When relationships change
October 1, 2008, 4:55 pm
Filed under: denomination, emerging church, family, friends, spiritual formation

In odd moments when I haven’t been just chaotically busy lately, I’ve been reflective about change.  If I could have seen the 2008 version of me ten years ago, I’m not sure I would believe my eyes.  Ten years ago I was in my late 20s, and settling into what I thought at the time was a pretty stable life period – married a couple years, finishing grad school, home owner, rising through the ranks of church leadership on my way toward being a professional Christian, etc.  Definitely doing my part to fulfill the supposed American dream. 

I don’t have time to go into the countless shifts that have taken place since then.

The thing about all this change that has me reflective, though, is the ways in which some significant relationships in my life have become strained.  Some are strained because of differences in theology/doctrine.  Some are strained because of differences in praxis.  Some are strained because of differences in politics.  Some are strained because of differences in culture.  To be honest, some of these relationships are well beyond just strained – they’re hanging by a thread.

The cold reality of all this is that in a manner of speaking, it’s all my fault.  It’s not the other people that have changed so much, it’s me.  Everyone changes and shifts over time, to be sure, but I’ve done quite a bit more than my quota, and I know that’s caused some pain to people I care about.  They don’t enjoy spending time with me, they sometimes feel as though I’m too negative, too cynical.  They try to work with me, and I just don’t go along with the plan very often.  I ask annoying questions, push back on assumptions, make overly stringent opinionated statements.  Not the kind of stuff I used to do.

To complicate things even further, I have to say that I really have no plans to go back and undo these changes, or do what it would take to fix these relationships.  Sure, I can (and should, and may actually consider some day) be a bit less cynical, a lot more hopeful, and perhaps even more of a team player in certain circumstances.  But really, all I have to offer is incremental change, and some of these relationships are in need of serious rehab.  It’s just not likely to happen – not unless they change in my direction, because I’m not going back.  That sounds really arrogant, but it is what it is, I guess.

I happen to know from dozens of conversations with co-conspirators that I’m pretty normal in this regard.  Heck, compared to some friends, I have a dream team of relationships.  So what are we to do with all of this?  I and others might disagree, but in Shane Claiborne’s words, how can we find the space to “disagree well” with each other?  No matter how right I think I am and how wrong I think others are, they’re still brothers and sisters in the Kingdom.  I’m called to love and serve them, not blast them and make their lives difficult.  I’m not expecting things to be smooth sailing – just a way of communicating love and respect, even if we don’t see eye to eye.

Ultimately it comes down to how valuable the relationships are, and how much effort we’re willing to make to preserve them.  Any thoughts on this?


3 Comments so far
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Growing relationships is my specialty regardless of religious orientation. People are people. My question to you is before you speak, can you think about how you can achieve a win-win situation? Please see my blog on Love Your Journey at http://www.sherrieh.wordpress.com as I try to have people grow their relationships and improve their love for one another. Sending many blessings and prayers your way!

Comment by sherrieh


Your words and experiences resonate with me in huge ways! I too have gone through tremendous change over the years and find myself unsure if some of my friendships will last. I’ve often questioned whether or not the changes were worth it since my intention would never be to damage relationships…

I’ll always remember what a good friend said to me while I was in struggling with all this. He said…”you’re not the crazy one.” It was funny, and a bit cynical…but I found it to be very comforting as well.

I for one, am glad for your journey, otherwise I’m not sure our friendship would have developed. You challenge me to keep pursuing change…that’s a good thing!

Comment by rexhamilton

First, I’m not even sure how I ended up reading this blog/post. But I’m here and I’m interested. You have to love the interwebs.

Second, I guess where you land on this depends on how important you find the strained relationships to be. Personally I’m not sure that theology or doctrine or orthodoxy are worth scuttling relationships over. Sure, what you believe is important but only so far as it informs the way you live.

Someone told me, in reference to disagreements with my wife, that I could be right and alone or be wrong and continue to have a wife. That’s not to say that you should be spineless and give in all the time, but in the interest of preserving relationships you should choose you battles carefully. Every hill is not the one to die on.

Loving God and loving others isn’t easy and it definitely looks different for everyone. I guess if we had it down then faith would be unnecessary.

Comment by jwiese

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