The Risky Business of Wide Relationships

I need to be known. If I don’t, I’ll shrivel into a lonely secret. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not become a relational raisin. And yet… Blast the yets. I do such a good job at keeping people out. My default reaction is to hide behind all manner of disguises. If only I could be known without the risk of people knowing me. Rock, meet my friend Hard Place.

 Exposed

I recently shared my story with a small group of men in my community group. It wasn’t the smooth, gleaming story we relay at parties. It was the one with the dark, morbid bit in the middle. The one laced with redemption.

The final shards of narrative fell from my mouth and the room grew dense with suspense. “What will they think? Do they see redemption? Or humiliation?” I had just exposed a part of me. I’d revealed a chink in my armor. I had traced the curling (and humbling) path of sin and salvation.

Did I just hand over a blueprint to terrorists? Or a map to explorers? Destruction or depth?

You can breathe. I’ll tell you. It wasn’t the former. I’ve got something special with these men. It’s the very thing that blows open the rock and digs a hole through the hard place.

 Rocky Needs a Hug

What kind of relationships do you have? Are they narrow, or wide? Narrow relationships are safe, protected, and tragically shallow.

Step into the arena and see the two half-naked men prancing around the fenced-off square with big gloves. These guys have a relationship. But it’s not a wide relationship. That left hook proves it. Ouch.

Gloves up. Guard the face. Don’t let him in. These boys aren’t about to go in for a chat and a man-hug.

Step back into the room with me and the boys. My gloves are down, and so are theirs. We’ve got a secret: we know that there’s no left-hook coming. Trust brings the gloves down. Trust makes us breath deeply. Trust gets us to open up.

Because, if we’re honest, we don’t want to live behind the gloves. It’s lonely back there.

 What’s Controlling You?

James Gruenewald once told my class, “What we choose to hide from trustworthy individuals will control our lives.” I like this. What I hide from trustworthy people shapes my life because I have to frenetically defend myself at every conceivable angle. And the more I have to hide, the more I look ridiculous. I mean, just picture the boxer trying to shield his entire body with those fluffy gloves. See him balled up in the corner? Ok, you can stop staring. It’s not polite.

We become relational contortionists, bending and twisting ourselves beyond recognition lest our friends see who we really are. But what does that do for us? It leaves us with cramps and looking pretty awkward.

 Trust. Worthy.

Of course, it’s important that we read that whole sentence. We’re talking about hiding from those worthy of our trust. Trust in gospel-community is manifestly not the same thing as exposing our dirty laundry to the world-at-large. Jerry Springer is for exposing our dirty laundry to the world-at-large. The church is not a midday circus show.

Who is worthy of trust? Fraudsters and friends both want to know us. But one wants to rob us blind. Trust is not stupidity. No boxer brings Starbucks and good conversation into the ring.

 Risky Business

That said. I’d bet my dinner that our main problem isn’t knowing who to trust. It’s simply…trusting. Pulling the trigger. Stepping off the high dive. This trust business sounds risky. Well, it is. We’re letting our gloves down, after all.

But until we let our gloves down, we’ll never get much room for breathing. We certainly won’t taste the grace and welcome of those who know grace and welcome (Rom. 15:7). And we can bid empathic mercy, self-sacrificing love, burden-bearing and friends-for-walking-through-the-dark-valleys a sweet and lonely “adieu.”

Sounds like a safe bet.

Sounds like a lame bet.

Narrow relationships are wonderfully safe, in a malnourished and imprisoned sort of way. And wide relationships are gloriously risky, in a step-to-the-edge-of-the-Grand-Canyon-and-whoop-for-joy kind of way. Wide relationships draw out the hard things, so life-giving words might be spoken. Wide relationships invite intercession. Wide relationships find strong shoulders to lean on.

The caverns of our souls can quickly become dangerous echo chambers that warp our grasp on reality and dim our view of the gospel. True gospel-community (wonderfully wide and built on trust) cracks open the crypts and breathes truth and light inside. True gospel-community applies the healing salve of the gospel to the deep wounds which are too long untreated. True gospel-community shines the beauty of Jesus into dark chambers that have long since forgotten what this beauty looks like (more on this next post).

So. Take a risk with me?

 
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