During my sabbatical in 2011, I had the opportunity to attend a two-week school of spiritual direction in the Garden of the Gods, Colorado. It was led by one of my favorite authors and teachers, Dr. Larry Crabb. He began by asking us to give words that describe who God is. Many descriptive words were offered, such as transcendent, love, powerful, fatherly, and others.
And then Dr. Crabb said he asks this question of groups around the world, and the one word he rarely hears is community.
I have realized that the measure of my life is not in accumulated wealth or homes, not in degrees or titles, and not in the opportunities I provide my children.
He went on to explain that before the beginning of creation, God existed in perfect relationship – Father, Son, and Spirit who love, serve, and relate to one another. And God said, “This is so good we need to share it!” So God made us in his relational image.
An ancient theologian said, “Out of Laughter we were born.” This is significant because it means that you and I bear the relational image of God. We were made to participate in the loving exchange of God and share that love with one another.
If your relational history is anything like mine, it confirms this truth in two ways.
First, in all of the wonder and beauty this world has to offer, it often feels incomplete until shared with another. As I hiked through the Garden of the Gods I found myself saying, “I wish Lisa were here to see this!” This partially explains why we go to concerts and miss half the show because we are holding up our smartphones, taking blurry, distorted videos to show our friends. The relationship is more important than the experience.
Second, the depth of pain we experience from our broken relationships is greater than any other. The greatest pain we face isn’t a broken bone or a physical injury, but the loss of a loved one, conflict with a spouse, or a prodigal child.
Our greatest joys and our worst pains reveal that at our core we bear the relational image of God. I have realized that the measure of my life is not in accumulated wealth or homes, not in degrees or titles, and not in the opportunities I provide my children. The measure of a person’s life is in seeking the face of God, participating in the divine exchange of love and glory, and being part of that exchange in the lives of others.
May we live more fully as God created us by seeing our relationship with him and with others as the end of our lives and not just the means by which we seek life.