I was recently reflecting on the relationships I have experienced throughout the journey of my life. Those kind of musings take me through painful territory that remind me why trust is such a complex, powerful, tough and beautiful thing for so many of us. On this occasion, however, Holy Spirit was on a mission to reveal to me the heart of God and his intentions for each one of his beloved children. I am grateful!
Most of us will have experienced close relationships in which we have had things taken from us, at times we have been the ones doing the taking. All of us are familiar with having someone come and take what they wanted from us. This is the trading system that much of life is based on. I want something from you so I give you something in return for the thing I want. Theft is when I take what I want from you without giving what was due. This system is so deeply embedded in society’s culture that it pervades all aspects of life, even our relationships. Relationships are all about give and take, we are told. In our relationships we tend to trade with affection, loyalty, honour, power, fear, life, freedom, connection, status, belonging, pleasure and many other things that we prize. We believe it’s OK to take from those around us, so long as we have given something in return. (and sometimes we simply take what we want with no return.) All this has been my experience.
Then I look at God and I see that it’s not how he relates to us, it’s not how he relates within the Trinity and I get the feeling it’s not how he intended us to relate to one another. When I look at how God relates, I see him operate through giving and receiving; taking doesn’t not seem to be a feature, ever. In his relating to us he gives everything of himself and takes nothing from us. He waits for our response and if we choose to give him he delights to receive it. Whether it’s our attention, our gratitude, our allegiance or even, more appropriately our lives in loving worship… he lovingly receives. But he never seems to demand or take these things from us. If we were to use our trading system, he would be well within his rights to do so, but that’s not the system he is operating by.
What if we operated that way in our relationships? Life would be very different indeed. The movie Pay it Forward was a merciful expression of something like this that tried to break the trading dynamic in our relationships. What if we lived by the rule of giving freely, receiving freely and never taking? What would it take? I think what we would see is the redemption of our relationships, the redemption of our families and neighbourhoods, the redemption of society.
Come Holy Spirit, heal us, free us and fill us to live and relate in ways that make for our peace, in the ways that you designed for us… and in so doing may your Kingdom be expressed and your glory seen and experienced in our world.