Leaning in When I Want To Run Away Instead
Leaning In When I Want To Run Away Instead
I shared recently about pushing against resistance in order to see breakthrough. I have found this to be essential when wanting to see breakthrough in relationships with others which can lead to much joy!
Life has given me plenty of opportunities to have misunderstandings, painful relationships and disagreements with others and I'm sure you have had those too. In many of the relationships at school or university, I was able to pull away when things got hard, but marriage and living in community with others has meant that I have had to work at unity. It was really hard at first, but choosing to commit to the person and not pull away has led to joy! The feeling of joy and unity that comes when a broken relationship has been restored and brought to another level is worth it!
Even though I am committed to unity and relationship with others I still struggle often in my thought life when it comes to other people. I struggle with judging others and presuming the worst, being offended by others’ actions or words and feeling misunderstood. Sometimes guilt, shame and sin get in the way, or bitterness and unforgiveness creep in. Sometimes fearing the reaction of others makes my head spin with possible scenarios and all these things zap the joy from my day.
Here are some things I have found that help:
1) Bringing the situation to God first and not to others.
Although others can pray with me and offer other opinions and things, honestly most of the time I need to stop, pray, repent of any bad reaction and feelings I have towards the person/people and then ask God about the next step. Often talking to others just exaggerates the situation, sows seeds of gossip and judgement in others and leaves me feeling worse not better about the situation.
2) Recognizing that the enemy doesn’t like unity.
Recognizing that the person is not the enemy in the situation and that the enemy is trying to cause disunity has been really important. We have told all our team that the enemy will try and divide us and that we need to pray for one another, encourage one another and quickly sort things out with the person so that the enemy doesn’t get a foothold. Once you talk something over with someone, you often find that what you felt was one thing was actually a misunderstanding rather than a deliberate nasty effort on part of the other person to hurt you.
3) Talking to the person face-to-face
Emails and letters are sometimes appropriate and help to explain to someone when you have done something wrong in the relationship, but they often leave huge time gaps and do not allow the warmth and forgiveness that face-to-face interactions can bring. Emails can be shown to others and can be over-analyzed. The tone can often be misunderstood and face-to-face interaction can much more quickly get to the bottom of any disagreements or misunderstanding.
4) Making an effort to spend extra time / do things to encourage the person.
Doing something ‘special’ shows the other person that you care about the relationship and that you are serious about working towards unity with them. It might be a small gift or flowers, an encouraging text-message or letter, a hug, organizing a time to go out together….
It can be vulnerable to reach out to others not knowing how they will respond. It can be painful to feel misunderstood and to have disunity in a relationship. But joy doesn’t come through protecting ourselves but rather in stepping out in faith, which can feel vulnerable. As we choose to freely offer ourselves to others, we need to keep asking God to help us love others and to protect our hearts.
(Please note I am not saying we shouldn’t put healthy boundaries on unhealthy relationships and allow ourselves to be abused. What I am saying is that leaning into a relationship often looks like handing that person over to God in prayer and fighting for them in prayer rather than in person or by putting up walls in our hearts to protect ourselves.)
Let us be people who lean in rather than lean out when disunity creeps in. Let us be people who go first to God and then to the other and seek peace and unity. Let us receive the joy of God’s blessing as we dwell in unity with others.
Let's put on joy together:
What are the next steps you need to take in a relationship you are finding difficult right now?
May you lean into those difficult relationships today and see joy. This is Day 17 of a 21 Day challenge to put on joy in practical ways. You can receive these posts by email by clicking to sign up here.