We recently finished a series about Jonah and why he was so resistant to telling someone else about God and accepting them when they repented. As we talked about, we are really no different. We resist God’s command to invite people to be in relationship with Him and resist being in relationship with other people. It is this constant tension that seems to never go away. Jonah never seemed to resolve it in his own life.
There are a lot of reasons why connecting with new people creates tension in our life. The fact that we are a single person with a finite amount of time and energy is a limiting factor for each of us. There are several other reasons that we struggle to even acknowledge or either simply choose to avoid. The command to love people and be in relationship with them is clear. Here are a few reasons why we resist.
We already have relationships
Most of us already have relationships in our life. We have family relationships, work relationships, community and interest relationships along with our faith relationships. Some of these relationships require a lot of our time and energy. Some of these are necessary for us to have a functioning life, especially family and work relationships. Adding more people to our circle seems unnecessary and maybe even feels like a burden. Not only are we limited by time, each relationship takes a certain amount of emotional and mental capacity as well. It may feel like we are taking away from the people close to us by sharing this precious commodity with new people. A life full of relationships causes us to question the need for new ones.
They hurt us (or remind us of someone who did)
People hurt people. There is no way to remove all of the pain and struggles of relationships. When someone has hurt us, we find it difficult to move on and be in relationship with them. That was probably one of Jonah’s objections. Nineveh had oppressed his country and most likely he resented that and wanted them punished. Even when we forgive, we still struggle to reconcile or find restoration in the relationship.
We are not only resistant to people who have hurt us, we tend to reject people that remind us of someone who hurt us. Sometimes this is generalized to people of a certain gender or race while other times it is more personally directed to friends or acquaintances of people who have hurt us. Usually it is because it triggers us to remember the pain of a particular situation. It could be someone’s personality that does this, another person’s profession or a myriad of other things. Learning to trust others and be in relationship with them in spite of our past pain and hurt is critical to us becoming more like Christ and fulfilling the mission we have been given.
We are scared
Getting into new relationships comes with a certain amount of fear. Fear of what they are going to be like. Fear of what they are going to think of us. Worries about how much time it may consume and how it may affect other relationships. All relationships require a certain amount of trust. Trust requires us placing faith in someone else and how they will treat the relationship. This has to be done without any promises or guarantees of how this will turn out. It also means others may learn of our shortcomings and faults and may also reveal new ones which will require growth on our part. It is natural to be fearful when entering into new relationships. It is only by exposing ourselves and overcoming that fear that we find some of our greatest fulfillment in life: strong relationships with others.
People are weird
Yes, including you. People have quirks, oddities, habits, personality traits and other qualities that may test the limits of the best people. They may be struggling through a difficult place in their life or be caught in a web of trouble that threatens to envelop you. They may do life exactly opposite of the way you do it. They may have the toilet paper roll go under while you believe that it must be over. They may love drama or be extremely needy. Undoubtedly they will be different from you. Most of the time when we think someone is weird what we really mean is that they are different. One of the greatest growth tools you will ever have will be to hang around some “weird” people. You might find out you have more in common than you think.
Walking into someone else’s life or allowing them into yours means that they get to bring all of that stuff and more along on the journey. Some of life’s greatest joys and pleasures happen in the context of relationship. I say frequently that almost all problems can be solved in the context of relationships. It is one of the reasons at Open Door we believe so strongly in everyone being involved in a Life Group. It opens the door for new relationships that help us grow and stretch our capacity to be more like Christ. If one of these above reasons, or some other obstacle, is keeping you from being involved in new relationships, take a 6 week challenge and be a part of a Life Group beginning October 1. You can sign up here and we will help you on the journey to overcoming your struggle to follow God’s desire to be involved in life-giving relationships.