(Note: this is the introduction for the Central Branch God/relationships.)
2) Best Navigation Through this Blog:
Go directly to other Parts of the Path
3) Links to Posts about Core Concepts
So far we’ve followed a theme in the Cleric Path, of receiving good things from God, being transformed by them (taking your identity from it) and now we’re talking about doing something with it. I’ve labelled the branches 1 thru 4 to help us keep them straight but that doesn’t reflect any sort of higher archy or order of operation. The truth is that the entire path is happening all at once and it can be quite messy. We just need to try to deal with a piece at a time so numbers help.
I thought about using left, center, right, etc. to label them. But it’s a little tricky with 4 branches. And in truth, there is a central theme/priority to the branches because of the flow of the path. Relationships are a core principle of the path, your relationship with God, yourself, and others. Each part of the path has a focus relationship–roots is the relationship between us and God, Trunk is our relationship with ourself, Branches and Canopy split relationship between us and others into two parts.
This is very important because we need well-defined, healthy boundaries in our relationships with some folks and not others. Family and some close friends form a group of people who are much more intimately involved in our lives. They speak truth into our lives and deserve a level of access that is not appropriate for the rest of the world. One of my mentors, Mike Galeotti, calls them covenant relationships.
A brief example of the difference between branch level relationships and canopy level relationships is forgiveness and reconciliation. Let’s say a casual friend of yours cheats you. We’re called to forgive. In fact, forgiveness sets us free–it’s about not letting hurts take up residence in our hearts and minds. We aren’t commanded to reconcile with that person. If someone has shown themselves to be unsafe they may need to be outside the relationship for a while.
Let’s run that scenario again, only it’s your spouse. We are called to forgive and reconcile with our spouses. I know I’ll get hate mail over this, and I’m not saying that there’s never a reason to get divorced. I’m saying that some people are put in our lives to get so uncomfortably close that its impossible for you two to not hurt each other. It’s part of the process of growing as a child of God. There’s a short list of relationships that fall into the deeper branch level and some that don’t. When we treat a covenant relationship like a casual one it’ll fall apart every time and we’ll doubt that we are worthy or capable of “finding true love” etc. But that sort of thinking is outside-in.
Another reason for highlighting this distinction is the outside-in vs inside-out mindsets. Many a good-hearted Christian has read the bible verse about taking the Gospel to all the world and recognized it for the mission statement that it is. They pursue a professional, missionary ministry either at home or abroad with passion and ultimately sacrifice their families to the idle of doing good for God. Think of all the PKs (preachers kids) you’ve met. The grew up having to look like good people because being human got in the way of dad’s efforts to save the lost. These missionaries are trying to serve God but their mindset is outside in. The canopy-level relationships are getting their attention and it’s unhealthy. Well, it doesn’t have to be that blatant for it to cause problems in our lives.
So branch-level relationships are two directional, difficult, and require a deep level of vulnerability. Canopy-level relationships should be a by-product of living authentically. People will be drawn to Christ in you. They will become fans of your output. They may even become supporters, financial or otherwise. But like everything else in the canopy level, they happen as a result of your actions and that doesn’t obligate you to continue to maintain them if that would inappropriate.
I’m not saying people are expendable. I’m saying the canopy level can be pruned to protect the tree in winter, but cutting off a branch is a severe injury.
About this Branch
So this is a core concept branch as we’ve already discussed but it’s also a dual branch. In other words, it’s Godly relationships and it’s God and Other Relationships. We’ve covered Godly relationships (covenant relationships) above, now let’s talk about a branch that’s devoted to relationship-actions with God and others because the branch level is about actions.
What actions do you need to take because you’re intentional about your walk with God, and what actions will you take because you have family and a fellowship?
My book, Primacy of God, has a chapter devoted to ways we can incorporate God into our day, acknowledging him as the single most important thing in our lives. You can get that book for free by signing up to follow any of the threads on this blog. (There will be a sign-up form at the bottom of each page soon.)
So let’s close this overview page about this branch with a look authentic actions for loved ones.
Family, Friends and Fellowship
It’s been said that friends are family that you get to pick and family are friends that you probably wouldn’t have picked. We could go deeply into boundaries, but this isn’t the place and I’m not the expert to do that. I only want to clear one thing up–just because someone is related to you doesn’t mean they are automatically a covenant relationship.
We do need to invest ourselves more into people God chose to put in our lives through birth and marriage, and that can get tricky. We can’t let someone take us out–not even our spouse. Sometimes the people who love us the most are the biggest sponsors of pain and failure in our lives. Fortunately, God comes through with some pretty big blessings and miracles for those who suffer for these relationships. Honor your father and mother, for example, comes with a promise to bless. Still, there’s no one who is in a place that can’t be terminated if its a threat to you. So use good judgement and walk with God on all this.
When if comes to friends, it gets fun. Jesus had his disciples. He seems to have chosen complete strangers to be his closest allies. I wonder if he did so to make a point. I do know this much, they did everything together. We need context to make a relationship work and there’s an ebb and flow to context.
Think about how much easier it was to have friends when you’re a kid and you don’t have the same level of responsibilities. Think about the popularity of online dating these days. It’s harder at certain ages to make deeply connected friends and it’s harder in the digital age for anyone, at any age to have it.
So that’s hurtle number 1. Context.
To be continued…under construction…