Finding Identity in the 'Holy Dance'

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As Christians, we believe God is Trinity— Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—living uniquely and yet unified in mutual, self-giving love. The relational character of God is often described as 'a holy dance' between Father, Son, and Spirit, whose purpose for creating the world was to bring humanity into a shared relationship with the Trinity—as adopted sons and daughters. Because humans are made in God's image, the capacity for relationship is innate in all of us. As the apostle Paul wrote, “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure” (Ephesians 1:5). I am in awe that my adoption, with all the rights and privileges of a natural born child, gave God great pleasure. All of humanity is invited, but never forced, into the holy dance with the Father, Son, and Spirit. When our identity is secure in relationship with the Trinity, we are free to create, explore, and enjoy the abundant life here and now.

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When we lose our ability to make meaning out of our experiences, however, it is difficult to thrive. As author C. Baxter Kruger states, “the goal of the evil one, is to destroy the dance of life shared by Father, Son and Spirit on this planet."

People are complex; our experience, as well as our faith tradition, informs our view of God and how we walk out our faith journey. What seems consistent in the human experience is the tendency to lean more heavily on one aspect of God’s character to the exclusion of another. As a child, I believed God was impersonal and uninvolved in the lives of people. Then, as a young adult, I belonged to a church tradition focused on holiness and obedience, which seemed to underemphasize God’s grace and mercy. Fear was a dominant emotion during those years, because I lived out of an identity focused on pleasing God.

Identity issues have been part of my own personal struggle and for those I work with, as well. As I recover from a distorted identity, I am learning to rest in God’s embrace and risk in relationships with others. God is the prime example of a relational being existing in the Trinity: Father, Son, and Spirit. For humans made in the image of God, relationships are at the core of who we were designed to be. It takes courage to walk toward freedom after years of hearing hurtful messages that reiterate “you don’t have value.” Through 'the holy dance'—a deep sense of belonging as a loved and valued child of God is available to all.

Relational Pipelines: Four Key Relationships

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No matter how careful or attentive we try to be, we all experience the pain of broken relationships at some point in our lives. No one is exempt. In their book, When Helping Hurts, authors Corbett and Fikkert describe four key areas of relational brokenness that result in emotional poverty—or in "relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, [and] that are not harmonious or enjoyable.” When any one of the four relationships below are not functioning properly, people are unable to fulfill their calling in life.

Four Key Relationships for an Abundant Life

  • A right relationship and healthy dependence on God

  • A secure relationship with ourselves as a unique child of God

  • Connected relationships with others, characterized by empathy

  • A vital relationship with the rest of creation (or the world)

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These key relationships are the building blocks of all human activity and form an interconnected pipeline. This life-giving flow allows us to live out the truth of Jesus’ words: “I have come that you might have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

Healthy trust and dependence on God is the first relationship, and it provides a secure base in which to interact with others and the world. The quality and authenticity of our relationships with others is directly connected to our relationship with ourselves and our own uniqueness as a child of God (Galatians 5:14). The ability to love others well is demonstrated through our care and empathy towards the people around us—our families, friends, neighbors, and communities. The final piece in this pipeline is the relationship with the rest of creation (the world)—and finding our place and purpose in it through a meaningful vocation.

No one is exempt from brokenness in their relationships with God, self, others, and the rest of creation at some point in life. In light of this reality, we have the opportunity to practice new levels of compassion with one another. God invites us to partner with him in the ministry of reconciliation. "And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him" (2 Corinthians 5:18). Reconciliation happens most authentically when we understand our own broken relationships in light of God’s redemptive work. Jesus Christ is described in scripture as the Creator, Sustainer, and Reconciler of all things (Colossians 1:15-20). The authors of When Helping Hurts state that, “Jesus died for our souls, but he also died to reconcile—that is, to put into right relationship all that He created."

It is a high honor to be invited into the story of another person as they learn to release painful memories and experiences that have kept them in bondage, and experience new ways of relating to God, themselves, and others. Our hope is to meet each person where they are . . . and to empower each individual, couple, and family experiencing brokenness with the tools needed to gain wholeness, healing, and freedom for an abundant life.

Hope Is a Rope

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“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12). That verse was written to a group of people who lived in the midst of chaos, struggle, and persecution. To hope in something or someone means that I live in expectation that something I desire or long for will happen. To hope means I trust that there is something more than I can see, touch, or feel. To hope means I don’t give up, even when I can’t see what’s ahead. To have hope results in the belief that my life is not worthless, because God put me on earth to be worthwhile, and one of the ways I do that is to add meaning and richness to the lives of others. 

In English, hope is a somewhat abstract idea of expectation. The word for hope in Hebrew (Tikvah), however, is more concrete. In Hebrew, the word means expectation—and  it also means cord or rope, which comes from a root word that means to bind or to wait for or upon. Tikvah is a rope that we can hang onto when the world seems out of control or when we don't know how to make it through a difficult season in life, like the promise given to the Israelites in captivity in a foreign land. “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope [tikvah]” (Jeremiah 29:11). Is it possible that a rope can give me hope? I can cling to God and cry out with the psalmist, “For thou art my hope [tikvah], O Lord God; thou art my trust from my youth" (Psalm 71:5).

Tikvah is used in the biblical story found in the book of Joshua. As Joshua prepares to lead the Israelites into the promise land, he sends out two spies who come to the house of Rahab, a prostitute. The king of Jericho hears about the two spies and orders Rahab to turn them over, but instead, she hides them on the roof and deceives the king. Rahab is in a vulnerable place and tells the spies, "I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you” (Joshua 2:9). This sounds like a hopeless situation.

She asks the spies to swear an oath that when Jericho is conquered, they will let Rahab and her family live. The spies say to Rahab, “We shall be free from this oath unless when we come into the land, you tie this cord of scarlet thread [tikvah] in the window through which you let us down and gather into the house your father, mother and your brothers and all your father’s household” (Joshua 2:17-18). The spies keep their word and spare Rahab and her family. The scarlet cord was used here in a literal sense, but it gives us a picture of what hope looks like. The cord was Rahab’s only guarantee that her household would be spared by the Israelites. Though the physical cord had been tied to the window to ensure their safety, Rahab still had to wait for the realization of the spies’ promise. One of the most difficult things to remember is that "hope is rooted in waiting", a concept K. Gallagher beautifully details in her blog (graceintorah.net). I imagine Rahab walked through the steps laid out in Romans 12:12—being joyful in the hope that her family would be rescued, patient in the uncertainty, and praying to the one true God that she didn't even know, but hoped would be her salvation.

How do we cling to hope and keep waiting? How do we keep doubt from overwhelming us? In my experience, the answer is rooted in the vital relationships with God, ourselves, and others. The spies needed Rahab in order to leave a dangerous situation; Rahab needed the spies to follow through with their promise to protect her family; Rahab needed to wait and trust the one true God; and Joshua, the leader of the Israelites, needed assurance from God and the people who told him, “Be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:18).

A connected relationship with God is like grasping onto a strong rope. We can cling to and depend on Him even when we can’t see the next right step. I need to rest in God, trusting that the issues I'm facing are part of what God is using to transform me. And, like Rahab and the spies, I need to risk allowing other people into my life. God really is in control, and when I relinquish my anxiety over to Him, I will find the hope that I long for in the midst of chaos.