We are reading a book in our small group called The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson.
This book and the concept of circling our prayers is a favorite of mine from my time at NCC. It’s close to my heart because it represents a lived experience of my time at NCC. Plus, it truly represents the heart of Pastor Mark (PM) and his belief in the power of life-changing prayer, thinking-long prayer, and praying-through-prayer. He believes it and he lives it. He has one of the biggest hearts of faith and practices of prayer of any pastor I’ve ever met.
PM and I may not agree on the need for full LGBTQ inclusion in the church, but I know he is a man of faith who has a vibrant relationship with God and an incredibly kind and open heart who is willing to get on his knees before God and listen. So on this point, I’ve chosen to respectfully agree to disagree with him. I believe love as our theology should always be preeminent and I know he holds this to be true too – on that we certainly agree. Plus, his heart to believe in big, impossible prayers has radically impacted my faith journey because I’ve seen God deliver big outcomes to his prayers, so I choose to honor him in his own journey as he has chosen to honor mine.
The more I read, and remember the prayer miracles I have witnessed in PM’s life, I find myself wishing I had that “thing” that he has with faith and prayer.
That belief that Jericho will come tumbling down if we just pray.
The belief that if I march around a promise or a prayer enough times that things will change.
The faith to believe that God truly has promised good for me in certain areas of my life that feel so overwhelming right now.
Now for starters, I don’t doubt for one minute that God is good. Irreparably, infallibly, eternally, irrevocably GOOD. That God is a God who delivers promises, answers prayers, heals, delightfully disrupts, and God deeply cares for all humanity (including me!).
My theology doesn’t support the “coupled theory” that God is good only “because God is sovereign” or “because God makes all things work out for good for those who believe” or “because you can name it and claim it and God will give you what you want.”
That coupled, dependent, “God is good because…” theology has long been bunch of bunk to me.
God is good because God is good. Period.
So with those sub-points resolved, I come back to my point for today… (thanks for letting me stream-of-conscious this post.)
What is my Jericho?
What is that thing in my life that only God’s intervention can cause a revolution, a redemption, and a permanent victory?
I awoke this morning with the gut-wrenching realization that I have never had a fully healthy relationship with a partner.
Two divorces. Countless live-in partners and even more following-all-the-Christian-rules-relationships that dive bomb sooner than they could even get started. I’ve intentionally attempted a myriad of strategies to try and not duplicate the previous catastropic-trainwreck-of-a-relationship, and yet every-single-one seems to end in the same place.
You’re probably thinking, “Welp Jenny, look at the common denominator, it must be you.” I know. I’ve had that thought. A lot. Taken it to a myriad of therapists too who have unilaterally said that 2 of my relationships were overtly abusive (physical, verbal, emotional, you name it) and to get the hell out. I was told of my second marriage by a therapist in DC, “I can help you survive this marriage, but until he deals with his mother issues, you will never thrive.”
And yet I also know we tend to pick people who are a reflection of who we are inside right? Deepak Chopra says…
“The path to love is never about externals. However good or bad you feel about your relationship, the person you are with at this moment is the “right” person because he or she is a mirror of who you are inside…When you struggle with your partner, you are struggling with yourself. Every fault you see in them touches a denied weakness in yourself. Every conflict you wage is an excuse not to face a conflict within. The path to love therefore clears up a monumental mistake that millions of people make—the misake that someone “out there” is going to give (or take) something that is not already yours. When you truly find love, you find yourself.”
Meh. Not sure if that makes me feel better or worse.
The whole thing feels so unfair. And disheartening. And soul crushing. It makes me feel trapped in this endless cycle where in my case, even after circling for 32 years, the walls of my relational Jericho never seem to come down.
I serendipitously (or depressingly) stumbled across this post this morning, written the month that my second divorce was final (a marriage btw that we followed all the “christian” rules all the way to the altar and it was still a hot mess). PM had started a course on miracles that was just bursting with hope. But I sat in my chair in church and sobbed because I wanted SO bad to believe in relational miracles for my life. Transparently, the true miracle for me was just being able to take the next breath. That post was written in 2014 and I was asking all the exact same questions I am today.
My thoughts have also circled around the “maybe since I appear to be so incapable of relation-shipping, I should be single,” but I know that I know that I am wired for a partner. God has very clearly told me so. So why have I had (literally) 32 years of a struggle in this area?
So this is my Jericho. Healthy love relationships.
(Well, with a dash of finances and my weight which aren’t far behind in this feeling of overwhelming struggle).
So what does that look like for me? Pretty basic stuff…
- Companionship & Belonging: this is our need to share our lives and have a sense of belonging, acceptance, and affiliation with others. When this is met we usually feel contentment, warmth, and security.
- Affection (Verbal & Physical): this is our need have care from others expressed to us through words and touch. When this is met we usually feel happiness and excitement, and have a sense of confidence.
- Emotional Support & Validation: this is our need to be attended to, validated, and supported when we are struggling. When this is met, we usually feel a sense of relief, relaxation, grounding, and efficacy. (by Will Meek, PhD)
- I’d add another two that I believe are important: Spiritual connection and growth and Physical and Emotional protection. I need to feel safe (obvi since what I’ve been through this would undoubtedly be important).
PM says we have to “name” our Jericho, so this is mine. Not just “a” relationship, but a relationship that meets these basic needs (for both of us). I’m not quite sure how to get there from where I am now. Not sure what I’m doing wrong or praying wrong or looking wrong or just being wrong.
The question I find myself daily asking, “Am I so irreparably broken that the walls of this Jericho will never tumble?”
Or is it even me? Or am I destined to struggle in relationships as if this is some type of calling? (if anyone quotes the “cross to bear” theology, my head might explode)
I don’t know.
p.s. Mama, I know you are reading this from your computer at home and want to pick up the phone and call me and I love you for that. But please don’t. I’m ok. Just bummed out, kk?