If you check out this month’s Relevant Magazine you’ll find a great article featuring Ron Sider. For those who are unfamiliar with him, Ron Sider started making waves within the North American Christian community of the 70’s and 80’s. This was primarily due to his outspoken messages on the need for Christians to rediscover the biblical teachings on justice, peace, and compassion towards the poor; values that Sider believed where almost completely off the radar of most Christians at the time. His most famous and important book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generosity, continues to influence Christians and introduce many to the importance of social justice for disciples of Jesus.
In the article, Ron Sider poses four questions to the emerging generation of Christians and church leaders. The questions emerge from Sider’s concern that while many young people are eagerly embracing the social justice dimension of the gospel (“love thy neighbour as thyself), the central themes of the Christian faith seem to be eroding. Here are Sider’s four questions:
1. Are you in danger of neglecting evangelism in your passion for social justice?
2. Are you in danger of abandoning an affirmation of moral and intellectual truth?
3. Will you honour your marriage vows?
4. As you seek to respect the dignity of gay/lesbian people, have you wrestled carefully with the Church’s teaching on homosexuality?
Thoughts? Which question(s) do you find most challenging?
After self-publishing Mere Disciple this past summer, I started putting together an official manuscript submission for Christian publishers in order to see if someone would be interested in picking it up. I discovered that all of the significant Christian publishers routinely comb through the manuscripts found at Christianmanuscriptsubmissions.com, so that’s where I started to put together my proposal.
Early into the process I decided to get some professional advice through an “author management company,” and was eventually connected to Jenni Burke from D.C. Jacobson and Associates. Part of her speciality is helping to craft quality proposals that “stick out” to potential publishers.
For the last few months we’ve gone back and forth editing and tweaking the Mere Disciple manuscript, and today all the necessary changes were formalized and the process was completed. For the next six months literary agents from the major Christian publishing houses will be able to view my proposal and decide whether or not they’d like to follow up with me.
Working with Jenni was a great experience. She was certainly tough on me at points, but she definitely took what would have been a ho-hum submission and made it something much more coherent and attractive to potential publishers. As an added bonus, my manuscript was awarded the special silver “Critiqued & Edited” badge. With thousands of manuscripts live on the site at any one time, these badges help publishers identify projects that have been professionally evaluated and deemed worthy of a publisher’s investment.
I’ve always seen Mere Disciple as a personal project and gift to the emerging leaders at Grindstone. However, it’s been extremely rewarding to hear that its influence has extended beyond Grindstone to many people (both young and old) who’ve shared with me the impact it’s had on their lives. Although it’s rough around the edges in parts, I still see an enormous potential for Mere Disciple to be a foundational resource in the lives of emerging leaders. I hope a publisher out there agrees with me and is willing to help me nurture the book’s full potential.
I’ll keep everyone updated on any rumblings that occur over the next six months.
The following is an excerpt from Mere Disciple, chapter 9.
As we invest in our relationship with God, hope becomes one of the pivotal virtues we need to be building into our lives. Few people think of hope as a virtue, but that’s what it is. Hope is more than just wishful thinking; it’s the deliberate decision to live out of the inevitable conclusion of God’s story—the complete redemption of creation. History is going somewhere, and our hope is born again when we fasten it to God’s promises and His faithfulness.
In the book of Job, a tree is used to underscore human hopelessness in the face of life’s hardships. Job was a man who understood the hardships of life. It’s not an overstatement to say that at one point he had lost everything. In the midst of his darkest times of mourning, confusion, and sorrow, Job lamented the following from the core of his heartache:
We’re all adrift in the same boat:
too few days, too many troubles.
We spring up like wildflowers in the desert and then wilt,
transient as the shadow of a cloud.
Do you occupy your time with such fragile wisps?
Why even bother hauling me into court?
There’s nothing much to us to start with;
how do you expect us to amount to anything?
Mortals have a limited life span.
You’ve already decided how long we’ll live—
you set the boundary and no one can cross it.
So why not give us a break? Ease up!
Even ditchdiggers get occasional days off.
For a tree there is always hope.
Chop it down and it still has a chance—
its roots can put out fresh sprouts.
Even if its roots are old and gnarled,
its stump long dormant,
At the first whiff of water it comes to life,
buds and grows like a sapling.
But men and women? They die and stay dead.
They breathe their last, and that’s it.
