WILDERNESS: Why Our Relationships Are the Mission

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April 20, 2020

Exodus 16:6-11 (NIV)

6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?” 8 Moses also said, “You will know that it was the Lord when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.”

9 Then Moses told Aaron, “Say to the entire Israelite community, ‘Come before the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.’”

10 While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud.

11 The Lord said to Moses, 12 “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’”

CONSIDER THIS

Something about we people does not want to deal with God. Truth be told, we don’t too much want to deal directly with each other. This may well be our greatest foible as a species—we do not want to deal directly with God or neighbor. Translation: we would rather talk about people than to them. We would rather withdraw from God and grumble rather than groan with his Spirit. 

We see this at work in the relationship between the Israelites and God. For many years prior to their deliverance from Egypt, they cried out to God alone. They dealt directly with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They travailed in prayer until God heard their prayers. Now they have God leading them and they do not want to deal with God but with Moses and Aaron. Something deep within us all would prefer to triangulate our relationships rather than deal directly with others, especially God. 

Look carefully at how Moses and Aaron deal with this.

6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?” 8 Moses also said, “You will know that it was the Lord when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.”

Moses and Aaron are doing priestly work here. The role and work of a priest is to bring God and people together. We tend to think of a priest as someone who stands up at the front of a church and leads people in religious ceremonies. Priestly work is not ceremonial in nature. Beginning to end, priestly work is relational in nature. God has always imagined his people as a Kingdom of Priests; people who help each other and everyone-all-together stay in direct, right relationship with God. When we live in direct, right relationship with God, the way is made to live in direct, right relationship with ourselves and in direct, right relationship with one another. It is why the greatest commandment is so comprehensively simple and inseparably integrated. 

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40

Back to our Achilles heel and greatest foible—our reluctance to deal directly with God and others. Something about us prefers to deal with God and one another indirectly. We are so prone to triangulate our relationships, especially in challenging and conflictual situations. We must learn to deal directly and primarily with God and through our relationship with God we must learn to deal directly and primarily with others—family, friends, colleagues, enemies and otherwise. As priests to one another, we have a sacred responsibility to collapse triangles, helping people relate rightly and directly with God and each other. 

Just this past week, one of my band-mates (and long time friends) and I got into a bit of a tussle. As we walked away from it, I wanted to seek out another member of our band and “process” the conflict with them. Really, I wanted to get their validation of my position (a.k.a. triangulating). The Holy Spirit checked this impulse, and instead, after a day of passive aggressive distancing, I decided to approach my friend directly to try and make amends. It was a challenging confrontation for both of us, with hard words and hard feelings, and yet we both pressed even deeper into the relationship and worked through it. Our relationship will never be the same after this. It will be better—more filled with the love of God—and more available for the power of God to work through our friendship in the world. It’s why I often remind my team at Seedbed, “Our relationships are the mission.”

The health and wellness of an organization, be it a family, a church or a multi-national corporation, will be the level with which people deal directly with each other and not triangulate our relationships. It’s why grace and forgiveness and making amends are so critical. Truth be told, our capacity to live in right, direct relationships with one another comes from living in a right, direct relationship with God, which is only possible through the author of grace and pioneer and perfecter of our faith, Jesus Christ. 

THE PRAYER

Father, reveal to me the deeper wisdom of your will and ways in the wilderness. I confess my own tendency to triangulate, to hide from conflict and to be passive with my aggression towards others. It reveals to me how I avoid dealing directly with you. Bring fresh directness in our relationship and let it be released into all of my relationships. Life is too short to live in such dysfunction. I know it will not be easy, but I am willing Lord. O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy his consolations, through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

THE QUESTION

What is your tendency toward triangulation and conflict avoidance like? By the way, if you love conflict, you are suffering from a different dysfunction. ;0)  

P.S.

We still have a few copies of People Who Say Such Things available at no charge from our generous benefactor—for people who can’t make it work in the budget right now. Click here: PEOPLE WHO GIVE SUCH THINGS.

Second, a lot of people have followed up on my invitation to try the Daily Text Fasting Challenge with concerns about whether their health will permit fasting. I encourage you to just sign up and we will work within any health limitations. The watchword is GRACE. Register here and get your first weekly guidance email tomorrow. 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

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