MEREDITH TRIPLET, CONTRIBUTING WRITER
Looking back at my undergraduate experience, relationships played the biggest role in shaping me towards maturity — topping the impact of both classes and extracurricular activities. Why are relationships so important? Why do we spend so much of our time and energy trying to maintain friendships, fall in love, and avoid conflict? Because, as people made in the image of God, we are stamped with the divine nature. And as God is Triune — in a wonderful mystery, one being consisting of the three distinct persons — he is always in the ever-loving relationship we all long for. The Trinity is a mutually giving, mutually sacrificing, mutually supporting perpetual relationship of love. We were made to be in such relationships, but the human race chose independence over love (Genesis 1-3). The longing in our hearts to give and receive love is a mark of God’s image. God cannot be God without the perpetual relationship of the Trinity; so we cannot be human without relating to other persons. Being in relationship is part of what it means to be God’s image-bearer.
Therefore, relationships ought to be exchanges of love that mimic the love shared between Father, Son, and Spirit. When you were born, you were born into four distinct, interconnected categories of relationships: 1) your relationship with yourself; 2) your relationship with other people; 3) your relationship with things (such as nature, food, and information); and 4) your relationship with God. A perfect person with a perfect life would love herself and feel confident in her self-acceptance; would love and be loved back by those she interacts with; would love the world and receive the world’s love through sufficient food, clothing, beauty, and all other necessities of life; and would love God, and be loved back by God. Not only all of this, but also all of these loves would be in proper proportion. That is to say, our perfect person would prioritize her love for God over her love for her mother, and her love for her mother over her love for her pet dog, and so on.
Sadly, we live in a broken world, and no one has experienced such a life. Even Jesus, who perfectly loved, was not loved perfectly. We all fail to love ourselves, others, things, and God as we ought, and we have all failed to receive the love from ourselves, others, and things that we are worth — and we also fail to experience the fullness of God’s love. We have all been hurt by not being loved as much as we deserve, and we have all hurt others (and ourselves!) by withholding love. We work too much or too little; we don’t care for our bodies as we should, eating too much or too little, exercising too much or too little, or engaging our sexuality too much or too little. Sometimes, these broken relationships can hurt so much that we feel like throwing in the towel and calling it a day.
But, where we fail ourselves, and where others fail us, and where the world fails us, God will always come through! God is the only person who is big enough to fill the hole in our hearts. God’s amazing, all-encompassing love is enough for us, if only we let it enter our lives. Pray that you might experience God’s delight in you, that he would be for you your all in all. When you’re lonely, pray that God might reveal his presence to you. Pray that God would give you the courage to be vulnerable with other people, and that you would have the wisdom and insight to see yourself and others with God’s eyes — that you could reflect his love into their lives, and show compassion to yourself.
Once we know that we are truly loved by God, then we are free to risk insufficient love from other people, from our workplaces, and even from our own selves — for we know that it does nothing whatsoever to impact our worth. We are worthy because God chose us, and loved us so much that he sent his very own son to live and die for us, and because of that priceless gift, we can spend all of eternity in perfect relationship with the Triune God and creator of the universe. We can be courageous making changes to make wrong things right, to speak hard truths, to be vulnerable, and to sit in brokenness with people who mourn.
May you grow ever deeper into relationship with God, with yourself, with others, and with this splendid world God has given us to manage.
Meredith got her BS at Wheaton College, IL and is in her fifth year of a UC Berkeley Chemistry PhD. Her research focuses on exploring membrane-associated signaling systems using fabrication and optical microscopy, with relevance to cancer and immunity. She also serves as a deacon at Christ Church East Bay.