Authentic Relationships

Today’s scripture: Psalm 36 (NRSV) (The Message) (KJV) What might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (Keith Phillips):

I have a friend, or maybe I should say, had a friend, whom I’ll call Arlene. We’d been friends for a long time. Originally, we were colleagues at work, but she moved on to similar work for another institution here in town. Several years years ago she and her girlfriend broke up. I’ve remained close to Carrie, but Arlene has developed other friends, or so I hear. I have tried my hardest over the past three years to continue to the relationship with Arlene. I always enjoyed her company; she’s fun and funny. We’d talk on the phone and send emails. (As much as I hate cutesy forwarded emails, they seem to be Arlene’s favorite so I’d put up with them. It was a reason to be in touch.) And we’d get together for dinner every couple of months or so.

Then, at some point, Arlene stopped sending the emails and stopped returning my calls. “Okay,” I said to myself, “our friendship is over; Arlene has moved on. So be it.” So I was surprised, and pleased, that Arlene sent me a Christmas card. Enclosed was a note, written as though we’d talked just the other day and as though I knew exactly what was going on in her life.

I’m sorry, I may not have lots and lots of friends, but the relationships I do have are important. I wrote back, saying that I hoped we could renew the friendship; but, for me at least, relationships require constant work, a commitment of time, and mutuality. Maybe I’ll hear from Arlene again.

Psalm 36 is an extraordinary psalm. I remember waking up early one morning thinking about the ways the psalmist wrote about God’s loving kindness and faithfulness in verses 5–9. It’s sublimely beautiful no matter which translation is read. But then, there are verses 1–4, referring to “the God-rebel” (as paraphrased in The Message). One phrase caught my attention: “they have ceased to act wisely and do good” (verse 3b; NRSV). Oh, I see, “the God-rebel” used to act wisely and do good, but no longer does. The relationship, the friendship has ended. And it was not of God’s doing.

These verses reminded me that relationships, even with God, require constant work, a commitment of time, and mutuality. It is delusional, and dangerous, to believe that we can go merrily on our own way and maintain an authentic relationship with God. The last verse points out: “they [the God-rebels] are thrust down, unable to rise.” That’s pretty definitive.

Thought for the day: Let’s do the hard work of maintaining an interactive, authentic relationship with God. You will be blessed!

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.