Relationships 101: It begins with knowing God

rocks people man happy worship sunset view clouds sky dark silhouette A twitter post by CommonWhiteGrl stated, “Being 18-25 is like playing a video game where u’ve skipped the tutorial & you’re just sort of running about with no idea how anything works.” Tell me about it. At this age we often feel overwhelmed, trying to figure out our lives: our educations, our careers, our relationships.

Of all of these significant aspects, I would argue that relationships are the most important. The relationships you form today are going to affect who you are tomorrow (more so, I would argue, than the career or educational path you chose). Most college kids are hungry for good, close friends. So to solve our problem, I wrote a post revealing the deepest, previous-to-now unknown, rocket-science, doctorate-degree-level, what-you-never-knew-before secrets about how to form and maintain a good relationship.

Okay, okay, maybe it’s not quite that secretive…and maybe it’s not quite that complicated…yeah…it might actually be common sense. BUT, I know this because I do it all the time: the common sense is so often forgotten. So, in this post I took up the menial task of reintroducing it–for my own sake if for no one else’s.

The Backstory

You know that passionate love and connection you feel between yourself and your best friend and/or significant other? No, seriously, think about your excitement to spend time with this person. This love and closeness is something we desire in relationships and it is delightful when we can make such connections. But, even if you think you have the closest of BFFs or the world’s best girlfriend, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

If you think you’ve felt love, passion, or belonging from any human before, I want to remind you God created that passionate love and if you think it’s strong between two humans, imagine how much stronger God feels that way toward you. As much as it means to wake up to a simple text saying “good morning” from your lover or best friend, it means so much more to God for you to wake up and say “good morning!” to him. He pursues you, desires you, and wants your love more than any human possibly could.

Therefore, if you really want good, fulfilling relationships, you have to start with getting to know God. 

I know God is so big, so unimaginable, so vast, so…everything. It seems impossible to know God and he sometimes feels so very distant. I know it. And I do not want to downplay God–he is way beyond us. I readily admit he is far too vast to understand. But, at the same time, he’s created each individual to be capable–in fact only fulfilled–when he/she has a close relationship with God. So in the face of this aspiration, I want to offer a variety of ways to stay connected with your creator.

Talk

We think we’re so technologically advanced when we can text someone anywhere in the hands clasp pray person people ring still bokeh portrait black and white world and they can receive it in a matter of seconds. How much cooler, though, is it that we can talk directly, without any time or technological boundaries, to the creator of the universe? And what kind of friends don’t talk? Realistically, how many of us, if asked about our relationship with God would have to answer–if answering honestly–“Well, we aren’t really talking anymore”? Let me tell you, in relationships, that statement is never a good sign…

Talk to God as you would talk to your best friend. Tell him how your day was. Tell him what is bothering you. Tell him what you’re excited about. Tell him why you are angry with him. Like a patient lover, he’s standing right by your side, just waiting for your attention. He wants your heart and wants your real self. Talk to him–even if you are only saying stupid things. He knows already, but he wants to hear it from you. Sometimes you and your best friend talk just to hear from each other what you already know. That’s what God wants.

Listen

But good friends don’t just talk, they listen. Jackie Kendall and Debby Jones, in their book Lady in Waiting, do a great job of describing this: “Even when someone is very special to you, you do not get too excited with a steady monologue. Listening is an important part of developing closeness with someone else. If you want to get to know the Lord, you must seek Him not only with a whole, clean, and pure heart, but also with a listening heart.”

mountain valley hill cliff rocks landscape blue sky clouds people man sitting alone mountaineer hiker hiking climbing sunny day daylight travel outdoors summer adventure Very few people would argue this point. But how does one listen to God?? One obvious answer is through reading his word. You’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again: God’s word is a love letter to you. I bet it’s been a while since you’ve read God’s word as carefully as you would read a love letter… But you can also listen to God through a sermon, through reading inspirational books and blogs 😉 , or even through admiring creation (which he spoke into being). Sitting outside and staring up at the clouds, thinking about who God is definitely counts as listening to him.

Hang Out

The intense desire you have to spend time with a best friend or significant other is the way God feels about you. He looks forward to shared time and loves for you to be aware and accepting of his presence even in menial tasks. Just as even washing dishes is more fun with a friend, being aware and accepting of his presence in any circumstance can count as “quality time.”