Like lakes and rivers that have dried up,
parched reminders of what once was,
So mortals lie down and never get up,
never wake up again—never. (Job 14:1–14, The Message)
Job thought that it would be better to be a tree than a human, because at least a fallen tree had a chance, however small, of coming back from the trials of this life. Our fate, Job believed, was to eventually get crushed under the weight of life and “never wake up again—never.” That’s a pretty bleak perspective.
However, we see the symbolism of the tree being used very differently within the first psalm. Instead of being a symbol of man’s lack of hope, the tree is used as a symbol of the profound hope those rooted in a relationship with God can enjoy:
Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers. (Psalm 1:1–3)
This hope-filled symbolism also characterizes Jesus’ own use of trees within his teachings. Jesus regularly used the tree as a central image within his teaching ministry (e.g., Matthew 7:17; Luke 6:44; John 15:1), and through it highlighted the importance of staying connected to his love, grace, and power. In John’s gospel, Jesus repeatedly told his disciples to stay rooted in him and his teachings:
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:1–4)
“If a man remains in me . . . he will bear much fruit.” I’m positive the disciples immediately thought of Psalm 1 as Jesus spoke those words, recognizing their rabbi was echoing the promises found there. What would have shocked them in particular was the fact that Jesus seemed to be localizing the source of Psalm 1’s blessings in himself! He is the one who causes us to thrive and flourish in our calling to be God’s image-bearers in the world—humans fully at home in their relationship to God, each other, themselves, and creation.
In light of this, Job’s lament can become a source of transformative encouragement and insight if we read it through a lens that was impossible for him: the lens that we are trees sustained by and rooted in Jesus’ life and power:
For a tree there is always hope.
Chop it down and it still has a chance—
its roots can put out fresh sprouts.
Even if its roots are old and gnarled,
its stump long dormant,
At the first whiff of water it comes to life,
buds and grows like a sapling. (Job 14:7–9, The Message)
Throughout our lives we will face many trials and hardships, but no matter what we face, no matter the forces that plot against us, in Jesus we will always have an enduring hope. To live with guaranteed hope is an incredible thing, and that is precisely what is available to us through Jesus.
It doesn’t matter what parts of us have been “chopped down” by circumstance, misfortune, or the selfish acts of others.
It doesn’t matter what places within us feel “old and gnarled” due to bitterness, regret, or shame.
It doesn’t matter what aspirations and hopes lie “long dormant” after repeated failure or disillusionment.
In Jesus we can still grow “fresh sprouts” (i.e., new beginnings). We can come back to life, budding and growing like a sapling that’s been born again. All Jesus needs is for us to stay rooted in him.
The following is an excerpt from Mere Disciple: a spiritual guide for emerging leaders.
The window between the ages of 18–25 is full of progression, and is one of the most formative stages of our lives. We experience growth throughout our lives, with each stage presenting new challenges and opportunities, but most people I know admit that these seven years are amongst the most powerful and soul-shaping. That’s because a number of factors come together to form a perfect storm that ignites a quest, a spiritual expedition bent on working through theological and philosophical questions in ways that no other stage of life affords. It’s often during these years that the following questions become urgent to resolve:
“What makes me different from my family or the people around me?”
“Am I lovable and am I capable of loving someone else?”
“Does God really love me?”
“Does God really like me?”
“What will I do with my life?”
“Do I matter?”
“Do I have something to contribute to this world that is of value?”
It’s not that these questions are necessarily new (we’ve asked many of them before), but what makes the questions different is the new vantage point we are exploring them from. The questions haven’t changed dramatically from earlier years, but we have. Socially, spiritually, physically, emotionally, psychologically, intellectually, experientially, etc., our world is expanding at an almost unmanageable pace. The result is a kind of existential vertigo—a dizzying sense of confusion surrounding what has been, what is, and what is taking shape.
During this time, we often search for clarity on the four primary worldview questions:
“Who am I?”
“Where am I?”
“What’s the problem?”
“What’s the solution?”
These questions drive us to confront larger issues of identity, personal purpose, and meaning. Getting clarity on these issues is challenging, however, because at the same time we’re bombarded by a myriad of voices offering advice, options, and opportunities—many of which are hollow and hopeless. We get distracted and derailed, and after a while it’s easy to feel as if we’re just treading water, drifting in a sea of questions, potentialities, and uncertainties.
