Estranged

Relationships are funny things.  Yes, funny “ha ha” when things are going great, but also funny “living nightmare” when things become incredibly broken.  Most relationships of any value sway slightly within the two extremes, hopefully more on the “ha ha” side.

There are fewer energizing, life-giving moments in life than getting together with good, close friends, sharing laughs, sharing pain, sharing life.  A few short hours with a good friend can give you enough emotional fuel to keep you going for days and weeks.

On the other side, nothing can suck the life out of you faster than an angry exchange with someone you are closest with.  Vulnerability and intimacy brings either wonderful joy or painful wounds.  That is the nature of intimacy, it makes us open and vulnerable to both.

Unfortunately, when unresolved brokenness forms in a relationship , we become estranged.  Estrangement is fertile ground for disappointment.  And disappointment will further drive a wedge in the relationship.  Communication is a common casualty.

If the relationship is a healthy one, conversation may come naturally, or spontaneously, and likely easier.  Personality plays a part obviously.  Some are more vocal and extroverted while others can be more quiet and introverted.  It is important to recognize these differences, as an introvert’s silence may not mean there is something wrong.  Likewise, in people who are more extroverted, their talkativeness may not mean that everything is alright.

Even in good relationships, there will be issues and contentious moments of disagreement or disappointment.  Regardless if a relationship is bent or broken, I suspect that satisfying conversation will only happen at the depth of the level of the unresolved issue.  Conversation left at a shallower level, or surface talk, will seem mostly empty.  In other words, unless the issue is resolved, we are left unsatisfied in the relationship.  We may not always be able to make this connection right away.  If we do, the alternative to “go there” at the level of the disappointment may be too intimidating or too painful for some.  At this point, we become stuck; unsatisfied, but unwilling to do what it takes to make it right.

I believe this is why some of us are not eager to go to prayer.  Prayer is a conversation, our communication with God.  If there is any disappointment in our relationship with God, we may hesitate to pray because we know that God is likely waiting for us at the level of disappointment; where our wound is.  I have a feeling that in these cases, God is little interested in surface level conversation with us.  Also, for us to pray above the level, about Aunt Susie’s reoccurring bunion or even for world peace will seem shallow and unsatisfying.  So, God waits for us.

We avoid Him.  I suspect that if we were honest, most of us feel this way to some extent.  But why?  Disappointment can affect our relationship with God in active and passive ways.

Is it because we are disappointed with God?  Do we feel He has let us down?  In church we are told from a very young age that God will never let us down.  The Bible indicates this.  We understand this with our head, but does our heart agree?  If He does not disappoint us, why do I feel so disappointed?  This will keep us from going to prayer.

Or perhaps we avoid prayer because somewhere along the line we have adopted the thinking rather that God is disappointed in us“Why would God want me to pray?  I am not someone God wants to talk with.  I’m a disappointment to Him.”  It is likely that you have never said those words out loud, but very possible that you have thought those words, or felt those words, or acted those words through hesitation to pray.

In either case, because of disappointment we become estranged from God.  It is so important for us to know that as we go through life, we understand and accept the truth about God’s heart for us.  Can we take some comfort from the life of Peter?  In Matthew 16, Peter declared Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God.  However, he also said ten chapters later that he would never leave or deny Jesus, which he ended up doing a few hours later.

What could be more disappointing for the Lord than one of His closest disciples leaving Him in His greatest need, and then denying he ever knew Him?  In Luke 22, it records that as soon as Peter denied Jesus three times, their eyes locked onto one another.  How gut-wrenching would that have been?  To let down your friend, your Rabbi, but also your recently confessed Lord and Messiah, the Son of the Living God?  The Bible says that immediately Peter ran and wept bitterly.

If anyone had a reason to avoid God, it was Peter.  That is kind of what he did.  Peter returned back to work on the fishing boat, back to his old life.  Probably not a day went by where he was not haunted by the look in Jesus’ eyes.  That all ended one day in John 21.  A risen Jesus appears to them while they were fishing.  He performs the same miracle of overload fish that He did the first time they met.  Over breakfast, Jesus turns to Peter and invites him to come to the level of disappointment.  Jesus asks Peter a question, “Do you love me?”.  Peter was hurt when Jesus asked him this question the third time, the same number of times that Peter denied knowing Him.  Jesus wasn’t being cruel.  Jesus was dealing with it, smack dab in the place of disappointment.

It may be painful to “go there” in the moment, but if we are willing to do it, healing in our relationship can take place.  Jesus had every reason in the world to be disappointed in Peter, but He wasn’t.  I suspect the same is true about how Jesus looks at me, and you.  He isn’t disappointed in us, but He is waiting in that place for us to meet Him in prayer to make things right.  If we are willing, then satisfaction in prayer will come again.  Not only satisfaction, but also that energizing, life-giving joy that comes from a healthy relationship with God.

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