Thursday, January 24, 2008

Relationship: The Need to Control

The need to control is something that is ingrained in our psyches from the time that we are born. It is the one human endeavor that is sure to fail, yet it is the one to which we dedicate much of our time, energy and resources.

This is magnified in our relationships. But what is behind this tendency? Why is it that generation after generation programs this characteristic into its children without question and without challenge?

The key is found in the simple fact that most of our relationships are based on fear. In the amazing little book The Mastery of Love, Don Miguel Ruiz asserts that 95% of our relationship is based on fear and only 5% is based on love.

This astounding fact led me to consider the truth of this statement and to ask what is the root of this tree of manipulation that springs up in our relationship and bears fruit of anger, bitterness, hate, shame and guilt?

What I found was life-changing. Disrespect is the root of the human condition of controlling.

I first disrespect myself when I seek to control my life, my circumstances and my efforts. In this case, I fear failure. I fear that I am not enough and that my skills, abilities, aptitudes and efforts are not and will not be enough.

I disrespect my partner when I seek to control him or her. I mistrust (another fruit of fear) him. I don't believe that he has the skills, abilities, and intelligence to make the "right" choices for his life.

I disrespect my co-workers when I seek to control them. This is evident in the workplace by the need for consensus thinking--the need to persuade others to see my perspective. Because I do not believe that I am enough, I need others to affirm my point of view and the reasoning behind my choices.

The root of disrespect is dangerous and never produces happiness, peace and love. Its fruit is rotten, and soon the rot spreads to all parts of our lives.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Authentic Relationship

What is an authentic relationship? Is it vulnerability? Transparency? Good communication? Clear expectations? These are sometimes considered components of proper relationship, but I believe the bedrock of a proper relationship is something altogether different. The truth might surprise you.

Relationships make up our human experience. We have relationships with every person in our lives; yet we also relate to animals and things, as well as, our environment.
Why is it then, that most of us have such unhealthy habit patterns when it comes to the relationships that make up our lives?

It is because we have learned to relate according to a certain pattern. We have been conditioned to interact with one another in a specific way and according to specific codes of conduct.

Sadly, most of us go through the same patterns over and over again, and still we lack awareness of our own behavior. Even if we are self-aware, we often lack the experience, example and models that are required to produce happiness through healthy and fulfilling relationships. Because of our desire to feel love and be connected, we seek safety and fulfillment in another person. And so we take our same pattern of habits into the highly emotionalized environment of a romantic relationship. We do our best, but obstacles soon show up, and because we do not have the proper experience, practice and tools, we become bogged down in the battle to overcome the obstacles and make the relationship "work."

Soon, the challenges we face are so overwhelming and we are so emotionally invested in the relationship that we do not know where to turn or how to continue. At this point, in an effort to relieve the anxiety and stress of the relationship, we retreat—either by actually leaving the relationship or by withdrawing into ourselves and putting up barriers to protect ourselves. This is not the path to authentic relationship.

How can we begin to become aware of our patterns and change our habits when there are so many barriers within us? It is impossible. In my experience, authenticity starts with the relationship between the soul of man or woman and their Creator. Only, then can one have a proper relationship to self. When you and I are in proper relationship with the Source of life, then we can develop a proper sense of relationship to self.

We learned to relate to everything in our world by the training of those around us and by our own experience. You have the choice to craft your own life when it comes to relationships, but you must learn these new principles in the same way—exposure to them and application of them.

Over the next several posts, I plan to blog about the keys to authenticity in relationship. All of these principles, I have learned from others, but they do come from my own experience as well. Take a look at these thoughts and see what resonates with your own understanding and experience.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"Feed My Sheep"

"Feed my sheep" is the instruction that Christ gave to the Apostle Peter in direct response to the inquiry, "do you love me?"

For centuries pastors, bishops, priests and church leaders have all interpreted this passage of Scripture.

My goal is much more simple: to apply this command to daily life. For me, personally, that is part of what this blog is all about. "Feed my sheep."

I believe Christ is commanding us to feed one another. We are sharpened when we lift up one another. We are fed ourselves when we choose to feed a brother or sister.

This is my goal here at Living With Integrity--to reach out through the Internet, beyond the constraints of time and geography or even society and feed you. And I trust that in so doing, I myself will be fed.

For the Good Shepherd promises to spread a feast before us and drape His banner above us...His banner--LOVE.

