One thing that I love about my faith is the church community that comes with it. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without those that have embraced me as brother, son and friend. However, even with all this love and friendship, I find myself still longing for more. Sometimes it can be so hard to connect with others. I remember this frustration through high school and college. I had a lot of friends but even in their presence I would just feel lonely. I am learning that this is not necessarily a deficit on them, but more a required recalibration of my mind to accept what it means to be human with longings unmet.
The crux of my problem is often that I want to be known and understood thoroughly and completely. I want for someone to be in my head and know my thoughts before I think them and not only that but to know what I mean when I say those thoughts. I want my words and intentions to be known and even with my messed up and twisted thoughts, I want to be loved and accepted–and told that I am not yet finished. I hope I am not crazy and that their others out there who no matter how hard we try just can’t communicate and express our inmost longings.
A lot of people I know and have talked to go into marriage with an expectation that marriage is where these longings and expectations will be met. That the person they are to marry will know him/her and complete them better than any other person in the world. And that is just not true, and to be honest, if you think about it, its a little selfish to think that way. Maybe I am way off base here, but going into a relationship with the expectation that this person completes me is a little selfish and even controlling. There certainly should be mutual affection in any relationship, romantic or not, and that will be good but it shouldn’t be the goal.
I was recently reading Don Miller’s new book “Scary Close”. It is a book about relational intimacy. At the end of the book he rejects the idea that marriage relationships (or any other relationship for that matter) should be based on two people “completing” each other. He calls relationships like that codependency. He suggests that what is better for people is to go into each and every relationship with a deep sense of longing knowing that it will be unmet. For me, there is a deep longing in my heart and soul to be known and understood. That longing is unmet in people, but it can be and will be met by God in brief moments here and now and then forever fulfilled when He calls me home.
For the Christian, these concepts belong front and center. I heard a quote once from author Lauren Winner that goes something like this: “There is a great covenant in the Christian faith and it is not the marriage covenant.” While I don’t want to downplay the importance of marriage, I think it is important to recognize that the great covenant of the Gospel is between Christ and his church. As Christians we are asked (dare I say commanded?) to share our burdens with Christ (1 Peter 5:7) and with our communities (Hebrews 10:24-25). Marriage is a beautiful but still secondary covenant meant to draw us into the act of sharing and longing together. I agree with Lauren’s words here. Don’t be drawn in to the idea that marriage will satisfy your every longing. Only Christ and his church together can even begin to remedy the longings in our souls.
The important part of this is to realize that we are all longing for that same something. In life we will have relationships (of all sorts and not just with people but with things, ideas or pleasures) and we can go to those relationships expecting to be fulfilled and given satisfaction. Or we can go do what is harder but what I have found to be freeing. Go into those relationships with your hurts and brokenness and share it with a loving and accepting community. I think relational intimacy is just that. Its not having that person know you and complete all of your insecurities and always being there. There are aspects where that is true I think. But it is far more and in many ways far less than that too. Relational intimacy is simply being with someone who you can share the longing with. It is a beautiful thing when we can share our longings with others.
This switch has helped me in a lot of different ways. For most of my life, I have been searching with the expectation that I will find a wife who we will complete me and make me happy. Poor girl! That is a lot of pressure and expectation to fulfill! Even if I get married, she won’t be able to satisfy my deep longings. No man or woman can be expected to do that. Instead of focusing on that I have decided that what I do need is a community around me who chooses to share longings, hurts, desires and brokenness with each other. It is tough work, and often messy with a lot of vulnerability mixed in. Rarely does it go according to plan, but I am starting to get a glimpse of it as I am invited, loved, cherished and accepted. Not as someone who is expected to complete anyone else but is only expected to be me–and in return, it has allowed me to see others as not some sort of puzzle piece in my plan for self actualization, but as unique “others” complete with the image of God. Fearfully and wonderfully made.
If you are a Christian are you engaging (not just attending) a church? Are you bound to their success and them to yours? Are you sharing life, both with resources (yes, even our money) and vulnerability? Are you assisting as well as being assisted by your Christian community? If the answer is no or unsure then I would challenge you to engage more and more with the believers that are around you. I have found that it is the most important and healthy thing a person can do.