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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Objectifying Relationships

I was recently having a chat with some friends when a 'relationship' hoved into the conversation.  My friend went from talking about the person to an 'it.'  The it was the relationship.
Part of recovery would seem to be able restoring 'relationships.'  The word is very helpful in expressing our connections to others.  But, it is also a problem.
When we 'incarnate' a 'relationship' and give it a reality of its own, it becomes a barrier between the two in the 'relationship.'  Often, our relationships are barriers, filled with rules and expectations and demands and anxieties.  We no longer approach the person as he is, but in terms of all the rules that must be met in order to maintain the connection.
It becomes a departure from reality.
As with all fantasies, having a barrier is very comforting.  It affords us some 'protection' in that we can point to a violation of the rules and say, "Ah, you broke #47, so I don't have to respond (or care)."  The relationship makes interactions predictable and far less personal.  If you are vulnerable, you just make sure all of your relationships have rules that preserve your privacy.
Relationships become a way of keeping people away from us.  You can have hundreds of them, like your Facebook pals, that you would never give a kidney to.  Someone is broke and needs $1,000?  "Sorry, we don't have that kind of relationship..."
In reality, there is no such thing as a relationship.  It is an adjective and nothing more.
There is only you and me.
We can't even really have a relationship with God, because there again something comes between us and Him.  The whole point of all those medieval theological debates about whether God's energies are 'created' or 'uncreated' always came back to that point: does having a 'relationship' with God mean that there must be a created barrier?
Just in case you are wonder, the Orthodox position is 'no.'  Nothing comes between us, and so the perception of God is a perception of His uncreated energies... something coming from Him that is Him, not a created blocker between us and His essence.
So, what about love.  And mercy.  And compassion.  Aren't we asking these things from Him?
Again, the answer is in the language: are those proper nouns, or synonyms?
We are of God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and he who is not of God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.  Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God.
He who does not love does not know God; for God is love.
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.  By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his own Spirit.  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world.  Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.  In this is love perfected with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love. (1Jo 4:6-18)
If there is love, then it is not just a substance but God Himself.  Love is an action, and yet something that permeates us as God in His transcendence imbues all things.  We are constantly awash in His love, but we tend to ignore it.
If marriage is an icon of Christ and the Church, then where is the 'relationship' between a husband and a wife?  There is none.  It is two people being united directly to one another, surrounded and permeated with the Love that is God.
If another person is made in the Image and Likeness of God stands before us, why should we put up a barrier?  It is because we are weak: we cannot bear to look upon this Image in others because it pains us.  We are reminded of our own sins and selfishness and fears.  So, we build walls called 'relationships' and invent etiquette to make sure we can cut off the contact when it becomes uncomfortable.
"No shoes, no shirt, no service" reads the sign on the door of the relationship.
But, God's love is about taking down the barriers and loving others as they are, with nothing in between.
Horrifying prospect, isn't it?  Now you know why saints do what they do to repent and be humbled, because you can get there while maintaining your 'comfort zone' which is also an exclusion zone.
For most of us, we try to make the walls a little thinner and a little lower.  We start tossing some of the rules, and stop freaking out when the rules get broken.
Believing in God calls us to courage, which we receive in return for our trust in Him.

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