So I invite you to come to Jesus and be fed. Know that He loves you with an everlasting love. No man can pluck you from His hand. And nothing can separate you from the love of God.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Clam Chowder Christianity

The weekend of January 3-6th, I attended the national conference of the Gay Christian Network near Washington D.C. It was an amazing weekend in so many ways, and for me, it was life-changing.

There are so many impressions that remain from the week. But one in particular sticks out. During a break for the evening meal on night, several of us walked a couple of blocks from the hotel to a cozy diner.

We found a table. Actually, we pulled several together so we could all be together. As we sat down, Jay (this is an anonymous blog, so all names are changed) introduced us to an extra member of our party. "Guys, this is Miss Gladys," he announced.

I'd only met Jay the day before somewhere in the rush of registration, meeting new people and starting new friendships. He seemed like a neat guy. And we had something in common. He was in Bible college (and I had attended Bible college...ok, so it's been almost 10 years ago!). But we also had something else in common, it was the first GCN conference for both of us.

Jay is sweet and just makes you want to hug him. The love of God is evident in his smile, his life and his demeanor. After Jay's introduction, we all settled into dinner. I was at the opposite end of the table from Miss Gladys with about 10 people between us, so I didn't notice much about her. I didn't know where she'd come from, but assumed that she was a conference attendee or was somehow connected to us. She was a short woman--a slight frame under a bulky, unfitted coat. It seemed a bit dirty and she wore a stocking cap on her head.

When the server took our orders, I remembered Miss Glady's order, though now I can't imagine why. "I'll have clam chowder," she requested softly. Our food came, the conversation flowed. Before long there was a slight commotion at the end of the table, and we all looked up to see what was going on. Miss Gladys was leaving.

"Good bye," we all saluted her as she pulled on her coat.

At that moment, He showed up. He was standing there before us as a poor woman in a crowded diner. His skin was dark, and his face was weathered. He was tired. But only Jay recognized Him at the time.

"Here, take my coat," Jay offered.

"No, no. That's ok," Miss Gladys objected.

"Please. Take it. I have another at the hotel, and this one zips up," Jay insisted.

Miss Gladys took the bulky leather coat that enveloped her like a cocoon. Then she headed out into the night.

We talked about her after she'd left. I think I said something about being calloused to the panhandlers that lived near where I live. I hadn't seen it at first. But now I know He was there. It was Jesus...He was just in disguise.

"Every one is Jesus in distressing disguise." - Mother Teresa

Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, [even] these least, ye did it unto me. Matthew 25:40 (ASV)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Whosoever...Surely Means Me?

This blog has been sitting idle for almost two years. When I wrote the first post, I had intended to chronicle my journey to authenticity.

I have not done so, but there are others who have. (Check out Eric's story at Two World Collision and JJ's story at Christian, Gay and Confused. )

I have decided to resurrect this blog, however, because I have been fortunate.

I have not experienced ex-gay "therapy". I have not attempted suicide (or really ever seriously considered it). I have not lost friends and family. I have not walked away from my faith.

But my brothers and sisters have suffered too much and too long. So I must say with Christ, "suffer the little children to come..." Christ came to give abundant life. And He offers Living Water--free and without condition. He only extends the invitation.

There's an old gospel hymn that says "Whosoever surely meaneth me!" So, I start up this blog again with one purpose: to say to each one of you, no matter who you are or where you've been, "whosoever" surely means you!

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 ASV)

Thinking Outside of the Box: No Turning Back!

In business, thinking "outside the box" is a prized skill. But in the Body of Christ, thinking outside the box is dangerous.

Why is this the case?

There are two primary emotional derivatives in the world: love and fear. The Scriptures say that perfect (or complete) love casts out fear. And Christ told us that if we are not for Him, we are against Him.

As Christians, we can justify our bigotry and hatred in any manner we wish. We can use Scripture and we can use church doctrines. But the truth is that if we do not love we are not Christ's disciples.

That is difficult for us to understand. But there is a distinction between being a child of God and a follower of God. To be Christ-like, we must love. It is our imperative. We cannot say we love God and despise our neighbor.

So, thinking outside of the box as a disciple of Christ dictates that I question what I have been taught and I love the ones that the church has despised and rejected.

I am gay. I am a child of God. And I pray that I have the strength to be a disciple of Christ. I learned the simple chorus as a child and have sung it for years and years. But it means so much more when it is put into practice. God help me. God help us all.

Though none go with me, still I will follow!
No turning back. No turning back!