It was the resonating voice of reality that echoed through my head as I looked outside the window on a shuttle bound for the city. I breathed a sigh as the thought repeated itself; “relationships are messy.”
There was a show on TV last Saturday night that talked about relationships – romantic relationships. And with the volley of questions and answers it seemed there were no concrete answers to anything. I don’t know. Every attempt to answer questions seemed to only bring more questions. And it’s not like the world will stop until we find those answers. No, we are left to live life with such questions hovering over our heads – dumbfounded and confused on what to do when confronted with the issue.
I paced across Krispy Kreme and saw a group of young adults engaged in what seemed to be a very serious conversation. My imagination would suggest they probably have conflicts with some members of their group, discussing their concerns collectively in hopes of coming up with a solution, or maybe just to gain agreement from their peers. I can imagine what they might be saying, “I have my concerns”, “why can’t we just do this instead?”, “I don’t understand.” The litter on their table hinted they might have been there for hours, probably talking about the same issue with the same intensity, and yet still to arrive at a conclusion.
As I was walking to the terminal, a young man passed by. He was talking to someone on the phone, his countenance rather grim and his gestures quite tensed. It could be a problem with a colleague he was working with – frustrated with his seeming apathy and disinterest in the work he does, somehow this young man is left stressed to do what his colleague couldn’t (or perhaps wouldn’t) do. He tried reaching out to no avail. He raised his concern but it was as if he wasn’t heard, and probably at that moment he was on the brink of quitting.
An old lady was sitting at the terminal. Her face was hinted with disappointment, perhaps over a relationship she thought was perfect. She recounted her younger years and traced where she went wrong in her decisions. She must have been reflecting on it for months now. Scars and bruises were on her arms and neck. She had a cane beside her, and from the looks of it she seemed to have purchased it rather recently to aid her limping right leg. Probably her limping leg was also just recently. Her bag was held closely to her chest as she waited for the bus.
A young boy, dressed in white and carrying a backpack, was sitting beside me. He had his headset on, and the volume of his music was probably at its maximum. Despite the noise of traffic, the incessant honking, the sound of engines and the ruckus of ongoing construction, I could hear what he was listening to. It was familiar. It was Simple Plans’ Perfect. His lips were moving with the melody; I can tell he was singing along with it. I wondered what else was on his playlist aside from a song about a son’s efforts to live up to his father’s expectations, and then fail.
I sat down on my office chair, closed my eyes, and thank the Lord for bringing me safely to work. And in my casual talk with God I whispered the same haunting line, “Lord, relationships are messy.” I opened my bible and read His word.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. – Philippians 2:3-4
And then it hit me. Relationships are messy because people are messy. But God didn’t mind getting His hands dirty in the mess of my life. And if I am to confess God in my life, I should also be ready to dive into the mess of relationships.
It’s not what I can get, but what I can give.
It’s not what people do (or don’t do) to me, but what I do (or don’t do) to them.
It’s not how I expect to be loved, but how I am to love them.
It’s not about me. It’s about the One whom I belong to. And He gives me these commands: to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love others as yourself.(1)
Relationships are messy because people are messy, but God doesn’t mind getting His hands dirty. And so should we.
(1) CF Luke 10:27, Matthew 22:37-40, Mark 12:30-31