This past Friday I spent the day at a family wedding. Aside from having a blast with all the cousins, aunts and uncles that an Irish family provides, I was also left reflecting on the idea of “relationship” during my twelve hours of travel the next day. Now, my reflections may be full of heresies, but part of the importance of reflection to me is challenging what I have been taught and challenging what society believes in search for my “truth.” Now why, may you ask, am I suddenly reflecting on my relationship with God? Well I’m getting older, I look at relationships differently, and I find them to be more complex but also more significant than I did previously.
First off, my relationship with God is much more than I ever gave it credit for being. God is always there, He knows me, He loves me. She is my protector, She is my comfort, She is my guidance. All of these things are true, and I will stand by them, however the relationship is much deeper than that. God is my creator, source of life and spirit, and is the reference point to which I direct my will. As much as I am disappointed by occurrences around me, God can be disappointed by what I do. My actions used to hinge on the decision of whether what I was doing at the time was a sin and a possible black mark against me getting into “Heaven.” Now, I realize that my actions are much more than that. They are a way to make God proud of His creation, they can be a source of joy or disappointment, and they define my relationship to Him. My relationship with God has unconditional love and more forgiveness than I could fathom, but it also has similar qualities to a relationship with our friends, family, neighbors, etc. Our actions have an effect not only on us but also on those around us – this includes God. Therefore, when we act we are not just in relation with the physical person we are connecting with but also with our Creator. In showing that we love our neighbors, we are showing that we love Him. Our connection with Him strengthens as we do His will towards others.
This means, that in all relationships we must seek out God. Whether it be with parents, siblings, old friends, new friends, partners, or passerbys, our interactions are significant in how God perceives us and how we prove we are thankful and faithful to Him. In every relationship we must remember that God is with us and that we are to represent Him and His will in all that we do. In most relationships, this is somewhat societally constructed for us; we are to respect elders and listen to sage advice, get along and love our siblings, and care for and honour our marriage partner. However, in mission work, it is often assumed by those facilitating the mission that it is “God’s work” and therefore there is no need to question whether we are truly doing God’s will. But, in fact, we must constantly be reflecting on if what we are doing is bringing peace to recipients as God tells us to do (Luke 10: 5-9). There is a long history of missionaries doing more harm than good because they took an authoritative role and did not listen to the reaction to the people they were trying to reach.
I am learning that listening, just sitting and listening to the kids talk about their days and feelings or sitting with them in silence after a fatiguing week of exams, has made me understand them more and has given me the ability to connect with them appropriately. My mission project has changed according to their needs and abilities, and this shift became clear only when I really sat to think about what they deserved to get out of it individually. Sometimes we just need to listen more carefully and we will be told what is needed of us. We are not meant to go in and instruct, but rather bring peace and goodness to those who are willing to accept it. I find comfort that in just listening and allowing someone to find their own peace is possibly doing the Lord’s work. But, I also find it a challenge that sometimes action is not required and often times plans are not fulfilled. In my eyes every relationship can be a form of mission in which we help spread peace and the Word through action. But, it must be remembered that we are to offer peace and goodness but not force it upon unwilling participants in search of our own contentment. We can emulate what God offers to us in the form of love, guidance, and a place of solitude and in doing so we are carrying out his Will and strengthening our spiritual bond.