Adding to the complexity is the deconstructive movement that often emerges during this time as well. Many of us begin to seriously question our faith, or walk away from it altogether. We unearth serious doubts and suspicions, and find that the black-and-white answers of our childhood and the glib answers of early adolescence don’t help us cope with the growing realization that the world is much more complex than first imagined. While the teenage years are often a time of physical rebellion (e.g., sex, drugs, drinking, etc.), now a kind of psychological/philosophical rebellion begins to take hold. In almost every area of our lives, we’re asking what really matters and why. We’re beginning to wonder if our lives are the result of our own intentional choices or the result of choices made for us.
This is the time in our lives when all of the struggles, all of the questions, all of the anxieties and uncertainties need to become secondary to Jesus’ call of discipleship. It’s not that the struggles and questions we face are unimportant, it’s that they’re so important that to refuse to ground them in the person and power of Jesus is reckless. Trying to figure out life on our own sounds heroic to some, but we don’t hold the answers to what we’re dealing with—Jesus does. We can run from that truth, but we need to know that if we do we’re running down a dead-end road.
To purchase Mere Disciple: a spiritual guide for emerging leaders in either paperback or eBook format, click here.
The following is an excerpt from Mere Disciple, chapter 9: A Tree of Life
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:1–4
How do you and I stay rooted in Jesus? How do we remain connected to Him so that we can experience this great life and extraordinary hope regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in? How do we keep Jesus’ call to discipleship front and centre, especially when we are assaulted by countless distractions and difficulties? How do we avoid being overwhelmed and choked out by the cares and worries of this life? Staying rooted in Jesus begins with and is sustained by a commitment to four priorities.
Engage the Bible everyday. Whether it means reading, studying, discussing, or memorizing, staying rooted to Jesus means staying rooted to the Scriptures. We need to continually stretch our understanding of what the Bible says and how that should play out in our lives. The gospels should be read consistently and carefully, because declaring ourselves to be disciples of Jesus means we’re trying to embed the values, attitudes, and priorities of Jesus into our lives. The importance of reading, studying, memorizing, and discussing the Bible is a value most Christians agree on but few actually practice. However, everyone I see flourishing in their discipleship walk is engaging the Bible everyday.
Develop a strong prayer life. Developing a strong prayer life is very challenging for most people. Personally, prayer is an area I read about, talk about, and think about more than I actually do anything about. Prayer is very hard for me, because quite honestly it feels like a waste of time. It feels inefficient and sometimes ineffective compared to physically doing something, but I’m pushing myself beyond those faulty assumptions. I’m in the process of exploring different forms of prayer because I want to develop a strong and intimate relationship with Jesus. This intimacy will never happen if I neglect communicating with Him honestly and openly. Although it may not be easy for us, taking time everyday to share our hearts with Him—and taking time to listen for His still, small voice—is critical to our growth as disciples.
Invest in a local church. I will be the first to say that church can suck. You know it and I know it. But here’s the reality: I’ve never, ever met someone who powerfully inspires me to love and serve Jesus who isn’t invested and connected to a local church. I don’t think church is some kind of magic bullet when it comes to discipleship. However, I believe that discipleship outside of a church commitment just doesn’t work. I also know how tempting it is to bounce around and check out the latest ministry, church, or preacher. But discipleship requires roots, and you can’t grow deep roots if you’re continually uprooting yourself in order to be a part of the next new thing. Therefore, if we are serious about discipleship to Jesus, we have to make it a priority to plug into and invest in a local church community.
Serve others. Following Jesus as a disciple means continually reminding ourselves that in Jesus’ kingdom leaders are the ones who serve (Luke 22:26) and greatness is measured by one’s ability lay down one’s life for others (John 15:13). Our days are filled with opportunities to bless and serve others in both simple and profound ways, and Jesus calls us to adopt a servant heart that places our preferences secondary to the interests and needs of those around us. Jesus said that His kingdom is one that will be characterized by servant leadership (Matthew 20:25–28), so if we aren’t consistently serving others we’re operating out of ego and self-centredness.
These disciplines, however, may strike us as overly simplistic or obvious. Because of this, it’s common for us to overlook them in order to look for something that sounds deeper and more profound. But these four practices form the foundation—the root structure—of the Christian faith. If we ignore, dismiss, or abandon them, we’ll soon find ourselves feeling old, gnarled, and lifeless.
