A good friend of mine recently entered into a wonderful relationship. His random texted questions are punctuated with the same angst and is-this-okay-ness of the first few months of my relationship with the fiancé. Ah, the honeymoon phase, filled with bliss and confusion.
I’ve already written about some of the lies that media tells us about relationships, but this is the ultimate that I relentlessly run into in the hearts of my friends as well as my own.
Although many of the following ideas are framed in the context of a romantic relationship, the principles transfer seamlessly to platonic friendships, family relationships, any relationship. So you’re included, reader. 🙂
I like lists. Have you noticed?
Why a Relationship Won’t Fix Your Issues
( & often makes them worse)
Because they’re not Jesus
At the end of the day, no human can fix you. You can’t even fix you. You even know this because you’ve tried. So have I. But all of our human efforts are doomed to fail because we need supernatural transformation. Yes, again and again, Jesus really is the answer. Even Jesus-following, wisdom-preaching, prayer-meeting-holding, gospel-clinging others cannot fix us. They are not Jesus.
Because Unrealistic Expectations Break Down Relationships
The issue grows worse when we don’t get this–when we put God-sized expectations on others. This puts a strain on the relationship because no one can live up to God-sized expectations except God. Ever been told you’re not good enough? Constantly? Forever? That’s how this feels to those around you.
If only you had a boyfriend, right? If only you had a wife. If only you had a close friend who got you then–THEN–you’d be complete and okay and have happiness. Alas. We are scraping together a broken cistern (Jeremiah 2:13). Jesus completes us (Colossians 2:10). Jesus makes us more than okay (2 Corinthians 12:9). Any level of happiness that lasts longer than a fleeting circumstance is founded in Jesus (Psalm 16:11). Relationships are good and amazing but not enough.
Because You’re Shifting Responsibility
If the solution is another-person-dependent, why do you need to work on it yourself? When we place the blame of our anger, selfishness, and lack of communication skills on others, we sidestep our personal responsibility. This leads to issues only compounding because we relinquish our God-given power to grow.
Why a Relationship Actually Can Fix Your Issues
Because You Can’t Run Away Anymore
One of my favorite truth-speakers said that marriage is like sped up sanctification: you vividly see how your flaws hurt someone close to you, so you’re driven to change faster and more deeply. Outside of marriage and close friendships, we can ignore our issues more easily: we can move from one friendship to another, no commitment, no need to work through wounds, no need to change. In close community, we can’t run away from our issues so it actually helps us see them and change them.
Because You Experience God’s Love in a Unique Way
Between the time the fiancé told me he liked me and we started dating, we had just over two months of what we called an “intentional friendship” (term stolen from a favorite couple of ours). We intentionally told each other the ugly parts of our lives, past and present. I knew I could not take his affection seriously if he didn’t know these parts. With every expression of love, I would just think yeah he only likes me because he doesn’t know. So I told him. All of it. And he told me. And here we still are…
In close community we get a unique taste of the reality of God’s love: He knows all the things. He’s always known all the things. And He still pursues you relentlessly, unchanged, committed forever and always. This kind of love isn’t just amazing–it’s healing. It’s ennobling. It’s transforming. It makes us want to grow and love better.
So yes, relationships actually can (help) fix your issues. Mine, too.
I’ve heard some people assume that relationships fall short of our crazy ideals only because they’re not good relationships. That if we just had good enough relationships they would be enough for us. Au contraire. I write this from the experience of a deeply supportive and loving family, meaningful friendships that exceed my ability to explain, and having been chosen by a man whose tender love I could never deserve. I have it. And it’s not enough. None of it is enough to fix me, to satisfy me, or to make me better. Only Jesus is enough. And He is more than enough. And with Jesus, God uses relationships to make me better. Relationships are powerful tools in the hand of God, even for eternal good.