Relationships are “Shady”

Life is complicated, huh?  Our rhythms may look mundane and repetitive, but the journey of our hearts and minds in the middle tell a much more convoluted story. 

This week, I have found myself watching Hallmark movies and throw back Disney Movies that give a less complicated version of life that remind me of my outlook in childhood.  The couple gets into their twin beds and cackles at the antics of their neighbors.  The small town glitters in the snow and Christmas lights where the whole community comes together to share good will and to learn a lesson.  The “bad guys” are bumbling.  The “good guys” have a hidden heart of gold. 

I know these are not real, but they are surely comforting in a world that blurs all the lines.  Sometimes you just want things to be cut and dry with bright bold colors coloring inside the lines of a coloring book instead of a grayish tint on every side. As I have been painting more lately, I am very aware of all the hues of one color—gray brown, gray green, mid gray, light gray, dark gray.  I have to pay attention to the setting and the environment that the shadows are in to blend the right shading.  I might use 4 different tones of green in one corner to capture different shadows and light.  This is so true of working with people, as well.  Instead of color, I have to be aware of tone, personality, how people receive things…one shade/tone off, and I make a mess.  Perception is not truth, but it is how people enter into relationships.  It’s an intuitive dance that can be exhausting and risky, and one bad experience tempts us to forget the shade and move to our safe Technicolor coloring inside the lines.

The truth is, I cannot avoid making a mess in relationships.  It inevitably occurs because of my fallibility. When I try to color in the lines perfectly, I often miss real relationships.  Real relationships are risky, and my grays will bleed out. Social media is one of those places that shows in bold colors.  Black or white, one dimensional, red, yellow, flashy, striking pronouncements, not a lot of grace.  Conversations and relationships off line require lots of shading and nuance and intuitive dancing, but those are the ones that are real and true and that shape us. 

In the last few months, I have awakened to the fact that there have been a lot of places where I have colored in the lines in relationships over the last 10 years.  Having children, being a ministry family, running a business, dealing with chronic illness and sensory processing in our family, and experiencing trauma has created natural boundary lines.  But, our hearts were made to blend with others—often times messily.  Most of us don’t wake up one day and say “I don’t want to deal with real relationships with people!”  It is the day in and day out “survival mode” in seasons that often create the lines of isolation.  We fall asleep to the bigger picture of life while we are dealing with the mundane.  You have to fight for real relationships within your home, marriage, extended families, friends.  You have to be willing to get “shady” and blend.  You have to be willing to make mistakes. 

As we enter into the Holiday season, we have a choice to make.  How will we enter?  Will we give grace to the nuances of color and tone in others?  Will we remember the grace extended to our grays by Jesus?  Will we throw away the lines of bold colored performance and bring humility to the table?  In a season that celebrates God with us condescending to be in human form to enter into our shades and tones and messes, I encourage us to breathe, to be aware, to listen, to seek Him and how He would have your story intersect with others.

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