right? It is okay to admit to addictive behaviors, poor choices, and your lack of power over what you struggle with. It is okay…and rather important, actually vital. It is the first step of healing, of relief, of change in these areas. You are in a safe place, so it is okay to admit these things to yourself, and then to God. Allow yourself to do this right where you are.
Oh, if I weren’t so stubborn, I would have done this long before I did. Thankfully, a genuine desire for more of Him and less of ourselves (our junk) will bring us to the places within and situations around to allow this work to take place. May grace be imparted to you to take this step with courage. You can do it.