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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Good Morning God

This morning I awoke at 3:45 AM and couldn't get back to sleep. And as I lay there in a semi-conscious state, this rather odd question kept filtering to the fore: "How does covenant shape our social interaction with others?"

Huh??? (Yeah I know, it's bizarre - but then again, so am I. It all made perfect sense at the time. Run with me on this).

In a flash of insight, I realized that any kind of relationship requires some form mutuality, some form of interpersonal commitment (I'm calling it "covenant" for lack of a better term) in order for people to actually engage with one another at a heart level.

Here's an example. When I am "friends" with someone, there are certain things that I can say and do around them that I wouldn't do around anyone else. I can wear what I want, say what I think, scratch where it itches... Why? Because being "friends" implies some kind of informal commitment to accept each other regardless of behavioral foibles.

Up to a point. You see, "friends" is a low-grade covenant. "Best friends" might be one notch higher, followed by "boyfriends/girlfriends", "brothers", "blood-brothers." You get the idea.

To get a higher level of acceptance, you need a covenant with a higher level of commitment. The higher the commitment, the more "myself" I can be with someone, the more I can actually open up and give them my heart without fear of rejection. And that's the basis for relationship - where we can both be ourselves.

If covenant funds relationship, I wonder how far you can go?

So my mind started walking up that ladder. I have had a handful of very close friends in this life, but I can only go so far in giving them my heart - cross the wrong line, you exceed the tensile strength of the relationship and things fly apart. For example, I could tell a buddy I was attracted to a woman; but if that woman was his wife, it would probably be disastrous for our relationship. The covenant category "buddy" just can't handle that level of honesty about my sin.

So we all start looking for stronger categories - society creates "contracts" and "taboos"; religion gives us "priests." True Christianity gives us "the body" and "brothers in Christ", which (when they work) are some of the strongest covenant commitments I know - I've told Ryan things I've never told any other person except my wife. And "Spouse" (when it works) is even stronger, because the level of commitment is ratcheted even higher through a legal contract with both God and men as witnesses. I have told Marilyn stuff about me that would make even Ryan blush.

But guess what? I can still only go so far. No matter how strong the brotherhood, how strong the marriage, you can always find a point where the other person just can't deal with the blackness of your heart, or they would bail. So you always end up holding something back, shielding the real you to keep from getting hurt. And that means our relationship is limited too.

But what if I wanted to truly give my heart to someone, no holds barred. Every stinking ounce of me, just as I really am - and not have them shrink away in terror or rage. That would be the most amazing relationship, but what would it take to create a covenant that? A covenant that could handle the pervasiveness of my sin?

Only one thing comes to mind: the blood of Christ.

The blood of Christ, as the sign and seal of God's promise to accept me. Nothing less will suffice. That is my only hope for real acceptance. There is nothing stronger. And it's right there free for that taking...all I have to do is repent and believe.

If Christ's blood really does form the basis for a covenant that can cover any sin (cf. Heb 12:24), imagine the depth of relationship that flows from that bond. Imagine what it would be like to stand there absolutely naked before the omniscient eye of the God of the universe, and to feel no shame, to know nothing but his favor.

Now THAT is a mindboggling thought, at any time of the day. But that's precisely what I'm looking for. And its precisely what he offers.

Good morning God!


At 8:40 PM, March 15, 2005, Blogger rs said...

I like the post, but I'd like to add something...

I don't think what holds us back in human relationships is that the other person would actually bail. I think what holds us back is our fear that the other person would bail. We perceive how other people will interpret what we tell them and so we don't tell them about our sin.

Along with this fear is the fact that our sin and the other person's sin prevents us from communicating correctly. We either water down our sin to look better or flat out miscommunicate; or the other person interprets what we tell them through their view of the relationship.

There is sin all around covenant. The irony is that God has ordained sanctification in such a way that we are utterly dependent on others to grow. We need them to speak into our lives.

The other problem with this is that we use people. We make covenants to achieve something for ourselves. So, when that thing we desire from the other person might be jeopardized by our sin, we hide it to keep on getting what we want from the other person. This is why so many friendships and marriages fail.

That's my two cents. Keep telling me stuff that's black and I'll keep telling you because it is through that type of honesty that our relationship will stand the tests that are coming. I know you're a sinner, but not half of what I am. That's part of a human covenant - I know you are a whore, but guess what? I am too.

At 10:25 PM, March 15, 2005, Blogger Mark Traphagen said...

Absolutely amazing, Christian. One of those "duh, I shoulda known that" pieces. You've just awakened new worship in me for how awesome this covenant God holds me in is. Thanks.

At 5:58 AM, March 16, 2005, Blogger Christian said...

sage: Don't feel bad. I'm just figuring this stuff out too. Of course, when I shared this with my wife, she was like "Duh. I've known that for years!" (Note to self: Listen to my wife more!!!!!) :-)

rs: Yeah, I hear what you are saying. One of the things which I _didn't_ flesh out was the fact that as Xians, the covenant we have in X ("superglue") actually starts rubbing off on our other relationships as well, strengthening them as well. So the more I grow in faith in X, the more that enables me to actually "bear" in my relationships with others. I can handle being wronged, and still love them.

Now, I will never do that as perfectly as God does for me, but that's the trajectory which I think you are getting at in your comments up above. Just because our human "covenants" are fragile and weak doesn't mean they have to be.

At 5:31 AM, March 17, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Imagine what it would be like to stand there absolutely naked before the
omniscient eye of the God of the universe, and to feel no shame, to know
nothing but his favor"

Would we know only his favor? I mean with all I have done in my life, I
still find it hard to believe that all will be overlooked and forgiven (my
doubts creeping in again). I know that in Christ I am forgiven, yet I will
continue to sin. As I learn about Christ I find more sin that I was unaware
of. How can he look at us with favor? I constantly catch myself now
doing/saying things that I immediately have to ask forgiveness for. This is
a very complicated subject for me. Wouldn't my level of commitment to God
have to be equal to his commitment to me in order to have this covenant? If
that's the case I'm in big trouble. I feel farther away from him during
these times, and kind of panic. What do you think?



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