Chapter 3: Self-Sufficiency to Relationship
“The church has swallowed self-sufficiency as the goal of living, and in doing so, she struggles to nourish saints with the food of communion…In this wilderness, we’re unable to hear each other’s cries for help” (p.65).
I am no stranger to self-sufficiency. If you know me, you may know that my relationship with my now-husband Kevin got off to a rocky start. Mostly because I was going to do great things for God, all by myself. I didn’t need anyone else. It seems that God knew I did.
My idea of a perfect day is being alone with a good book, preferably a hefty one. But this isn’t a complete portrait, because I also desire the connection of deep calling to deep (Ps. 42:7), where who I am meets who you are and we are both met by God. It’s the push and pull of who I am, and maybe you can relate to that. Maybe you have felt this push and pull, too.
To illustrate the experience of suffering, Ramsey describes the slowly rising panic of a hiker left behind by her friends as the sun sets and darkness descends on the mountain. This, Ramsey says, is how the sufferer feels, abandoned as the church hikes on without waiting (pp. 63-5).
But what if your suffering isn’t the result of forgetful friends? Imagine instead (it may not be hard) a wretched parting as your companions disagree on the path and strike off in different directions. If, as Ramsey maintains, relationship is required for healing, what do you do when broken relationship is causing you pain? Ramsey acknowledges that we see God through our scars: “Your struggle to experience God as good and present almost certainly has less to do with your doctrinal beliefs…than with the way you’ve been shaped and scarred by relationships” (p.73-4).
I desire connection, but when I’m hurting, the part of me who thinks I can do great things on my own wishes I could heal alone in my bedroom with God. However, I also recognize the truth that we are the image of our relational, Triune God, whose image “is not simply in you and me. It is in us” (p.67). Love, and therefore healing, cannot be achieved in a vacuum of self-sufficiency, because it needs mutual relationship to exist.
So where does this leave us? I admit I’m not sure how healing in community looks when you’ve been hurt by it. Ramsey says our ability “to taste and see that the Lord is good is not a creation of [our] own determination, but the fruit of willing, self-sacrificing love” (p.77). Maybe it is as simple and as hard as remembering the willing, self-sacrificing love of my Lord, and drawing on that strength to reach out towards relationship regardless of the outcome. To have that conversation, to invite others into my pain, to ask forgiveness, or to sit together in the silence. To live God’s love, slowly rebuilding trust with each small action, and as we rebuild, to heal.
What is one action you can take to move from suffering alone to healing in relationship?
God Through Pain and Suffering By Tim Keller
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