The Crucifixion of Relation

Sometimes fiction is helpful for making sense of things. Sometimes we feel the need to put our lives into geometrical shapes. Sometimes I feel that need, at least.

This week, I put myself into the triangle of human relations. I have always hated being around people, but as I age, the necessity of dealing with them grows evidently from a physical necessity to a spiritual one. This hermit crab has gotten too big for his shell, so to speak, and must now crawl around asking for a new one.

Let’s say there are three ways of relating to people. The first deals primarily with knowledge: speaking to people, observing them, learning from them, thinking about them, and so forth. The second deals with service (or virtue): serving them, leading them, sacrificing for them. The third and final point is about ritual (or joy): playing games, telling stories, shenanigans that will lead to good stories, hosting parties, and so forth.

It’s important to realize that these don’t just apply to the realm of personal friendship, the triangle also applies to ministry: teaching, missions, and liturgy, respectively. They’re just different scales of community.

I’m interested in how the angles interact. Acting out of joy and virtue results in acts of generosity and hospitality; this side deals in the medium of gifts. Acts between joy and knowledge use the medium of jokes and stories. And acts between knowledge and virtue involve counseling and wisdom.

Why am I talking about this? I find myself critically ill-equipped to manifest any of these things in another person’s life.

Do you feel like you are better at being hospitable or telling jokes, or are you good at both, or neither? Do you feel like it’s important to be able to do these things to be a blessing to people? Should someone try to fulfill all of these offices in some way, or just focus on a single way of expressing love to other people? Is it wrong of me to describe all of these things in terms of ability? (These aren’t rhetorical questions. Let me know.)

I’ve often thought about things like this in relation to me and God, but not really other people. I’ve recently thought about what I ought to do with my life, in the context of this triangle, as becoming a learned person (knowledge & the academy), or a shepherd (service & the ministry), or a bard/poet (ritual & the arts). But now, being convicted that my life has to involve more characters than just myself, I find myself coming up short. My pockets are empty. How am I suppose to talk to another person? How am I suppose to serve them, or create with them?

triangulationships 1

Love means giving a gift to someone, perhaps even of yourself.

Here I am, standing out in the cold, late to the white elephant party, wearing nothing but a big red ribbon and feeling very sad.

One thought on “The Crucifixion of Relation

  1. Michael, some interesting observations and insights. You ask if these relational skills come down to ability. To some degree I would say yes. However, as you’ve noted, we can’t live in the fellowship of other humans without encountering those whose relational needs and modes of communication are often far outside our personal comfort zones. In First Corinthians 9, Paul tells us that he willingly “became a slave to everyone…becoming all things to all people…for the sake of the Gospel”. That’s a tall order. And unless Paul was some kind of super human, he no doubt had to spend a lot of his time practicing this kind of love. Convicting. I have to admit that is not my default.

    Liked by 2 people

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