Some relationships survive the test of time. Others don’t.
Some relationships thrive over time. Others don’t.
There are an infinite number of reasons why that is true. Those reasons are as unique as the people involved in the relationships. Yes, there are some basic dos and don’ts that make one outcome more – or less – likely than the other. But there are no guarantees.
I think I can guarantee this:
No relationship can survive and thrive, when the partners in the relationship are not committed to stay.
Why? Because the minute one party says, “You know, I’m not feeling it. I think I’ll go!”, the relationship changes.
One example of this is when one spouse tells the other that they are contemplating divorce. Once the possibility of divorce enters the picture, the focus becomes not getting divorced.
It’s hard to have a good relationship when you’re trying not to get divorced.
I see this same dynamic in churches and denominations as well. As soon as the possibility of a church split enters the picture the focus becomes not splitting. As soon as some congregations or conferences (depending on your denominational structure) threaten to leave, the focus becomes how do we keep “them” from leaving.
Please don’t hear me say that divorce is alright, that church splits are good, that congregations leaving conferences is not an issue of concern. I’m not saying that.
What I am saying is that not getting divorced, not splitting, and convincing people not to leave are poor ways to build healthy, thriving, relationships.
Here, I take my cues from Jesus. Jesus laid out a compelling case that the kingdom of God was breaking into the world – it was present and real – in and through him. Then he invited people to join him by repenting and living a new life (it’s much deeper and wider then that, of course, but for now…).
What happened when people heard this proclamation and saw it confirmed through Jesus’ actions? How did they respond to his invitation? Some repented and lived a new life. Others didn’t. Some did at first and then didn’t. Even so, Jesus led with the same proclamation – the Kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the good news.
The key difference between those who repented and persevered in faith and those who didn’t was a commitment to stay with Jesus.
There is a scene in John’s gospel where Jesus teaches about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. It says that after hearing this everyone left Jesus because his teaching was too hard. Jesus turned to his twelve disciples and asked if they were planning to leave, too. Peter said, “Where else would be go, you alone hold the words of life.”
Good answer. But embedded in that answer was a commitment to stay with Jesus even though they didn’t fully understand Jesus.
Of course, staying put doesn’t always guarantee a good outcome…a healthy relationships…a thriving community. More importantly, there are times when health, safety and good personal boundaries make leaving a necessity. Yet, too often people leave and relationships fracture because the basic commitment to stay isn’t there.
I do know this: It is very hard to build a healthy relationship with anyone who has one foot out the door.