After years of discipling, mentoring, and observing many young adults, I’ve noticed a huge difference between those who just talk about these things, and those who actually do them. Jesus said a disciple is someone who “hears these words of mine and puts them into practice” (Matthew 7:24, emphasis mine). It’s easy to extol the virtues of Bible study and prayer, hold lengthy conversations on the nature of community, and discuss new justice initiatives. However, none of these things lead to transformation in Christ. Those who have been truly transformed are those who have consistently done these things and not just talked about doing them.
To order a copy of Mere Disciple: a spiritual guide for emerging leaders, click here.
The following is an excerpt from Mere Disciple, chapter 5: The Beautiful Risk.
Over the years, I’ve put together a list of what I consider to be the top relationship advice for dating Christians (or those interested in dating). The list has emerged through countless conversations and discussions, and offers some great ground-level wisdom on how the call of discipleship should steer our journey through romantic relationships. This is not a list where it’s all or nothing—that is, in order to be a disciple, all of these ideas need to be in place. It’s important to remember that discipleship is a process and a journey. Those who have taken to heart even one or two of these principles have told me that it has had a dramatically positive effect on their life, and has helped immensely in the process of controlling their negative sexual habits and impulses.
Keep your passion for Jesus central.It’s easy to give Jesus priority status when there’s no competition. When we start dating, however, it’s common for many of us to slowly channel the energy that we’ve been investing in our relationship with Him into our newfound love. But Jesus isn’t our relational back-up plan, someone we put first until someone better comes along. He needs to stay central for us regardless of whether we’re single, dating, or married.
Relationships flourish when Jesus and His kingdom are the priority of both people, but falter when they aren’t. When Jesus is our first priority, our view of love, sex, and relationships is enhanced and enriched. But when Jesus is relegated to being our second, third, or fourth priority, our entire view of love, sex, and relationships becomes distorted. Knowing Jesus intimately is critical if we want to know what authentic, life-giving expressions of love, sex, and relationships look like. If we’re not anchoring our heart’s deepest hopes and longings in Jesus, our romantic relationships will always end up disappointing and frustrating us. We’ll be placing unrealistic expectations on our relationship that can only be fulfilled by God.
It’s a wonderful thing to fall in love and find someone with whom we can share our lives. However, we need to be careful that even good, healthy dating relationships don’t become stumbling blocks that cause us to forsake our first love (Revelation 2:4).
Don’t rationalize an abusive relationship.It’s common for many people (especially women) to find themselves in an abusive relationship at some point in their lives. Maybe it’s a boyfriend who is physically abusive, or a girlfriend who is controlling and emotionally manipulative. Regardless, I often see the rationalizing of major dysfunction. Many of us would rather put up with abuse and dysfunction in our relationships than be alone, so we go to great lengths to minimize or deny any abusive behaviour.
“Well, she’s not like that all the time.”
“It isn’t really that bad.”
“It’s no big deal. That’s just the way our relationship is.”
No relationship is perfect. Each one has its fault lines and issues, but there comes a point when a challenging relationship becomes a destructive one, and when abusive patterns have emerged that line has been crossed.
Sometimes denial can run deep. If we don’t identify and end the abusive relationship until it has run its course, we will be heartbroken and devastated. Or maybe we believe we’re the one sent into this person’s life to do the saving, to make them a better person, and so we wear the abuse as a kind of badge of honour. Maybe it brings us some kind of self-righteous satisfaction that we’re suffering for a greater purpose and are willing to love someone so “complicated.”
Regardless of your particular situation, if you are involved in an abusive relationship—whether the abuse is physical, emotional, or sexual—you need to end it. You know it’s unhealthy, and chances are it’s negatively impacting every area of your life, including your relationship with God. You should talk to a friend, parent, or pastor you trust who can help you transition out of your relationship.
Don’t believe that romantic relationships are the key to happiness and fulfillment. This piece of advice often comes from one of my high school students when we brainstorm relationship advice together as a group. All of us go through a stage where we assume we’re a boyfriend or girlfriend away from having it all. We believe that if we could find our “true love,” all the issues that bring us down will fade into the background. We believe that love, peace, and joy will flood into our lives and give us our “happily ever after.”
Falling in love and being in love is awesome, but if we think a relationship is what will save us from loneliness, low self-esteem, and purposelessness, we’re just wrong. No matter how good, godly, and healthy a relationship may be, it cannot fully satisfy the deeper spiritual hungers within you. To enter into any relationship with the expectation that it will be the key to a happy life is to place an idolatrous, unhealthy, and unrealistic expectation on it. This expectation will only suffocate any potential for the relationship to grow in a healthy way. We must never ask or assume another person can provide what only God can. When we stop looking to a relationship to be the key that will unlock the potential of our lives, we open up space for healthy relationships to emerge into what they are meant to be.
