This week we continue our focus on our priorities — the theme we are prioritizing this month. To recap, we started our discussion around the idea of keeping the “main thing the main thing” and chose to set out by seeking ancient wisdom in God’s Word for guidance. I shared on last week’s post on rest how starting our days and weeks in a still and quiet place with God helps clear away the inner and outer noise that drives us to rush and chase and grasp after things and people in unhealthy ways. So this week we are getting up out of our chairs rested with God (or off the floor if laid flat was what the situation called for), and we move into our SECOND main thing:
But before we leave our FIRST main thing completely – lets lay some foundation for how these two main things work together:
REST with GOD <—> OUR RELATIONSHIPS
I don’t know about you but for me the center of my day is not the middle, it’s the beginning.
I wake to two competing voices in my head. One is God’s warm voice of love and the other is shame, the voice of all-that-is-yet-wrong-with-me, the voice of God’s enemy and so mine. Over the years I’ve come to realize this second voice will likely be with me for the remainder of my days so I have given this voice a name: Scribble. The name just sounds like the scribbly voice of noise she produces. (Since I’m a woman I refer to the voice as female but this is not about gender.) Also, I didn’t name this voice to give affection to her presence, hardly! It is to simply help me identify what is NOT the voice of my Father who loves me and speaks life to my soul. It also helps me to better recognize wisdom when I enter relationships because Scribble loves to color everything I experience with others. If I believe what she tells me (it always twists or opposes God’s Word) I move away from soul health and into all sorts of disordered ways of relating with others. Scribble’s words lay thick on my mind first thing in the morning, like the solid layer on the top of homemade broth after a night of refrigerating. Before I go any further with my day I first need to get quiet with God so He can skim off Scribble’s lies about me, about Him, and about others before I can get to the good stuff.
Having signs that welcome me to the day near my bed help to daily skim Scribble’s influence, and of course…a piping hot cup of espresso helps too.
If I center first thing in the morning on who I am, establish in my soul that I am loved by God, remember that I am created with intention for God’s delight and that I have something to offer my world on this day…then accepting my limits and relating with others in a loving way becomes much, much easier. I find aiming to connect with Jesus (and coffee) before I connect with anyone else helps me in my relationships in two profound ways.
First, I get the love (and caffeine) I need.
By valuing and scheduling an intentional space for quietness, Scripture and prayer, we center our frenzied world in the secure place of being completely loved. Receiving love over my soul calms down my inner jerk that wants the world to revolve around me. When I know I’m loved I re-discover empathy for others, and am slower to judge. When we skip this important step in our daily rhythm we move around in and out of relationships and commitments chasing after love. We manipulate. We strive and grasp for attention. We seek to impress. We need more people, and more, and more. We need all the “likes” because we think it will make us feel loved. Rather than feel supported by a friend’s encouragement or attention, we find it leaves us more insecure because now we need to maintain that attention for fear of what losing it will mean about us. This is an empty and exhausting way of life, and it’s not what God intends for us.
If we don’t make room to receive God’s love for us first, we may not notice it right away but it won’t take long before we see the effects of living unloved. And others may notice it before we do.
If I don’t practice one day, I know it; two days, the critics know it; three days, the public knows it.” – Jascha Heifetz, one of the most famous violinists of the 20th century
I think it’s safe to assume that we all want loving relationships. We want to feel love, give love and experience love with others. But we cannot give what we do not have ourselves.
We love because He first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19
First, get love. Real love. Love that is unconditional, unchanging and unfailing – from God. He showed us the lengths of His love when He let His beloved child die on a cross for us. And He has others prepared to show us His love with empathy in community, but we will need to choose those relationships too.
A second benefit of resting in God first is that I get a little healthier emotionally, I accept my limits and I can better choose which relationships need my best attention.
No matter how seasoned your faith, each of us can get our feelings hurt and feel overwhelmed with our many people, decisions and challenges at times. Often we plug away and bury our pain because communication feels risky when you don’t feel loved, and in our most intimate relationships this creates fault lines that erupt when we least expect it. (I share some of what we’ve learned about communication in marriage and our e-Harmony story here if you’d like to read it: Lessons Learned from e-Harmony – 10 Married Years Later.)
Some days we succumb to the pressure to be everything to everyone and lose touch with healthy boundaries. (In terms of friendships maybe read my post titled: How to Have Real Friends Without Losing Your Mind.)
And forget the heat of violence and conflict in our global conversation, we just want relief from the tension in our smaller stories! We are tempted to ignore critical conversations, deny ways we hurt others, ignore the pain others have inflicted upon us, we take offenses, we feel slights, we internalize everything and Scribble wins the day if we forget what God says to us, about us. (I speak as one who knows this first-hand! Don’t believe me? Read this two-parter!)
I’m discovering as I grow that I enjoy others to the degree in which I enjoy God and myself. Unless I regularly meet with God to deal with the hurts and address the various needs of my soul, I will continue the same unhealthy patterns I currently experience in my relationships. I don’t want this, and God doesn’t want this for us either! I heard someone say once that sure you could tune your instrument after the performance, but why would you want to? Tuning our hearts to the love of God before we enter our relationships gives us the best hope for staying in the seat of love and sharing love with them.
