“The functions of life now rule us. Everyone wants to know what we do rather than who we are. People define their life by geography, job title & performance. In this busy functional paradigm, we seldom have real time for people. We have surface relationships with people. We wear social masks of politeness that hide our fears, worries & inner thoughts. We do not reveal our true inner self because we are afraid of rejection. We want to be loved but the process of real love involves the true revelation of self, so our fear of rebuff does not allow us to go deep with people around us.” (Graham Cooke, A Divine Confrontation.)
For some months now, I have been profoundly struck by the dominance in the Western world of the ‘functional’ paradigm. I have been struck by its fruit – a lonely barrenness of life that is governed ruthlessly by business, function, systems, & task. Connecting with people seems to be reduced to the skeleton of a purpose driven existence.
Yet the more I linger with God, I am stunned & challenged by His relational paradigm.
As we returned to Australia a few weeks ago, I was talking with an old friend. During this brief conversation that was populated by the tasks & steps ahead of us, she said “Let’s catch up for coffee.”
I was abruptly halted as I realized how ‘functional’ I had been with one of the most relational people I know of on planet earth. I was embarrassed & horiffied.
You see in Australia amongst ‘mates’, when they say “Let’s do coffee” (& most especially for this precious friend) the literal translation is, “Let’s enjoy both a coffee together & be together… just being & hanging out, sharing & journeying life from the inside together for a moment.” Here function serves relationship.
This is true in the world of the East also. In Asia & the middle East, relationship comes before function & must be established for any task to exist.
But it is most true of the heart of God also.
“For God so LOVED the world that He sent His Son” (John 3:16). He LOVED. Love is relational. If it is not, we call that prostitution. God did not so serve that He sent His Son. He loved.
I would suggest that one of the ‘transitions’ God is wanting to bring amongst His people in the West, is a detox from the Spirit of the world that emphasizes function above relationship.
This is part of the journey of holiness – being set apart. God desires to set us apart from the spirit of the world & put His spirit in us. (Ezekiel 36:26-27) The spirit of heaven is relationship.
A relational paradigm is about “learning to trust, to be open & honest, to understand & be understood, to accept & approve & in turn find acceptance & approval. It is about connecting with another as we draw the road map of life in the spirit together. It is about connecting through our fears & concerns, dreams & aspirations, joys & delights, dislikes & annoyances.” (Graham Cooke)
One of the characteristics of the end times is “the love of many growing cold.” (Matt 24:12) I submit that when we tabernacle with God we are separated from the spirit of the world which debases us to mere function, & we can engage in the safety & sweetness of His presence & His relating with us.
I have observed that those who have spent time in His presence are those who do relationships & do them well & in health.
This is all part of growing up in Him.
Townsend & Cloud suggest that “The mindset of an infant & toddler is that another exists to meet their needs & feelings, every wish should be another’s command. To cherish someone’s existence apart from you & apart from what you get from that person is a neat aspect of love… the ability to see the other person as distinct & separate from you – a person in their own right, with value & wonderful things about them that have nothing to do with gratifying you in anyway other than pure appreciation. This is the joy of just knowing a person.” (Boundaries)
This relational paradigm that not only blesses us & others but most of all God. As we learn to cherish Him, love Him for Him not how He gratifies us, we are growing up & learning to be again.
In the end days there are two figures of relational intimacy pictured for us in the New Testament. One is the Great Prostitute (Rev 17-18), the other the Bride of Christ (Rev 22:17). The distinctive difference between these two levels of intimacy is relationship. One is purely functional. The other is based in relationship & the stuff of love.
Father God desires a bride for His Son, one who has rediscovered again relationship.
And the Bride desires to be cherished again.
The journey begins with & in us. Which paradigm will we live from?
Me? Well I’m off to have coffee with a dear friend!