Only date someone who has a passion for following Jesus with their whole lives. “Christians should only date Christians.” That opinion is repeated in countless books on Christian dating, and yet from my point of view it’s just not a helpful way of approaching things. The statement is clearly well-intended, but like many things within the church the attempt to simplify in order to communicate things clearly has created new problems.
For example, the overly simplistic categories of Christian and non-Christian can be an enormous stumbling block. If the discussion centres on dating Christians vs. non-Christians, we can quickly (and mistakenly) substitute “people who go to church” with “Christian” and unintentionally lower our standards to anyone who shows up to church on Sunday. But should a Christian relationship be validated by something as trivial as church attendance?
I think it’s much better to frame the discussion within the larger context of discipleship. If we want our central passion to be Jesus and His kingdom, does it make sense to date someone who doesn’t share that same intention? If discipleship to Jesus is something we take incredibly seriously, does it make sense to date someone who supports us in our faith but isn’t actually committed to it themselves?
No, it doesn’t. That’s why I encourage people to pray for and seek out someone whose passion for Jesus is profound, undeniable, and inspiring. That is the kind of person, that kind of disciple, is someone you should pursue. Too many people settle for someone who’s churched instead of prayerfully holding out for someone whose discipleship commitment expresses itself in dynamic, passionate, creative ways. If you want your love for Jesus to deepen throughout your life, committing to only dating (and eventually marrying) someone with a strong and vibrant faith should be non-negotiable.
Never settle. Personally and professionally I’ve never seen anything good come from relationships that started with, “Well . . . you’ll do.” That being said, I’m not an idiot; I know how difficult it is to be the only person without a boyfriend or girlfriend, and the ache that situation creates. But we need to have the courage to move into and through that discomfort, trusting God to somehow satisfy what we’re longing for, even if we can’t anticipate how.
Make a list of qualities you want in your future spouse, then work backwards. If you want someone who is fun, spontaneous, spiritually intense, wise, and playful, that’s not going to happen if you date someone who is some of these things, some of the time. Obviously this means we’ll have to do a bit of reflection on our future marriage partner before we start dating, but isn’t that a good thing? We date in order to allow God to help us find a kindred spirit with whom we can become a soul mate through marriage. If someone told me they were ready to date but couldn’t articulate what they were looking for in someone beyond being attractive and funny, I’d tell them they just aren’t ready to date. If we don’t know what we really want in our dating relationships, the likelihood of us settling for something “good enough” is exponentially higher.
Before I met my wife, I spent a few months putting together a list of character qualities that I wouldn’t budge on. If someone only had three out of ten, I wouldn’t date them. eight out of ten? Sorry. I wanted a perfect score. Why? Was I some kind of unreasonable jerk with an inflated sense of entitlement? No. I knew what kind of marriage I wanted, and I’d lived and learned enough about myself to know the kind of person I needed to hold out for. That didn’t make times of singleness easy, but because I had a razor-sharp clarity about what I wanted and needed, settling for anything else became much harder.
Avoid the Romeo and Juliet syndrome. Romeo and Juliet were star-crossed lovers who were so in love they could never be separated. They quickly melted their own identities into each other and made each other their entire world. This syndrome is all too common in dating relationships. We’ve probably all known a friend who started dating someone and then stopped hanging out with everyone except their new love. All their spare time was spent with their Romeo or Juliet, and the relationships and priorities that were previously very important were disregarded and pushed aside.
The Romeo and Juliet syndrome is closely linked to the assumption that was addressed previously in this list (i.e., romantic relationships are the key to happiness and fulfillment). Out of this assumption we look to another person to be the emotional saviour we’ve been waiting for, and we do all we can to surround ourselves with this person as much as possible. This trap is easy for us to fall into, so my advice here is to put limits on the amount of time we’re spending with our boyfriend/girlfriend, so that we don’t (intentionally or unintentionally) make them the focal point of our daily routines and habits.