And just as you enjoy spending time with your BFF or significant other in groups, you can hang out with God in groups–that’s what churches, discipleship groups, and worship nights are for. These are marvelous ways to celebrate God with other friends. mountain nature sky sunny sunrise summer sunset sunlight sunshine green grass sea water ocean lake man people reading book bible sitting alone bench But, also as you enjoy spending time with that one friend one-on-one, so you ought to spend time one-on-one to really connect intimately with God. Set aside some alone time* to talk with God, to listen to God, and just to sit silently with God. You’d do it with your boyfriend/girlfriend/bestfriend. Do it with God.

*Are you really alone if you’re chillin’ with God?

Become Obsessed!

You know how lovers are obsessed with each other and simply can’t get that special someone off their minds? Well, God’s obsessed with you and would love for even a small portion of that obsession to be reciprocated. Thinking about someone is a way of bringing that relationship into the present (see my post: Relationships in the 3-D). Randomly thinking about God throughout the day is a way to evoke passion in your relationship. Take your prayers before meals more seriously, place Bible verses in obvious places to randomly get your attention, think about a time when God has come through for you.

Many of us feel so overwhelmed about deepening our relationship with God that we tend to simply push it off. Or we forget how desperately God is pursuing us, waiting for so much as a little awareness from the humans he created in his image to share his love with. Or we get so caught up in life that we get distracted. But life is short and unpredictable. And God is waiting. So please, don’t let God’s greatness be an excuse for starting or growing deeper in the best relationship of your life.

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Venting 101

felix-russell-saw-113844.jpgIt’s time for another immediately-applicable highly-concrete post. We’re still in that season of summer jobs and I have a feeling I’m not the only one who finds myself venting about work. But, what differentiates venting from complaining and/or gossiping? And, as we’ve already discussed, communication creates reality. If I start speaking negatively about my job, it’s going to spiral, and work is going to get worse. So how do I balance these risks with a need to relate my struggles and frustrations to someone who cares (*thanks Mom!)?

Rule #1: One of the most significant rules is vent to the right person

Ideally, it is best to vent to a person who is fairly removed from the situation. If you are venting about work, this person probably should not be a co-worker. If you’re venting about a relationship, this person probably should not be a mutual friend. Doing this is a set up for disaster. This is because venting to an immediately-involved person is likely to make that other person think worse of the situation as well and that is not fair to this person nor the person or situation you are venting about. Venting to a co-worker is likely to make us both more upset with our jobs. Venting about a mutual friend can easily turn into gossip and will make the relationships worse all around. At school if I have struggles, I vent to my mom who is at home and won’t get emotionally involved in the situation or get upset with the people I’m talking about.

Another factor to keep in mind is that you want to vent to someone who will downplay, aaron-burden-90144.jpginstead of create, drama–someone who listens more than he/she talks. Don’t vent to someone whose response will be something like, “Oh geez, that’s horrible. You’re right. Your boss or friend should never do that to you! I would definitely throw a fit if I were in your shoes.” We’re going for a release of negative emotions, not a shared pity party. The goal is to relieve pressure, not build it up! (FYI, a journal does a good job of listening and a pretty good job of not creating drama 😉 )

In case you’re having trouble thinking of someone who can fulfill these roles for you, let me suggest God. He’s not going to think any more negatively of the situation or person just because you vent about it. He’s great at listening and–added bonus!–he’s actually in control of the situation. If you’re asking with the right motives and it’s within his will, it’s likely he will actually change the situation in some way (even if it’s just by working in you)–which is more than a lot of friends or parents can do.

Rule #2: Be active, not passive

Sitting on your butt whining isn’t going to change anything. Use the time you spend venting as time you spend thinking. Is there any way you can change things for the better? Is there anything you can do to affect the situation? This might come in the form of not even changing the situation, but purely trying to change your attitude. Can you start viewing work as a service? Can you keep your focus on the eternal? Can you go out of your way to show love to your “enemy”? Can you work your hardest even when you really don’t care? Even if you use the experience just to get to know yourself better (what you can deal with and what you can’t), that is still a beneficial learning experience. Arguably this is the hardest rule. But if you aren’t seriously considering what you can do to make a difference, you’re really just whining about the situation.

sonja-langford-357Rule #3: Vent for the right amount of time

I’ve said it multiple times before, but it’s vital to keep in mind. Communication forms reality. The more time you spend complaining, the more you’re going to see that person, that situation, or that job as negative. So keep your venting short and sweet. Say what you need to say to get it off your chest. And then be done. Let the dead dog lie.

