Messy relationships happen. Sometimes, our romantic relationships slip and slide into the mud. Other times, our friends singe our patience and frustrate us to no end. Often, negative co-workers blow putrid smoke all over us. And, unfortunately, messy most often happens in our extended families. No matter the type of relationship, an old Eagles song gets right to the heart of the matter. “You see it your way. I see it mine. But we both see it slipping away.”
If we all agreed about everything all the time, would we feel the need for grace, or mercy, or forgiveness? Would we ever feel motivated to change or grow, or have any reason to be transformed? Would we ever see our need for Jesus?
The older I get, the more I understand that it’s the messy people that draw us closer to Jesus. The more brokenhearted we become, the tighter He wraps His arms around us to pull us even closer. Paul says it this way, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Romans 5:3-5 NLT)
If we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us, then we have been given perfect love – God’s love. His love doesn’t merely give us a warm fuzzy feeling. It gives us the assurance and confidence we need to show love to even the most difficult people. The love given to us is good enough to handle the messiest of situations.
So, how can our messy relationships make an about-face? The solution takes time, patience, and practice. Brother Lawrence, a 17th century monk, called it “the practice of the presence of God”. I don’t subscribe to the monk lifestyle. I believe we are called to be the light in a dark world, and we can’t do that in total solitude. I DO, however, appreciate these insightful words from him:
“We cannot escape the dangers which abound in life without the actual and continual help of God. Let us, then, pray to Him for it continually. How can we pray to Him without being with Him? How can we be with Him but in thinking of Him often? And how can we often think of Him but by a holy habit which we should form of it? You will tell me that I am always saying the same thing. It is true, for this is the best and easiest method I know; and as I use no other, I advise all the world to do it. We must know before we can love. In order to know God, we must often think of Him; and when we come to love Him, we shall also think of Him often, for our heart will be with our treasure.”
If Jesus is your treasure, then get to know Him. Close your eyes, and paint a clear picture of Him in your mind. Notice His hair, His eyes, and His smile – because He truly delights in you. When you read about Him in Scripture, picture YOUR Jesus. Watch closely as He heals the blind man, raises the dead, prays over the loaves and fishes, beckons Peter to step out of the boat, chastises the Pharisees, looks down at His mother and John from the cross, and meets Mary in the Garden.
Let this be the same image of Jesus you see when you ask Him for patience in dealing with that frustrating friend, new and better ways to love your spouse, or for an understanding heart for your children. When you raise your voice in praise to Him, picture Him standing in front of you, swaying to the music and loving you with every note.
The longer you practice being in the presence Jesus, the more you will think of Him. The more you think of Him, the more you will begin to act like Him – and the difficult people in your life will soon benefit from your loving kindness.
We don’t need a magazine’s laundry list of behavioral changes to help us get along in this world. All we need is:
- More time in prayer listening to the Holy Spirit
- More practice practicing the presence of Jesus
- Eyes wide open in Scripture to the many ways God loves us so we can imitate Him
Be the first to change, and then give the Holy Spirit room to work. Pray that “your person” will be blessed and that God will change YOU. Our messy relationships can make an about-face when the face of Jesus is always before us. With Him, everyone “gets the best of our love.”
“For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.” (Romans 5:10-11 NLT)