Building Authentic Relationships

I’ve always struggled with making friends. Always. In grade school, I was chubby. I’m still chubby, but because children tend to be cruel, it was a much bigger deal back then.  Sometimes being overweight in school can help someone’s personality blossom because, hey, you gotta work with what you have.  Unfortunately, this is not what happened to me. Being the fat kid turned me into a trembling bundle of resentment and insecurities. I was much too worried about what others thought of me and how I might be made the butt of a joke to ever have a chance of being a real friend to anyone.  In high school I slimmed down enough to where I was only called fat occasionally, but my intense fear of rejection and ridicule remained. I went through several groups of friends, going through the motions of changing my taste in music, clothing, etc. to fit in. I clung to whoever seemed to even mildly like me. I let others use me. I fell into drugs and alcohol.  Although I was able to cultivate some relationships during this time, they weren’t healthy and they were all colored by the fact that I was alone in my misery. I dealt with this by becoming increasingly self absorbed (which certainly didn’t help anything). This continued into my adult life until I came to know Christ. Maybe you rolled your eyes when you read that, but it’s true nevertheless. Maybe you don’t buy into all the Jesus stuff but stay with me for a few minutes and let me explain.

Coming to know Christ has freed me from bondage.

See, Jesus loved me so much that he died for me. He died to save me from my sin and to save my soul from eternal separation from Him in hell. He died so I could become a part of His family. He chose me.  And because He chose me, someone who’d been looked over and picked last for a lot of my life, I finally understood that I had value. I was free to be myself, because my identity was in Christ.  Jesus freed me from the bondage of sin, and He gave me victory over the hatred I had for myself and the need I had for the approval of others.

Coming to know Christ has emptied me of myself.

Seems contradictory, no? If I was finally free to be myself, then how could I possibly be emptied of myself? A few months after my conversion, I found out that my husband and I were expecting our first and only child. Let me tell you, my son is truly a gift from God.  He is a gift in himself, with his sweet, humble smile, his enthusiasm for learning new things, and his overload of snuggles and kisses. But the gift is twofold. Through my child, God also gave me a joy in putting others before myself. He emptied me of my self absorption. I’m not saying that I practice selflessness perfectly. I still have plenty of selfish moments and I fail on the daily. But through many sleepless nights, lots of dirty diapers, and plenty of tears from the both of us, I found that all the effort I poured into my son was just worth it. I was exhausted, stressed, and frazzled beyond belief, but I was also insanely joyful.  I began to approach all of my relationships from the perspective of  “What can I do for you?” instead of “What can you do for me?”

Having an authentic relationship with Jesus has allowed me to build authentic relationships with others.

God has poured out an enormous amount of healing into my life, probably more than my fair share. My marriage, which was on the brink of divorce, is much improved. My relationships with my family are no longer one sided. Making friends is quite a bit easier. I don’t have many and I’ll never win any popularity contests, but the friendships I have cultivated are genuine and grounded in the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and my heart explodes with thankfulness to God.