The Meaning of True Self in Relationships

We were created for relationship. We survive because of relationships. We are made for relationships.  We need others and others need us. In Part 1 of this series, we studied a secure bond between a caregiver and a baby. Even if we did not experience this bond as a child, we can learn as adults to offer this care to ourselves. This is the original relationship we were designed for and it is a beautiful expression of God’s relationship to us.
This series began with self-care because it is important to take time and look inside to see what we can give to ourselves, what God is giving us in our solitude or what has already been given to us that we forgot to receive. We are well-resourced people and some of us (Ahem, me) tend to look to others to meet our needs when that is not anyone else’s job.
Now, this does not for one second mean that we do not need each other. Oh, Sister, we do. But what this does mean is that we cannot name what someone else could or should do for us. No, that will just make a mess.  This lesson came to me during an especially vulnerable time. I had (and still have) many wonderful friends who I thought would “be there” for me during this time. They could not. Actually, that is not true at all. The truth is that they could not be for me what I thought they were supposed to be for me. That sounds painful. And in some ways it was, but not like you would imagine.
It became apparent that my loved ones were giving quite generously, but because it wasn’t what I was asking for, I almost missed it. In the beginning, I was sad, lonely and so very disappointed.   There is an amazing ministry called Alternatives to Violence. We play a game that clarified this message to me. In the game, you are given several puzzle pieces but they are mixed up with other people’s puzzle pieces. The object of the game is for everyone to complete their own puzzle.
The trick is that you cannot talk, no hand gestures or any body language. You cannot ask anyone for anything. Your only power is to asses what you have to give and to pay attention to what others are giving to you.
I learned more about myself in that game than in years of therapy. I kept giving puzzle pieces away in hopes that other people would give me their pieces. And the entire time, I failed to notice that the pieces I needed were being given to me. I gave them away too quickly to realize my puzzle would have been complete with them. This is how I do relationships when I am not living from my true self. This is transactional. I do for you and, in return, you do for me.
As I found the grace to let go of my expectations of myself and others, I was able to engage life directly. Slowly and quietly God revealed to me that while my needs felt big, his provisions for me were “more than I could ask for or imagine.” As I kept my heart and eyes open, the whole world became available to me, for friendship, encouragement, kindness, compassion.  And then I could see all the puzzle pieces being handed to mom taking me shopping, my best friend bringing me dinner, another precious soul helping me clean my house.  Most surprising were the strangers.  So many gentle strangers with their smiles, their conversation, their presence.  It was only when I let go of what I thought my relationships were supposed to give me that I could see what they already gave. My pieces didn’t come in the shape I thought they would and in the end, my puzzle didn’t look like I’d imagine it to be, but it was complete. Every day, I was given the provision I needed in the form of a hundred tiny generosities.
God is using everyone, all of creation, to pursue a relationship with us. When we get too attached to how we think things are supposed to be, we miss so much. When we are living from the true self, we engage in our relationships directly. We are able to see what we actually have to give. We become aware of what we can not give. And most importantly, we sit in awe of what is being given to us.
-Jenny Black

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