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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “The Maud Couple”

As Pinkie Pie demonstrated so succinctly in this episode, for most of us there will always be that one person or individual in our lives we just don’t “get”. I almost think it’s easier in some cases for a Christian to love a complete stranger than someone they actually know a little, because then they start noticing things about them that seem “off”, that are contrary to their own preferences, that clash with their own personality, or that just plain get on their nerves. Maybe it’s something they did, something about their background, some personality quirk, or their choice in hobbies, but each of us have some individuals in our lives to whom we just fixate on the negative. Even if we want to be nice and polite to everyone, these are the people where we constantly seem to look for fault or annoyance in their actions and words, and we can’t ever see walking up to us without feeling just a tiny bit uneasy or uncomfortable inside.

And, for my family as well as Pinkie Pie, no more often does this one person or individual seem to arise than in someone we know’s choice in a relationship.

In my own family, we’ve had numerous outings or get-togethers in which individuals were invited to welcome their respective boyfriends/girlfriends/significant others, only for things to get uncomfortable when said individuals begin to interact with everyone. Sometimes it’s from a legitimate bad habit that we find hard to ignore. Sometimes it’s just an unreasonable fixation that isn’t really fair. Sometimes it’s like in this episode–an individual who is the sort that only a select few are able to connect with and whose behavior can be alienating or strange to others, which is certainly true for many people.

Sometimes, however, it’s something that’s a bit more legitimate cause for concern. Perhaps the individual in question has a bit of a “checkered” past, especially with their own former boyfriends and girlfriends. Perhaps they come from a very different background than the family member or friend in question. Perhaps that same background also means they have much different values from those of the friend or family member.

And for the Christian, there is a special concern that comes when seeing a friend or family member who is also Christian pairing up with a nonbeliever.

In modern US society and culture, the whole fairy tale idea of “love conquers all” is still heavily espoused and endorsed, with the idea that any couple can stay together so long as their love is strong and true. As a result of that, we have record divorce rates in this country; indicating exactly what happens when decisions are made based solely on a feeling that people weren’t sure would grow colder with time. It’s not one of the more popular messages from the Bible and probably one that many Christians think can be ignored, but it does clearly say: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14)

Without going around pointing fingers at all non-Christians and shouting “Wicked!” and “Darkness!”, it’s a fact that a practicing Christian and a non-Christian in the same relationship will probably run into some friction at some point. Christians are called to abstain and refrain from a great number of behaviors and interests that we see as immoral, impure, or unrighteous that non-Christians don’t have to worry about. Many also have a devotional life of which Church attendance is regular that might not sound too appealing to a non-Christian. On the other hand, non-Christians who are agnostic or atheistic might excuse themselves from much of the life practices of the Christian partner as a way of compromise, but they’ll still be a constant exposure to a non-Christian way of living and likely have to constantly hear about things they don’t (or won’t) believe in from their partner. And if the non-Christian happens to be a follower of a different religion, that creates tension of an entirely different sort if both members of the relationship are regularly practicing. That’s to say nothing of the issues that might arise in regards to shared use of money, time and talents, what should and should not be allowed in the house, how to raise children, how to bury dead relatives, etc.

Many Christians in a relationship with non-Christians may hold to the idea that they can be the ones who “lead them to Christ”, and I will admit that’s a distinct possibility. I feel everyone eventually feels a need to conform more to those around them whenever they’re surrounded by an alternative lifestyle or culture, whether subconsciously or consciously. However, as a Christian myself, I know that I’m often weak, and I know all Christians can fall away or slip if we’re not vigilant. “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.'” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Hence, the opposite could just as easily be true. Getting in a relationship is exposing yourself at your most intimate to someone else. In a sense, it is the most emotionally and mentally disarmed you will ever be around someone. That is why so many people are cautioned to be on guard from being lured into mentally and emotionally abusive relationships as a result of exposing themselves so much to people they barely know. However, the same also goes for a relationship being the point at which one is their most spiritually disarmed. An individual’s partner is likely the first person who will respond to them when they are at their most weak and vulnerable, and at that time their support, advice, and outlook on a problem will be the first thing they look to and rely upon. That includes who or what they look to when they feel they are abandoned by God or helpless and hopeless.

Many people, especially older individuals, understand this well and that it applies to everything; whether it be in regards to Christianity or not. As such, there can be a considerable amount of stress on seeing a friend or family member pair with someone based solely on, by all outward appearances, nothing but initial romantic affection when the individual in question seems, but all outward appearances, to be no good for him or her. And often this leads to a reprisal–with anywhere from hostility at family events; to outright banning individuals from social gatherings; to, in some cases, even going as far as to try and physically separate the two (as some parents might attempt using both legal and purely physical means).

It’s true that nothing is set in stone and that one can’t predict or prejudge how things will certainly end. It’s also true that history tends to repeat itself in most occasions and the old adage of “if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck” is also usually true. It’s also true that younger folks don’t know as much about themselves and who they are (much less other people and what they need out of them) as they would like to think…which is why most youngsters are encouraged to date rather than settle down with their first crush as a life partner. However, it’s also true that you can’t control other people and they need to make their own mistakes, and trying to force someone into a situation where someone else makes their decisions for them, including in their relationships, will only make things worse in the long run–especially if it incites rebellion or opposition.

Taking all of that together, I ultimately believe that if you are in a position where you see a loved one getting into what appears, by all accounts, to be a bad relationship headed for disaster that it is perfectly acceptable to talk out in a calm and rational manner why you think it’s a bad idea and to even set some boundaries about behaviors that will not be condoned or supported if they are engaged in (provided there is proper justification). Yet once all of that is done, I believe it’s foolishness to try and physically stop one individual from being with another. That only breeds resentment, anger, and defiance; even if most people would see the move as perfectly justified. As painful as it may be, there comes a point where we should stand aside and let an individual make their own choices, whether they end up as successes or mistakes.

It is, after all, ultimately an individual’s own responsibility to take charge of who they let in and out of their life–not anyone else’s. Part and parcel with that is also learning to understand and care for oneself emotionally and to realize what they need and why they are attracted to the people they long for.

For the rest of us, once we’ve laid out our case, all that’s left is to “let go and let God”; perhaps praying that whoever we’re feeling standoffish about ends up being just another Mud Brier.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you that even when I see those I love around me entering into what I feel is a dangerous or destructive situation, especially with someone else, that you are still in control. Help me to trust to always put my faith in you first. Please deliver me from all my irrational fears and prejudgments, and for all my rational and justified fears please help me to convey to all those I love my care and concern for them in a loving, Christ-like manner, and then to commit them to you with total faith and trust. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”