 

Rule #4: End on a good note

In the midst of the things that are bothering you, there has to be something positive. I find myself regularly fed up with specific things at work and am quite willing to vent lesly-b-juarez-220845.jpgabout them. But do I ever talk about the perks of my job? Do I ever mention the positives? You still became friends with that person for a reason and you still chose that job for a reason. When you are wrapping up a good venting session, be sure to verbalize the positives. It takes a strong soul to remember the positives, but it is an important step.

Another really good source that I would recommend: Anger Management: The Five W’s of Healthy Venting

In Honor of Sang Yoon: What are You Living for?

19756847_10158820639760391_7935453298698112723_n.pngLast semester at Cornerstone University I was working in a morning psychology study group and brought an omelet for breakfast (because it wasn’t ready until after we were supposed to meet–darn kitchen crew 😉 ) so I could eat and study at the same time. However, upon meeting with the group, Miles, the fellow on my right said he’s allergic to eggs and the smell makes him nauseous. At the same time, Sang, the fellow on my left said he hadn’t had breakfast and the omelet smelled SO good! Awkwardly I offered the plate to the Sang, but he turned me down, despite the fact that his mouth was watering. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, I had little to no interest in finishing my omelet in these conditions so I set it aside and tried to push it away so neither classmate would have to smell it. When we took a quick study break later on, Sang Yoon decided to take up my previous offer and finished my omelet for me–providing a relieving answer for everyone.

Two months after finishing that exam, I get the news that Sang Yoon, my omelet-eating study buddy, drowned in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This news forced me to do an overhaul in my thinking. I mean, I go about my day; I wake up, I go to sleep, I work, I Image result for omelet pictureskeep up on chores, I fit fun in where I can. So far I’ve been able to keep going through my everyday experiences. I do life somewhat thoughtlessly. But Sang Yoon’s death stopped me in my tracks. His death reminded me of how short and unpredictable life is. He reminded me of the bigger picture out there–and how despairingly small is my vision of life. How differently would I live, how differently would I communicate, if I could keep my eyes set on the bigger picture?

As a Christian, I believe God places each of us on earth for a reason. I believe life on earth is only the beginning and that the best is yet to come. I believe God has a purpose for what happens and can bring glory to his name through anything–even a 24-year-old man drowning. So, while I am upset that Sang had to die, I aspire to respect both Sang and God by challenging my way of thinking because of it. I want to recognize how short and unpredictable life is and I want to live my life for others and for the glory of God.

What have I been saying with my life? The mundane: the dish-washing, floor-sweeping, dinner-making, bathroom-cleaning can communicate a love for your housemates, a good stewardship of the things you have. Your attitude at work communicates. Your time on Facebook and Netflix communicates. Who you talk to and where you spend your money communicates. What has the past hour said about who you are and what you live for?

If I could regularly keep this perspective and purpose in mind, would I be so selfish? Would I complain if I had to stay late at work? Could I see it as a chance to serve more? Would I be so judgmental? Would I do the once-over on the girl with the short shorts? Would I be so impatient and so self-centered? Would I whine about leaving later than I wanted to for an event? Would it matter if I were a few minutes late?  Would I argue with my siblings as much? Would do more to show them that I love them?

If I could remember how little control I have and how each day is a gift, how each hour is speaking something, would I not pray more sincerely, live more boldly, act more purposefully, love more unconditionally? Would I not see how each day of my life can make a difference–even in the most minuscule, boring tasks–for better or for worse? Wouldn’t I take more risks in witnessing, wouldn’t I take more joy in little things, wouldn’t I be more thankful for what I have?19693630_1527121214013347_4089569426993532852_o.jpg

How one communicates depends on the perspective one takes. In honor of Sang, in honor of God, I aspire to embrace the perspective that God wants me to have. I want to live my life with purpose and to be used for God. Even if you aren’t religious or don’t have similar opinions about God, I would like to challenge you to consider what you are living by. What will people say about you when you are gone?Why do you do what you do? What motivates you, really? What perspective are you taking? What is your life communicating? What have you said with the past hour of your life? 

Goals don’t get accomplished on their own. It might sound cliche and overrated, but stepping back for a moment to consider what is motivating you to live as you do and what you are communicating with your life is a decision that, if taken seriously, I can guarantee you won’t regret.

And to Sang, I want to thank you for being the good-natured, patient, intelligent person you were. …and for finishing my omelet to relieve that awkward situation 🙂