When you think about relationships and the memories that go with them, what comes to your mind? Being a “glass-half-full” kind of gal (and slightly corny), when I think about relationships and the memories that go with them, I initially think along the lines of Barbra Streisand singing, “The Way We Were”:
Like the corners of my mind
Misty watercolor memories
Of the way we were . . . .”
I enjoy remembering childhood summers at Pismo Beach with family and how my dashingly handsome husband watched and waited as my dad guided me down the church aisle 47 years ago. I still cherish the delight that filled my heart the first time I spoke of, “my daughter”, as I walked down the hallway to the hospital nursery to retrieve her.
But if we are honest, life is not full of “misty watercolor memories” because relationships are frequently painful, confusing and confounding. At times we are tempted to isolate ourselves from God and other people to avoid that pain. The problem is that when we do, other pains emerge–loneliness and depression.
One of the things I appreciate about the Bible is how it provides glimpses into the dramatic shift that took place in our relationship with God and with others when sin replaced love in the Garden:
“When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the LORD God walking about in the garden.
So they hid from the LORD God among the trees.
Then the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
He replied, ‘I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid.
I was afraid because I was naked.’
‘Who told you that you were naked?’ the LORD God asked.”
Genesis 3: 8-11
New Living Translation
Casually fellowshipping with God, without the turmoil sin creates is difficult to imagine. But deep down, I believe it is what we long for. From the very beginning God created us for loving relationships. When sin entered the Garden and became the “new normal”, love was lost along with the deep fellowship enjoyed in the Garden. Jesus affirmed this when He responded to a question about what He considered to be the greatest of God’s commandments:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your mind’. . . .
And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
- God made us, first and foremost, for a relationship with Him.
- Secondarily, He made us for relationships with one another.
Where sin creates chaos and disunion, the basis for meaningful relationships (love) has never changed:
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us
and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
I John 4:10
In fact, truly meaningful relationships are rarely formed in a vacuum of pleasantries and ideals. The truth is that the challenges of pain and disappointment in our relationships, when addressed with God’s love and the wisdom of Scripture, provide greater opportunities for spiritual growth than anything we might conjure up for ourselves.
The wisdom and perspective offered in Romans 12 directs us to keep our priorities straight as we relate to others, even when disappointment threatens:
“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
As we dedicate ourselves to being “joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” we discover the sweeter path to His Hope and Light penetrating even the bitterest of relationships.
But what are we to do with those memories that seem to stalk us, like shadows that grow larger over a distance? The words of the Apostle Paul, written while in a stinking Roman prison cell, lends the sweetness of wisdom that has transformed even the most heinous of memories for two thousand years:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”
Feeling defeated by sin and yearning for love? Are you stuck in a prison cell of unforgiveness? Perhaps you have been hurt and feel forgotten? Are you frustrated with life and your relationships? Perhaps you are so filled with regrets that you can see no way of making things right? Then follow the wisdom of Scripture and the law of loving sacrificially by trusting and honoring God in the NOW. Repent of the selfish turmoil that has overtaken you and give thanks to God for His love and mercy extended through the sacrifice of His only Son. As you do, I guarantee that He can and will clean out the sludge of your bitterest memory as you determine to trust and walk in sweet fellowship with Him..
All to His Glory!