Especially our main relationships – you know the ones. It may be the one sharing your bed. The ones sharing your roof or sitting around your table. They are the ones shouldering your burdens with you, growing deeper because of you, mutually experiencing the daily way of life with you. On your soul’s branch they are the ones budding close to your bloom, receiving grace through the same soil. These ones are our SECOND highest priorities, second only to our soul’s wellness with God.
While we need the time in solitude to soak in the love of God, we also need the scrub and support relationships provide as well. Spending prioritized time in connection with the main people in our lives, our fellow image-bearers, is God’s will for us. In the beginning of humanity God made it plain that it is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). God’s first perfect human first enjoyed a shame-free space with God and then needed the help of companionship, so how much more do we need that help? God’s second perfect human/divine child (Jesus) prioritized solitude first (Mark 1:35) and then intentionally prioritized His main relationships (Luke 5). It is wise for us to follow His example.
The pattern we find: be loved by God then go love your people.
The fruit of solitude is increased sensitivity and compassion for others. There comes a new freedom to be with people. There is new attentiveness to their needs, new responsiveness to their hurts…” (Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster).
Now I’m going to get very practical for a moment. When we talk about our main relationships, as women, let me be very plain about what this looks like for my season of life…realizing your season of life may be very different. God’s Word informs us of how to order our relationships in each season, and having lived in different seasons myself (singleness, married without children and now married with a child), I can say God’s Word is dependable for bringing order to chaos in any season! If we want to have souls that are well and relationships that are healthy, we can find guidance in God’s ancient wisdom and become wise women.
The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands.” Proverbs 14:1 NASB
For me, I have seen God’s priorities for my relationships are the wisest way for me to prioritize them too:
- Growing in my relationship with God comes first
- Respecting and supporting my husband comes second
- Teaching and training our daughter comes third
There has been a pressure in humanity since the beginning to throw off God’s priorities for our lives. In our culture this pressure on women is to be connected to everyone and involved in everything. While choosing to rest in God first can help us calm down, prioritizing our people helps structure our best energy too.
Everything else I do in my life (writing career, outside activities, friendships, service to others, etc.), all order around my three main relationships. When I am overwhelmed, exhausted, scraping myself together to make one tiny decision I come back to these three relationships and for a moment I drop all else.
The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian does make me a different kind of a woman. For I have accepted God’s idea of me, and my whole life is an offering back to Him of all that I am, and all that He wants me to be.” – Elisabeth Elliot, Let Me Be a Woman
This is not a conversation about women’s rights, discrimination and equal pay. I am talking about the health and joy of our everyday lives in the midst of full days. I am a modern woman who is well-educated with dreams and goals that are ambitious, and I do not in any way see my freedom or womanhood minimized because I choose to prioritize God and my family as my main things. Wisdom warns me that a life spent with these priorities disordered leads to me to a life with regret, so I choose wisdom. I choose to build my soul with God’s goodness and build my family with my best love.
And often when we get in a rhythm where these are getting our best attention, we have more of ourselves yet to offer our world, so we’ll talk about discerning that main thing next week.
Before we go, I want to share some resources with you again that may support you in your priorities with your main relationships. In addition to the apps and podcasts I shared last week (I didn’t even touch the books that are amazing! There are SO many!), here are some other apps and podcasts I enjoy on the topic of relationships, specifically marriage and family but not exclusively.
- FocusFamily (Focus on the Family – you can “focus” on marriage or on parenting)
- Family Talk
- The Marriage App
- Smalley Institute (Gary Smalley, author of so many relationship books I cannot list them all! He is a family counselor and president/founder of Smalley Relationship Center and I like how this app offers tips and conversation starters, and so much more!)
- the 5 Love Languages (if you’re read the book, this provides tips moving forward, and if you haven’t it helps you identify your love language so you can better communicate love with others!)
- At Home With Sally & Friends (Sally Clarkson, I mentioned this last week for the soul but it’s great for relationship wisdom too!)
- God Centered Mom Podcast
- Risen Motherhood
- The Road Back To You (Ok, first you need to take a little survey and identify your enneagram personality profile and then this podcast helps you better understand why you and your main people do what ya’ll do! The goal is to stir up compassion for ourselves and one another, and we do this by better understanding ourselves. I will talk about this more next week, but if you are eager – go check it out!)
And this is a special resource coming to select theaters only on May 1 and May 3rd! What started as a parenting resource will make its debut on the silver screen in May as FamilyLife launches its first full-length feature movie in creative partnership with Alex and Stephen Kendrick (Facing the Giants, Fireproof, Courageous, War Room). (I give you a link to the trailer at the end, so don’t go scrolling yet!)
Like Arrows casts a powerful vision for parents, reminding us that nothing is more important for any family than to have God and His Word directing our lives. The film will release as part of a significant new parenting initiative called FamilyLife’s Art of Parenting™, which will also include a free online video series and an eight-session small group series.”
Our Pastor Matt Murphy said recently, “When we violate God’s design for relationships we release destruction, disintegration and chaos into the world. The punishment is the consequence of our choice…”
Some of us have some negative consequences we need to work through in order to re-order our priorities in alignment with God’s design.
But here is some good news: even when we don’t choose God as our main thing, He chooses us as His.
His grace is abundant and He can empower us to work through our hard situations. It is never too late to re-order our priorities and follow God’s design for our main things…and am I ever grateful!
Now, pause for a moment and enjoy watching this trailer for Like Arrows!
Or to learn more about the movie, find out where it will be showing, and how to reserve tickets for you and your main people, go here.