Love is a verb: relationships are hard

I have this idea of how I want things to be. How everything works out so that I am kept happy and other people don’t complain.

That’s really what I want most of the time. Peace and tranquillity. Harmony over hostility. A community of people defined by honesty, integrity and challenge. Not easy, but good.

But that’s not how things work. Not in my life, and not in yours. I don’t have to be a prophet to tell you that.

Yesterday ChristChurch London began a new series on relationships and eased into things with a broad overview of the vitality of relationships for us all. Yet also about how hard that can be.

Bonhoeffer makes this point well, if you parse through the complex language he makes a simple point.

Innumerable times a whole community has been broken down because it has sprung from a wish dream, an illusion a fantasy. The serious person is likely to bring with him or her a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and try to realise it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams

Just as God desires to bring us to a place of genuine friendship, so surely we must be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment, with others, with Christians in general and if we are fortunate, with ourselves. God will not permit us, even for a moment to live in a dream world. Only the friendship which faces such disillusionment with all its unhappy and ugly aspects begins to be what it could be in God’s eyes. As soon as the shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both.

Basically, life with other people is hard.

And that shouldn’t surprise us. God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Our dreams of autonomy, our dreams and ideas of how our life should be. Our vision of happiness and contented lives. Lives that are defined by our standards and not by commitment to others.

When we commit to others that we acknowledge that we do not come first. We give more than we take, we love more than we expect to be loved.

Because that is how God first loved us. He loves us more than we can ever love him. When Jesus asked Peter to tend his sheep and whether he loved him thrice over, Peter did not feel capable to match his love. But in the words of Kierkegaard, when we turn to God we find that He has already turned.

And that’s enough.

It’s a sign of what a committed relationship looks like. It’s the model that we should look to before we start designing the friendships of our halcyon desires.   

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