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Relationships Are A Two Way Road? Really?

Posted Feb 03 2009 12:07am

Exploring Relationships

Yeah, I know, we've all heard it before.  Relationships are a two-way street.  Obvious! What's new? 
Well, while it is true that it takes two to have a relationship, Dividedhighway I'm thinking that maybe relationships in themselves are more like a divided highway; it does go both ways, but ultimately we have to own the responsibility for our side of it.

One of the biggest personal challenges we face as Christians is the balancing of our rights and responsibilities. On a divided highway we have two lanes to drive on.  It's our right to drive on either lane, but we also have a responsibility to be aware of where the other drivers are and what they're doing. Traffic on the other side of the divide may not be in our control, but it's in our best interest to keep our senses tuned in to what's going on over there as well.  We're constantly balancing our right to drive that road with the responsibilities of paying attention to the other vehicles that we are essentially in a relationship with while we're there on that road. Sometimes we may have to change lanes or slow down in order to be responsible drivers.  We have a right to keep going or not allow someone access, but we yield that right in order to make the traffic relationship work. Our personal relationships are no exception.  In fact, in order for a relationship to even survive, it's vital that we be willing to yield our rights.

The subject of yielding rights has a large circumference, but let's pigeon-hole it for this column and look at it through the filter of making relationships work.

They say that one of the reasons wood is such an excellent building material is because it 'gives' under pressure. Wood Now, that doesn't mean it caves in or falls apart, on the contrary; it is actually woods ability to give under pressure that makes it stronger and more resilient.  If wood were too rigid it would just split the moment a nail was driven into it. According to a post on weak and strong materials by Christopher Murphy, P.E., a Mechanical Engineer at Air Force Research Laboratory, in Newton BBS's Ask A Scientist Service, "Wood is real strong as long as the load is at a right angle to the wood fiber."  He says that if you want to split wood you go along the fiber length. In the same article, David Brandt states, "Wood has "give" to it because the fibers move out of the way when, for example, you put in a nail."  We need to remember that yielding does not mean being a door-mat or a limp, wet noodle; and conversely, being strong doesn't mean being rigid or guarding our rights. Just like the wood, we can be strong and resilient in our relationships when we're willing to look beyond ourselves and yield our right to be right.  When we yield our rights, we essentially 'move out of the way' of the nail; allowing our relationship to be solidified and strengthened. Yield-rdbt-sign-combined-1

What if we never yielded our right of way while we were driving?  "Why should I yield?", you could say, "I have the right-of-way!" That may be true, technically you do have the right-of-way. But sugar, if there's a car comin' at ya,  you're gonna be puttin' on the brakes! One way or another.

Why is it then that we have such difficulty surrendering our 'right-of-way' in our relationships?   Obviously there is a base of selfish flesh that we all have to die out to,  but there are also a myriad of additional reasons why we tend to recoil from the thought. Although the reasons are varied, they reveal a common denominator: fear.  Why are we so afraid to let go of our rights? What is it that compels us to hold onto our need to be right or have things our way?

I'm amazed by the humanistic advice we're surrounded by in our culture. The main theme seems to be 'You'd better look out for yourself because no one else is going to'.  That is such an errant way of thinking.  It's self-centered, it's contrary to the Word of God, and it spells distinct death for any relationship.

1John 4:18 says "there is no fear in love" and that "perfect love casteth out fear".  Additionally we are repeatedly commissioned to "love one another".   So if we, as Christians, follow the Word and attempt to follow the example of love Christ laid out for us, we have freedom from the fear that keeps us from thriving in our relationships.

We have a new saying in our house, "assume the best in love".  When your brother 'steals' your seat because you got up to go to the bathroom, don't get mad and hit him, assume that because he loves you he would never intentionally do that to you.  Assume that he must not have realized you were sitting there or that you were coming back.  We're in the neophyte stages of the practice, but can you see with me the strife that could be averted if we lived all of our relationships that way?  Jesus asks us to even take it a step further.  Applying His instructions from Luke 6:30, if your brother 'steals your seat' you willingly let him continue sitting there, yielding your right to have it your way, even if he did do it on purpose!  I wonder what would happen to our relationships if we all started living His way?  That instruction definitely does not go along my fiber length!

Surrender Bill Gothard told the story about having to share a room with his brother growing up.  Bill was a neat freak and his brother was not-so-much neat.  This was a constant source of strife for Mr. Bill.  He tried everything to get his brother to make his bed!  Nothing worked.  So Bill yielded his right to have his brother make his bed.  He took it a step further though and started making his brother's bed!  It wasn't long before his brother began taking the responsibility for his part of the room on himself.  Now, not every story is going to have that kind of a resolution for an ending, but it is an example of the kind of changes that can come about in a relationship when we yield our rights.

When we hold onto our rights so tightly, we are essentially telling God that we can't trust Him and that we need to keep control of things and look out for ourselves; essentially we are refusing to surrender to Him. But when we put our trust in Him and follow His word, we can let go of the fear that has us bound when we don't even realize it.  Then we can yield our right to be right and watch our relationships become even stronger as He blesses them.

Next time you find yourself with a conflict in a relationship, take a step back and see if there are rights you're holding onto.  Ask yourself why it matters so much to be right or have your own way.  What is it you are afraid of losing?  Remember to surrender your rights to the Lord and let His perfect love flow throw you and cast out the fear that has you bound.  Flex with it! It's a challenge. Try it out and just see what happens.  What have you got to lose?

Jenn Sig

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