I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships lately. Maybe that’s because I’m a girl. Maybe it’s because I’m an observer of human behavior. Maybe it’s because I just sent in what should be the final academic work of my career and I have nothing else to occupy my time. Whatever it is, relationships have been on my mind.
Something that is interesting to note about relationships is that everyone has them. Even the most stringent anti-socialist still has some sort of relationships. Their only relationship might be with the Starbucks barista that they see every morning on their way to the office at which they arrive only to sit in an isolated cubicle, but that still counts in the relationship category.
(Random side note – there was this great Law & Order episode about a District Attorney who was killed and they discovered that this attorney, who had served as trial and appeal lawyer on hundreds of cases wasn’t who he said he purported to be. And although this guy was dedicated to keeping to himself in hopes of maintaining his charade – even he had relationships).
The other thing to note about relationships is that everyone has an opinion about them. More often than not, the opinion that they have has nothing to do with their own relationships, but is an opinion that they want to express on how someone else should be conducting the relationships in their lives. I can say from personal experience that there is no shortage of individuals who are more than willing to share just what they think you should do. And although their opinions might be diametrically opposed to one another, each individual thinks that their course of action is the one that’s best to take. Filtered through their own experiences and perceptions, they are convinced that they have the key to making your relationships healthy.
Yet, despite the preponderance of amateur advice columnists, I have yet to meet a single person who has their relationships under control. Each of us have struggles, each of us have points of misunderstanding. No one can possibly know with a surety the exact right thing to do in your relationship because they’ve never experienced it anything quite like it. We like to categorize others’ lives into relatable experiences in order to more fully understand the dynamics of a situation. But strive as we might -we’ll never be fully able to relate to the relationship of another. Human beings are far too complex for us to completely understand a solitary figure, let alone understanding two and the nature of their interactions. We might try, but we will fail. Relationships are messy. They’re not meant to be understood. Not that this stops us from trying.
And all of this is o.k. We don’t have to understand another’s experience to offer advice. Nor do we always have to have the answers. Oftentimes its our bad relationship experiences that help us empathize with others in their misfortunes. Oftentimes its the imperfections of relationships that make them the most sincere. And I think being o.k with that is part of the journey. Sometimes, relationships are just experiences to be had, people to touch, and lessons to be learned. They are not definitions to be sought, categories to be organized or benchmarks to be achieved. Relationships are about the people, not about the entity.
I’m certainly glad that Christ didn’t try to figure me out before He was willing to be in relationship with me. Nor did He wait for me to proffer a definition. He loved me, not for what I could bring to the relationship, but for who I am: an imperfect being imperfectly seeking a relationship with Perfection.