Where have you been? Where are you going? And why?
The sweet noises are returning. Birds. Crickets. Children’s laughter and bouncing balls down on the cul-de-sac. Praise God. The reality of redemption from the death of winter is happening. I was out on the deck enjoying it all when I heard it. That familiar buzzing sound was back, too. Looking up, the fierce little devil swooped by me on a Top Gun fly-by mission. A wasp, stinger fresh and ready, just waiting. The universal reaction flashed across my mind, “Protect yourself!” Two seconds later, the safety of the indoors surrounded me.
I think relationships work much like this. They begin beautifully, or maybe politely. Small talk, a few laughs, and an invitation to keep relating. At some point though, in each friendship, we feel threatened. It might be due our own condemning voice within, or it could be a subtle threat from the other person. Either way, our instincts are the same: Self-Protection. Self-Preservation. Don’t get hurt, or exposed. As quickly as I jump to escape the threatening hornet, I flee the tension of a relationship to guard the fearful places. Only an invitation of love and safety draws me back out.
We are meant to encourage one another daily. If we don’t do so, the concrete of sin will set and the patterns of self-protection will harden. Sin will then both define our personality and our way of handling the uncertainty and struggle for life. We are meant to be stirred daily to love and good deeds. Without that, the good food of our soul will settle to the bottom of the pot and burn.
I think you are tempted to relate to others much in the same way as me. Which means that others are too. I want to learn from this pattern, which means learning to invite others out with the encouragement that Allender suggests (above). After all, Crabb says, “Beneath every style of relating, and beneath every controversial exchange, is an energy that reflects either our fallenness or our redemption.” Too often it’s the former. It’s time to dream about the latter, which is instead self-less.
Woo and love someone out of self-protection today with invitation.