Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Relationship Rescue

One day, while sitting in the emergency waiting room with my unhappy, crying preschooler who had a terrible earache, I witnessed a parade of newbie med students walking through the ward.  The majority of them were women, most with a professional, intelligent demeanor as they visually scanned the waiting room and were given a tour of the surrounding area.  I happened to be the only parent with a hurting child waiting to see a doctor, and my little girl is definitely a precious, heart-melting sight on any given day - but this time, she appeared even more endearing with her pouty lip sticking out sadly, mussed up wavy hair and crocodile tears occasionally dripping down a cheek as she whimpered with her head against my chest.  As I observed the med students, one in particular made eye contact and noticed my unhappy little girl.  I immediately saw the heart-felt empathy on her face and could sense the desire within her to help as compassion practically radiated from her, across the room.

After the group passed through the room on their introduction to the world of hands-on-medicine, I shook my head slightly in disbelief, finding myself thinking of how naive this young intern was to actually think that being a doctor would be all about helping the precious, hurting little children.  Even as I looked around the waiting room, it was quite obvious to me that the greatest proportion of people waiting to see a doctor could by no means be described as "cute".  In fact, some of them looked downright ugly and belligerent.  I guess what I saw in that waiting room represented long, grueling hours of work that may not always be very rewarding.  It was a duty that needed to be preformed by some intelligent and sympathetic human being, but being exposed to the continual suffering of others (and trying to heal the damages caused by the wrongful actions of others) - well, that would be enough to toughen or harden anyone's heart!  This young intern was so sweet... but she'd have to wise up - that was my initial analysis.

Admittedly, my thoughts were rather pessimistic in this situation.  It is actually kind of sad that such harsh judgement rose up in my mind, with little provocation.  I know however, that as the Bible says in Luke 6:45, "out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks" or in this case: "the mind thinks".  So I was left to wonder what sort of beliefs and attitudes are inside me that would cause me to think in such a manner.

My role as a wife and parent have often become worn down with the seemingly never-ending sacrifices and all-around hard work involved in these relationships.  Ideally, like the young med student, we look at marriage and think of all the pleasantries - breakfast in bed, strolling around the park hand-in-hand and staring longingly into each others eyes.  We don't consider the times of balancing the bankbook and tightening the budget, picking up the balled-up socks off of the floor every day, and the times when all your spouse does is annoy you.  We can also look at parenthood with similar optimism; thinking of cuddles and coos, tender-moments and heart-felt talks, while dismissing the idea of broken dishes, loud and obnoxious noises, rude behavior and all-around ungratefulness.

Imagine living in a home where you spend all your time working: in the kitchen cooking and washing dishes, in the laundry room cleaning endless piles of clothes, and your time spent in all the other rooms is pretty much work related, unless you happen to be sleeping.  Day after day, you pass by the comfy couches with their fluffy pillows, ignoring the family members that may be lounging there - except to inform them to lift their feet when you are trying to maneuver the broom or mop past them.  Living in a house while never taking advantage of the place of rest and relaxation would be quite ridiculous, yet many of us are so busy in life that we can probably relate in some part.  I'd like to take this analogy, however, and  compare it to how we can treat our relationships with God.

I've spent the last few years stuck in a rut of duty and service.  I'm not saying that I've lost my love for the Lord in any way, but I seem to have come to a place where I engage in more of a business relationship with Him.  Come to think of it, this is similar to the frustrations I feel as I relate to my family members as well - I'm apt to focus on all the stuff I must do, and forget about the relationship part.  When I mentioned living in a house, where you never take advantage of the "living room" - the place of rest - I was originally thinking of how this relates to our experience with God.  We can become so busy, serving Him, and working hard to do His will, yet never find ourselves in that place of restful communion with Him.

I communicate with God on a regular basis; lifting up prayer requests whenever something crosses my mind - but I've found that there is a lot less true worship coming from my lips. When you drift from a close relationship, I think one of the first things to go is typically praise, adoration and affection.  You just don't feel like it any longer because you are either frustrated, hurt or simply too busy and preoccupied.  Taking a look at my own relationship with the Lord, I'm being honest when I say I've become quite preoccupied.  My heart has desired to do the right thing - and it's not that I've been running from Him - but all that "stuff" that has to be done, although good and worthwhile, is really good at getting in the way of my worship and prayer life.  I think it is no coincidence that Psalm 91:1 coins the term "secret place of the Most High" when referring to being in God's presence.  Anyone can come to the house of the Lord, and enter into salvation.  Not everyone learns to seek Him and find Him in his secret place.

Back to the idea of the young intern at the hospital.  What she really wants to do is practice medicine, and focus on the people whom she needs to treat.  She looks at the hurting individual, and wants to show care and concern, while providing healing.  My pessimism was focused on the long, grueling hours; crowded emergency rooms and lack of qualified professionals to spend "quality", personal time with each patient.  This is the unfortunate reality of our over-stressed medical system.

Thankfully, our relationships don't quite have to work that way.  I know that regarding my relationship with God, there are specific answers to dealing with all the "stuff" and busyness of this life.  Matthew 11:28-30 depicts what life should be like if we are truly following Jesus.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

When we make Him our priority, and refrain from making all the tasks and duties our priority, we will find true rest for our souls.  Is it hard to be a Christian and follow all the teachings of the Bible?  Unequivocally, "YES!".  However, it shouldn't be hard to simply come to Jesus and learn from Him.  Out of the relationship springs obedience.  Additionally, out of real relationship, we learn what is actually important, and what we should be laying down.

To the same degree, this concept is quite verifiable in our family relationships.  The reason you marry someone is not so you can be "great roommates" and help each other with the menial tasks and split the rent bill.  We get married because of the relationship... because we love to commune with that person and tell them our hopes and fears.   The same goes for children.  Although to some it may appear that I had lots of kids so they could do all the housework for me, and take care of me when I become old and weary... well, the truth is, I had lots of kids because I look forward to the wonderful years ahead of us as we grow our relationship from merely parent and child to friends.

This has become another one of those posts where I show you the ugliness inside my heart.  I guess that's what happens when you're human... I'm working on it though, and I hope that I've encouraged all the other "hard working, duty-driven, task-focused individuals" to take a long, honest look at what drives you.  

Sometimes, we're better off deleting our un-ending "To Do" lists, and just learn to BE... It means you spend a lot more time sitting and listening.  It means you take the time to remember what drew you to the relationship in the first place.  Whether your struggle is in your marriage, with your kids or with God (or...all three), I think the healing begins when you're willing to sink into the comfy couch and just STOP.

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