I want to venture into the caverns of our relationships by venturing into the caverns of pop music in the next few weeks. Our popular media teaches us about relationships and try to undo that with Jesus.
Jesus relates to us in a loving way. He tells us if we do the same thing with each other, people will know that we follow Him. Jesus knows that relationships aren’t easy—while he is telling his disciples to mutually submit to each other in John 13, he’s being betrayed by his friend, and another one delivers an empty promise about not denying him! Jesus can relate to our difficulty with relationships—our trouble with them.
Check out the trouble that Taylor Swift find in her 2010 hit single, “You Belong With Me.” You might really relate to the lonely girl which the song describes. Not feel adequate or known or loved. Comparing herself to this other girl in the song. Her insecurity is plain in sight. There’s reasons why anyone would feel so insecure, and I think they are reasonable.
A lot of our insecurity has to do with our upbringings. The psychological theory at hand is called attachment theory and most it revolves around how we are treated by our primary care givers.
When we discuss infants and their development, we can identify five different attachment patterns in infants. You can look here for more information on that. And of course, these patterns manifest themselves in our adulthood too. There are four patterns psychologists came up for adults.
Individuals with secure attachment, can freely attach to others. They can become close to them, depend on them. But they lack the fear of being alone. They are positive about themselves and their relationships. This is the ideal formation you want with Jesus. You know He loves you, and you Him. They can connect a community easily and offer their part to it.
On the other hand, you have anxious adults who long for complete and total intimacy with others—you might call them clingy. They are concerned that they value their relationships more than the person to whom they are relating values them. They might get worried at an unreturned text message or phone call. These people might be devoted to Jesus earnestly, while never believing He’ll love them back because their primary caregiver didn’t. These earnest members of our community might not believe that the community reciprocates their love back.
There are fearful-avoidant people who want close relationships but fear they will be hurt if they are engaged in them. They are afraid of making commitments, or once they do, they might flee at the first sign of danger. They suppress their feelings, and often limit intimacy. They have negative views of their relationships. These might be people that are close to be in a relationship with Jesus, but they could be fearful about it, not sure if the deal will work, or if they are worth it. They aren’t ready to commit to a community or to a cell, but sometimes behave like they want to.
The dismissive-avoidant people think that self-sufficiency is ideal. They don’t want to attach to anyone and they think relationships are unimportant. They often look down at their partners and think they are much better than they are! God, on the other hand, isn’t for them at all—and Christians? They are even worse. Connection at all is challenging—even being at a PM or a cell isn’t really an option. (Thought they might listen to the podcast.)
In summary: secure individuals value themselves and others, anxious one don’t value themselves but do others, fearful ones neither value themselves or others, and dismissive ones value themselves but not others. You can probably relate to all of these to some extent—no need to put yourself into the clinical boxes.
Here are three ways we can overcome these problems that have found us.
I think we need to realize that the God that the Psalmist writes about in Psalm 139 is really the perfect parent.
If you look at the narrative of the Old Testament one thing you’ll find is that God advocated for the nation of Israel, loved them, defended them, and cared for them. And Israel responded in many ways like insecure people do, with fear, reluctance and arrogance.
But I think we really need to look at our perfect creator and know that he has perfected parenthood. May parents realize that he is our ultimate model—and may we realize he is the ultimate healer, too.
I think the next step has everything to do with honor. It’s in the Old Testament and Paul reemphasizes it in Ephesians. Let’s honor our parents. Acknowledge the good they did for us—and be conscious about that. If we just make our image of them black and white, we might not get anywhere.
Paul goes even further in the pastoral epistle of 1 Timothy. He makes the argument that not providing for your children—and we can graduate this beyond materially in this day in age, but also emotionally—is a vile sin! Paul says they’ve defiled the faith and the perfect parent.
It’s OK to develop some righteous anger toward Mom and Dad and others.
But don’t end it there. Soften your heart. Speak the truth in love. Forgive your parents. I think that that’s the right thing to do to reconcile our attachment issues with Jesus. When the disciples asked Jesus how much they should forgive their transgressors, Jesus replied by saying endlessly. Our parents are no exception to the rule, in my opinion.
Only Jesus can really restore us. And only in serving Him will we find our fullness that exceeds the “clinical well-being” that is so often the end of the road for much of our trouble with attachment. Jesus takes a firm stance, connecting with the Heavenly Father and service to him before he even acknowledges his earthly brothers and mother.
In this passage, Jesus is having a hard time with the conservative Jews called the Pharisees. They want to resist the Hellenization of Israel and want to loyally follow the Hebraic tradition. They claim that Jesus is demon-possessed, that he’s violating the Sabbath laws and so he offers an aggressive response to anyone that’s gets in the way of his ministry.
The lesson that we learn from Jesus is that no matter what, kith or kin, we need to follow Jesus in a way that supersedes all other relationships. Our lives are about following and serving Jesus, and if we stop doing so because of relational of familial conflict, we might not be serving him as radically as he compels us to.
Not only that, though, our involvement in our community gives us another chance at family. It can show us that people do care for us and love us. It gives us grace and the ability to restore or strengthen our relationships with our families of origin. I hope we can love each other in a way that helps us see Jesus, who is in us and motivating us, as the perfect parent. I hope we can lead each other that way too! I hope we can be sensitive to where we come from and graciously relate.