Real Relationships Renegotiate
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2 (NRSV)
Relationships are a constant and continual renegotiation. What you say on your twelfth birthday, your retirement date, or wedding day may not be your plan ten years later. And yet, to the other person, it can be a total surprise. They defend the old plan, saying, “You can’t change your mind now. That was not what we agreed.”
“You said you wouldn’t go back to work until the kids were in junior high,” says the mom with the more-than-full-time job, to her husband in charge of the everyday chaos at home. “Yes, but four years into this, I feel differently,” he says. “Don’t lock me in.”
In an unhealthy relationship, we do lock each other in. We hold each other hostage to some past version of ourselves, cutting down each other’s dreams.
“How are you going to cook for the homeless, when you don’t even cook at home?”
“You wantedto go to law school. You can’t change careers at your age.”
“You want to sing songs from the 18th century? This family doesn’t have time for you to pursue your own amusement.”
But it’s cruel to tell another person that they are not allowed to change their mind. It’s terrible to feel boxed in to a previous version of yourself. Renegotiating isn’t easy. But the heart of the gospel is this: everyone gets to grow and change. Discerning the will of God isn’t about doing whatever you want or making the other person do whatever you want. Discernment disrupts our best-laid plans.
When the next negotiating session begins, remind me “God is still speaking.” And not only to me. Amen.
Lillian Daniel serves as Conference Minister with the Michigan Conference UCC. She is the author of Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don’t Belong To and When “Spiritual But Not Religious” Is Not Enough.