Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause. Isaiah 1:17

Monday, August 29, 2011

Relationships: A Mess Worth Making... a rather brief disjointed review (as a stay at home/ home schooling mom, I'm juggling a few things as I blog)

Yesterday I finished reading Relationships: A Mess Worth Making by Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp. I kind of think it should be required reading for all humans (well, part of it anyway, but I'll get to that later.)

I love my parents a lot, and they did a lot of things right in raising me, but they really missed it when it came to teaching me how to behave in a Christlike manner in relationships. A lot of that is probably because their parents never taught them. One of my parents has been wounded a lot in life and thinks it's better to avoid the pain and mess in relationships all together. But that not how we were made, and it's not what God intends for our lives. God uses our relationships with those around us to mold and shape us us, build us up, discipline us, and teach us to be more Christlike. Having never really been taught this, I tend to suck at relationships. Enter Relationships: A Mess Worth Making.

I've always maintained that relationships are always messy because we're all sinners. In many ways, this book is great guide for navigating all the mess. It illustrates how God uses relationships in our lives and how to behave in Godly way in relationships. It has biblical and practical ideas concerning how to behave when you've sinned or been sinned against, how to seek reconciliation, what mercy looks like, what forgiveness actually is, and how to approach others dealing with difficulty (there's a lot more too!) But though the books has teaches a lot about behavior and has great advice, that's not primarily what it's about. It's about your heart. Because at the heart of every relationship problem is a heart problem. Which brings me to an important warning about what this book is not...

This book is not a program to manipuating those around you so you can acheive the relationship of your dreams (let's just be honest here, that's exactly what most relationship books are). I fact on page 11 is says:

Skills and techniques appeal to us because they promise that relational problems can be fixed by tweaking our behavior without altering the bent of our hearts.

This book addresses your own sinful heart. As such, be warned, it's a convicting read!

I can say that though it's not a program for better relationships, reading Relationships: A Mess Worth Making has improved my relationships. It's made me evaluate my heart, God's desire for my interactions with others, and how to think about others. Because it's changed me, my realtionships have been changing.

I'm not going to tell you everything in the book, because I want you to read it. Specifically, I want you to read chapters 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 12. Honestly the rest of the book seemed like filler, and rather unnecessary. But those chapters really cut to the heart, and teach so much--not only about relationships, but also about yourself and your relationship with God.

If you have parents, sibling, children, a spouse or friends, this book is for you. If you haven't any of those people in your life, this book is for you!

Relationships: A Mess Worth Making quotes C.S. Lewis several times, and I'm going to conclude with one here to give you a little food for thought:

On the one hand we must never imagine that our own unaided efforts can be relied on to carry us even through the next twenty-four hours as `decent' people. If He does not support us, not one of us is safe from some gross sin. On the other hand, no possible degree of holiness or heroism which has ever been recorded of the greatest saints is beyond what He is determined to produce in every one of us in the end. The job will not be completed in this life: but He means to get us as far as possible before death.

That is why we must not be surprised if we are in for a rough time. When a man turns to Christ and seems to be getting on pretty well (in the sense that some of his bad habits are now corrected), he often feels that it would now be natural if things went fairly smoothly. When troubles come along - illnesses, money troubles, new kinds of temptation - he is disappointed. These things, he feels, might have been necessary to rouse him and make him repent in his bad old days; but why now? Because God is forcing him on, or up, to a higher level: putting him into situations where he will have to be very much braver, or more patient, or more loving, than he ever dreamed of being before. It seems to us all unnecessary: but that is because we have not yet had the slightest notion of the tremendous thing He means to make of us.

I find I must borrow yet another parable from George MacDonald. Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurt abominably and does not seem to make sense. What oil earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of-throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1943), 173-174

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