Set boundaries. It’s really important to establish boundaries before we enter into a dating relationship. If we don’t, we’ll find ourselves in a literal free-for-all in terms of what is done, said, and experienced together, and this is always destructive to everyone involved. Healthy relationships need boundaries, and they need to identify and decide what boundaries are going to be in place as it relates to four dimensions of the relationship:
a. Physical. What physical boundaries need to be in place in order to protect each person’s dignity, reputation, and purity?
b. Emotional. What emotional boundaries need to be in place in order to ensure the Romeo and Juliet syndrome doesn’t take hold?
c. Social. What social boundaries need to be in place in order to ensure that each person is investing in healthy relationships outside of the dating relationship?
d. Spiritual. What spiritual boundaries need to be in place in order to ensure that each person is growing spiritually as individuals and not just focusing their spiritual growth on the context of their relationship?
Ideally, the couple should meet with a few older and more experienced couples to help them define what boundaries will be in place for them. These older couples can also play an important ongoing mentoring role in the new couples’ lives.
Learn from your mistakes. We all make mistakes. As much as we parade around ideas of personal holiness, the biting truth is that imperfections and blunders seem to be the rule rather than the exception within our lives. Even during seasons where I feel an uncommon clarity of purpose, strong sense of conviction, and deep connection with God, I’m ashamed to admit how easy I’m seized by sins like lust, envy, pride, and idolatry.
But as I look back over my life, it seems to me that the only sinful slip-ups that have really cost me in the long run have been the ones I’ve stubbornly repeated, knowing precisely what I was doing. Proverbs 26:11 states, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” That’s the cycle that can destroy us if we’re not careful. So when we make a mistake, regardless of what kind or what severity, we need to realize that beating ourselves up is of limited value. Genuine repentance doesn’t always need to be a tearful exercise in self-pity. Sometimes it expresses itself with a clear decision and focused intention to put together a game plan to avoid repeating the mistake again. After reflecting on my own journey and many years of pastoral ministry, I’m convinced that God won’t let our mistakes define our lives if we’re willing to learn from them and seek restoration in Him.
Take three months between dating relationships to reflect and learn. The temptation to rebound with an immediate dating relationship after one has ended is enormous. Why? Because we’ve been in a relationship long enough that we’ve become accustomed to having someone to call, touch, and hang out with. To go from that to nothing feels like the rug has been pulled out from under us, and our first instincts are to get ourselves back into a relationship as soon as possible in order to avoid the awkwardness of readjusting to being single. But when we start relationships in order to avoid being single, we’re actually just using the new guy or girl for our own selfish ends. That foundation isn’t going to take us very far, and we should expect more heartache to come if we just rush into new relationships after ending old ones.
If a relationship doesn’t work (for whatever reason), it’s always important to take some time away from dating relationships and recalibrate our hearts and minds. We need to carve out time to reflect on what went wrong, and why. We should explore how we need to grow from our experiences in the previous relationship so that future relationships are healthier and more Christ-centred. Relationships teach us a lot if we’re willing to listen to the lessons. Be sure to carve out at least three months between dating relationships so that you can focus on learning whatever lessons God wants to teach you during your time of transition.
Break up well. This might be one of the most surprising and overlooked pieces of advice I share on the subject of building healthy relationships, but it’s so important. Nothing tests the genuineness of our discipleship commitment to Jesus than our willingness to refuse to blame, badmouth, or hurt the other person during a break-up.
A break-up usually results in a lot of hurt for everyone involved. Two people who once thought of each other as “true loves” now become enemies looking to strike back at each other. However, it’s exactly in this new and awkward context that Jesus’ challenge to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44) comes into play.
If we’re the ones doing the breaking up, we need to do so in a way that minimizes the emotional damage for the other person. We’re going to cause hurt, so we need to be as gentle, reasonable, and kind as humanly possible. Being rejected is a horrible feeling, and we don’t need to escalate those feelings (even if we think the other person deserves it). We should strive to be gracious and kind, and after the break-up never speak badly about the other person.
If we’re on the receiving end of the break-up, the emotions that flood into our hearts are going to make it very easy for us to justify hatred and retaliation. We need to fight those impulses with everything in us. That doesn’t mean minimizing how much it hurts to have someone dump us, though; it just means refusing to let the hurt we’re feeling morph into a cancer of anger and bitterness. Getting dumped sucks, but striking back through hatred and retaliation won’t provide the healing we’re looking for. That can only be found when we pour our energy into our relationship with the One who is “close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalms 34:18).
To order a copy of Mere Disciple: a spiritual guide for emerging leaders, click here.