What is the only thing you can take to heaven? People. People matter to God. God made man because he wants relationships with people who know him and love him for who he is. God put each verse, each passage, and each story in Scripture to teach us how to build friendships. He made people in such a way that we must learn to relate to obtain any of our goals or fill his plan for our lives, ministry, church, family, and community.
Relationships with people result in over eighty percent of our success. Talent, education, and looks will only get one so far. Eventually, we must depend on the good will and favor of others.
God gives us a family where we interact and learn such relationship skills, such as tolerance, trust, and conflict resolution. Our parents teach us about God. We learn to relate to neighbors from our siblings. We form our identity while interacting in the nurturing environment of a loving family.
Unfortunately, most families are short on nurturing. Mine had plenty of love; nobody knew how to display affection. I had only one personal conversation with my mother and none with my father in my entire childhood. They provided everything I needed and clearly loved me. They just did not know how to express their love.
If we fail to learn these powerful lessons, we struggle in our marriages, families, jobs, churches, and neighborhoods. We will continue to relate to people the way we did in our childhood.
Our pastor reminds us of our obnoxious brother who drove us crazy. Our fabulous husband eventually turns into a carbon copy of our distant, uncaring father. The little prissy brat who shares our office is just like our tattletale sister who was only on this earth to make us miserable.
So what do we do? We take it until we have had enough. Then we call them the names we have always wanted to call our father, our brother, or sister, but never had the courage. We leave our jobs, walk out on our families, leave our churches, or move into better neighborhoods and start the cycle over with new people.
A simple glance at church history teaches us that man has never understood relationships and their effects. Cain’s murder of Abel is a perfect example of brothers who did not understand them. Abraham put Sarah in harm’s way to save his own life. Many of the heroes we use as examples in our teaching made foolish relationship choices.
God prepares us to learn relationship principles and then teach them to our family and friends. Our relationships do concern him in the same way the do us. He wants us to know him and what matters to him, so we can work more effectively in service to others.
I learned a whole lot about myself several years ago, during a three-month sabbatical my doctor ordered. It was not pretty. I had plenty of annoying residue left over from my childhood. Although my marriage was fantastic and my teenage kids were not threatening to sell their stories to the tabloids or surprise me with an all expense paid trip to meet Jerry Springer, I still had a lot of junk in my belief system.
After a terrific ten-year marriage, I pretty well had much of the family thing down. The problems we faced and dealt with were from outside our home, finances and professions. This is how food addiction found its way into my life. I turned to food for acceptance and comfort.
My response to stress was to pull back from the pain and retreat into food. The more pressure stirred my emotion; the more control food gained over me. I would diet and loose twenty pounds. Six-weeks later, discouragement caused me to give up and within a few weeks, I would have gained thirty. Over a period of eleven-years, I had ballooned up to nearly 300 pounds.
One day after losing 80 pounds, I was standing in front of the refrigerator with the door open. I was leaning in, my eyes scanning every shelf as if my life depended on what I would find there. I suddenly came to and realized what I was doing. I stood up straight, shook my head, and quickly closed the door. I walked back into the living room where I had been standing before my eyes glazed over. I was not even hungry. Why was I foraging in the refrigerator? What was on my mind before it went into neutral?
My mother. I had been thinking about my mother and the fact that I needed to call her. A fleeting thought about her and the old behavior patterns associated with our relationship had returned before I was even aware of their existence. I felt anxiety, and I reacted. Who cared that it had been over five months since I had acted this way? I never realize how much influence relationships had over me. The things we accept as truth about who we are can often dictate our behavior. When we spend time in prayer, God shows us many erroneous beliefs we have accepted about ourselves hidden in our subconscious minds. Most of these are things adults told us, or misperceptions we accepted as fact simply because it came from an authority figure.
These masked imps rarely reach the surface. They hide deep in the part of our minds where we store memories we do not want to experience. The moment our guard is down, they pounce. Before we are aware of it that old, destructive behavior rushes forward, ready to act. These imps stand in position, quick to accuse us in a moment of weakness.
It takes a determined effort, but we can eliminate many of them. You do this, by keeping a constant vigil and questioning every impression which reaches the surface in your thinking. What are you doing here? What are your motives? Where have you been hiding? What comment, raised eyebrow, terse remark, shocked expression, or ear-piercing cry did you piggyback into my subconscious mind? You can never get them all. Of course, that would be impossible. Your mind, however, can be your greatest ally or your most cunning enemy. It is up to you.
Only I can choose to live free and take control or I can let these childhood imps send me, cringing into a corner. I want freedom. Not only do I like freedom better, but it also looks better in a bathing suit.