Familiarity can breed contempt, but it can also give birth to the level of affection we are created to experience. The difference is whether I let fear or love lead the way. 1 John 4:18 says it best.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” (NASB)

Families fall apart when fear forces them to fuse together. They connect beautifully when love allows them to be who they are. God created us to connect, and our hearts cannot survive without those connections. The most valuable thing the homeless have lost is not their addresses; it is their family connections.

The family systems theory concerning differentiation of self makes a great deal of sense, and I believe God is the ultimate example of how it works. He makes it clear that He is the Great I AM. That isn’t as much about being all powerful as it is about being exactly Who He Is. I believe He wants each of us to be the amazing individual He created us to be, so we can  connect and live in community as He desires.

The Bowen Center has this to say about the negative effects of unhealthy interdependence:

“The more intense the interdependence, the less the group’s capacity to adapt to potentially stressful events without a marked escalation of chronic anxiety. Everyone is subject to problems in his work and personal life, but less differentiated people and families are vulnerable to periods of heightened chronic anxiety which contributes to their having a disproportionate share of society’s most serious problems.”

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Family brings a sense of belonging, and Christ made it very clear that His family is open to all. That doesn’t mean He sanctions abusive behavior. Abuse is the worst form of fusion, and it breaks God’s heart to see His children hurting. Parents and children alike understand the pain of such breaking. Society suffers alongside broken families. God has the power to make us love any way or any one He wants, but He knows better than to force love upon His children.

Family isn’t an easy word to define; but like love, I know it when I feel it. God has helped me see myself as He sees me, and I am so very thankful for a birth family who loves me just as I am. I can’t imagine life with my three sweet sisters and their families, my son and his wife, or my three adorable little grand daughters; but I also thank God for brothers and sisters who are related beautifully by the common thread of love. I am thankful for connections that surround me like a warm, cozy blanket and melt my heart into a sweet, still pool of peace.

Reaching out isn’t easy; it is much simpler to fuse into small groups who share a common love. It is easier still to form groups with a common hatred, and we all know examples of how that destroys families, churches, communities, and countries. It is easiest to simply stay out of sight and not connect at all. That lets you off the hook when it comes to grieving over the loss of a loved one, but it also leaves you with a deep sense of longing that is the worst pain of all.

God loved us enough to send His only Son. I haven’t reached that level of love and doubt I will understand it until I am with Him, but I have learned that God will provide connections that are good for my heart when I relax into faith and trust Him to know what is best for my heart.

Jesus was born into a beautiful family, but I’m sure His earthly family was filled with individuals who were far from perfect. This morning, I was imagining what a large family gathering might look like when He was a young boy. I bet He had a crazy aunt or uncle who made Him smile, and I’m sure there were squabbles and even a feud or two. That didn’t stop Him from loving them, and it doesn’t stop Him from loving us. I also know with all my heart, that He must have looked around when all were gathered in one accord, smiled, and said to Himself, “This reminds me of Home.”

God’s Mosaic

When it comes to love, capturing comes from letting go not from holding on. Love sets my heart free and holds it closely at the same time. Freedom is the key when it comes to the heart. It cannot survive and will not thrive when held tightly. Love caresses and lets go, and the heart is forever captured in the moment when I know I am loved.

Knowing I am loved releases my heart and allows it to move into the open space God has prepared for it to grow. Growth requires room, and I believe that is why love so often fails. There is the need to own that invades the heart when faced with love. Confusion results when fusion with another becomes the goal. Identity is lost in human attempts to become one.

Becoming one is the goal in relationship, especially when it comes to God. True love allows differentiation. In a mosaic, each piece is individually beautiful. When the pieces are put side by side, they form a wonderful new image. That’s how it should be with love. The oneness God desires is a body that loves one another and Him as they maintain the identity He gives to each. So often, love becomes a conglomerate mess and individuals become lost in the mix.

Wholeness in the heart is about maintaining identity and allowing love to join the uniqueness of individuals like those pieces in a mosaic. God will create the image if I will be who He created me to be and reach out in love to Him and to those in my path. It’s a wonderful feeling to be connected by love and know that I am part of something bigger than myself while still maintaining the beauty only I can add to God’s creation.

I may not be able to see the magnificent creation God is making, and that is where I must let go of my need to understand and simply love and trust Him to do the rest. Honest communion is what causes love to be a mosaic rather than a conglomerate. It provides a perfect space for hearts to grow and connect in a way that gives God the room to create His masterpiece.

More Than Just a Walk:)

For over three years now, Rita and I have taken long walks in the woods. From our first walk, I knew I was with a kindred spirit and beautiful friend. Rita is so much more than family, she is an honest, loving companion who shares my journey at the deepest level. Our honest communion and true love for one another make a walk with her so much more than just a walk. It’s great exercise in beautiful surroundings, but sharing honestly and with love is the most important quality of those early morning excursions by the creek. As we walk and talk, I feel a connection that is rare, but possible, in this world.

Friends who hear my heart are my most valuable assets. They allow the transparency necessary to open my heart. It’s more than just a matter of confidentiality, it is true connection at the heart level that allows me to find the courage to be myself. It’s friendship that doesn’t judge or advise, just loves and listens. I’m a very wealthy woman when it comes to friends because I have several such friends who love, listen, hear my heart, and get me. The thing that sets Rita apart is the amount of time we spend together. Some weeks, we spend as much as eight hours walking and talking in the woods. Time is a precious commodity, and retirement gives both of us the luxury of having time to spend together. We also exercise together two additional nights and share a beautiful family.

Each time I see Rita, I delight in her! That’s what makes our friendship so special and our walks more than just walks. I don’t care if we’ve seen each other every day for a week or haven’t seen one another in two weeks, I have the same reaction. Delighting in one another is what God desires, and it makes life more than just a life. It makes a walk a sweet journey and helps me live a life, as Pastor John says, worth living forever:)

Rita and I are often apart as travel and winter cause gaps in our time spent together. When we reconnect, we just pick right up where we left off as though no time has passed.  That’s self-differentiation at its best, and I love that most about our relationship. We are who we are and enjoy our time together. There is a natural flow to both our walks and our friendship. She has a very big heart and welcomed me right into it the very first time we met. She does that to a lot of folks, and I was saddened when she lost one of those dear friends recently. She loves with her whole heart, and so do I. I thank God for placing her in my path and don’t take a single step we take together for granted. Thanks to friends like Rita, I get to walk in God’s kingdom now and enjoy fellowship like that above:)

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