In the last few years I’ve really struggled with this word “Relationship” as it relates to Jesus. When I think of relationship I think of spending time together, talking, mutual advice, chatting about anything and nothing, seeing each other, a shoulder to cry on, a friend to hug, a body to hold. In the case of a marriage relationship the word relationship includes sexual intimacy, understanding the thoughts and feelings of each other, emotional and physical protection, admiration, emotional and physical closeness and so much more. But, our relationship with Jesus doesn’t consist of those things.
Now I realize that as soon as I say those words that many will argue that all of those things are true with Jesus. Yes, we can spend time with Him; Yes, we can talk with Him…. etc. But, even the most emphatic must agree that’s it’s not the same as a true, flesh and blood, friend.
As a Christian, I think the word relationship, as it’s applied in churches and amongst Christians, implies something that most, if not all of us, feel we’re missing – something. For me, it spurs feelings of guilt.
There must be something more I should be doing to make this feel more like a relationship. Maybe I need to spend more time talking to Him. Maybe I need to spend more time reading His book. Can you imagine if I met the girl of my dream, asked her to marry me, then handed her a book and told her that everything she needs to know about me is in the book? This is the extent of our relationship, and I expect her to bury herself in the book so she knows me more and more. Read it every day, and talk to me. I’m silent, but she can speak. Sometimes I’ll speak through my spirit. Then she will truly love me – she has to love me – she reads my book – right?
If that were true, online dating would be perfect – right?
If I feel something is lacking in this relationship then I need to spend more time and exert more energy improving this relationship. After all, He hasn’t gone anywhere, He has given me everything I need, He has provided His book, He has done it all. It must be me.
That’s depressing. Often when we’ve struggled, good friends have asked us, “how’s your relationship with God?”. What does that mean? How do I answer? Does that imply that I may or may not be doing enough? Maybe that’s why I struggle because I haven’t worked hard enough at my part of this relationship?
I’m guilty of using the phrase “relationship with Jesus” or “relationship with God”. I think it’s time to re-think the terminology.
Truly, what has Jesus asked us to do while we wait for His return? Abide? Obey? Anything else?
Okay, let’s come at this from another angle.
Jesus calls us His bride. He is returning for a pure and spotless bride. Much of his Last Supper conversation uses marriage proposal language. In the tradition of Jesus’ day the groom would propose to the girl; then, if she accepts, he will go back to his father’s house and prepare a house for his bride. Then, on the day appointed (could be months or even years), he would return for his bride. Often the bride would not even know what day he would return. She would always be watching and listening. He would return, often blowing trumpets, certainly with all the noisy music he could muster, to marry his bride and take her back to his home.
“Relationship” in this context is probably the wrong word. Yes, they’re engaged, betrothed in their terminology, but she might not know him at all. That day, when the father of the bride and the father of the groom made an agreement, and the boy proposed to the girl, it might be the first time they ever met each other. They certainly didn’t date or court, or have a relationship. He proposes. She accepts. He builds a home for them. She prepares herself to be a bride. He ultimately returns for her. – Then the relationship begins. There will be, in their tradition, a wedding ceremony, a party, and a consummation; then they will live happily ever after – as a relationship where they can spend time together, talking, mutual advice, chatting about anything and nothing, seeing each other, a shoulder to cry on, a friend to hug, a body to hold, intimacy, understanding the thoughts and feelings of each other, emotional and physical protection, admiration, emotional and physical closeness and so much more.
Is it possible the true relationship with Jesus starts after He takes us home? Is it possible that we are currently betrothed or engaged or could we even use the words “bought with a price”? Then, if we view this relationship as an engagement, or commitment to be married, then this changes our perspective on our relationship. Now I’m trusting Him. I’m waiting for Him. My life belongs to Him. I am not free to enter into worldly or unhealthy activities. I must prepare myself to be a bride, by learning how to please my groom. By keeping myself pure, clean, and ready for His return. Now I can simply abide and obey. Now I can look forward to a true relationship.
Considering that, it would be normal to feel that something is missing in my “relationship”. Certainly, a lot is missing. That’s true of any bride waiting to marry her groom. Waiting in anticipation of the day when their relationship is consummated. Waiting for more closeness, more intimacy, more understanding. My relationship with Jesus isn’t complete yet. Not even close. Yes, we’ve met. He has given me his marriage proposal. He has given me His life, His blood, and His promise. I have accepted His proposal. I have promised my life. But relationship?
In my Father’s house are many mansions (dwelling places); if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.