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The Problem with Relationships: The Ghost in the Machine

We are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2 ESV)

Adam and Eve Forced Out of Eden

Contrary to popular dogma, humankind is not an accident. We are not the result of random mutations or, as Einstein once said of the universe, the result of God rolling dice. Instead, each one of us is born with a basic, inherent design, imprinted by the Creator. The Founding Fathers of the United States, even the deists, understood this and placed the idea into our Declaration of Independence.

The Design

In “Understanding our Design” we saw this basic design as outlined in Genesis 1:26-31. Regardless of their culture or location, every person on this planet has four basic personality characteristics:

  • Self-Awareness – We are unique creatures with the ability to interact with God and other human beings on a level that transcends animals.
  • Complexity – We have a mind, will, emotions, and ultimately are spiritual beings.
  • Authority –We were hard-wired to create, to build, to explore, to nurture, to hunt, to be active.
  • Relationship – We were created to be in relationship with other people.

The Root of the Problem

A quick read of Genesis 2 and 3 reveals something went terribly wrong with man’s basic design. When Adam and Eve sinned, they tried to cover up. What should have been the most natural thing for a man and his wife became the focal point of what had gone wrong in their hearts. Where pure love and desire had existed, lust and selfishness now dominated. Though the basic aspects of our nature remained, they were damaged and relationships have suffered as a result ever since.

Ultimately, we were created to live in total transparency with God and each other. But sin is the “Ghost in the Machine” that makes it ultimately impossible to be completely transparent with anyone including, at times, ourselves. This can be seen in Adam and Eve’s immediate reaction to sin in their own hearts and how that affected every aspect of their relationship with God and each other.

The Drive to Conceal

Though created for relationship, the first couple hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden (Gen 3:8). Ironically they used God’s own creation in an attempt to conceal the innocence they had lost. Contrary to those who believe mankind is evolving away from its basic impulse to live in concealment, followers of Christ know that total freedom from this impulse to hide one’s inner self will only happen when sin is eradicated.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. – 1 Cor. 13:12

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:1-3 ESV)

So what do people tend to hide behind to keep from having to reveal their true self? Some hide behind cliques, family, social and economic status, and even religion. Others hide behind their accomplishments, deluding themselves into believing their self-effort has overcome their inner nature. Still others hide behind anonymity, hoping they can become as invisible as a homeless person on the side alleys of Wall Street.

Fear of Interaction

The first thing Adam and Eve did after their poor attempt to conceal their true nature was to hide in fear (Genesis 3:9-10). They didn’t want to interact with God. Man should have a reverential awe of God, but at the same time, was created to live in harmony and acceptance with Him.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:18-19 ESV)

Our problem is that sin leads us to distrust God, others, and even ourselves.  The one sure way to protect ourselves is by limiting interaction with others. Not so in our social media age, you might say. People are more connected than ever. In his groundbreaking book, Future Minds, Richard Watson points to some disturbing trends that show our culture is actually becoming more isolationist rather than truly connected.

  • In our multitasking world, we do more than one thing at once, but we rarely do more than one thing at once well.
  • Bite-size information leads to thinking in the lowest common denominator. Thinking tends to be devoid of context or real personal interaction.
  • We live faster than we think.
  • We are finding it more difficult to focus on one thing, one idea, or one person.

Watson believes there is about to be a backlash against pseudo-relationships. At the core of our being we might fear interaction, but we also yearn for it.

The Blame Game

(God) said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which Icommanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:11-12 ESV)

The first reaction Adam and Eve had when confronted by God was to blame each other, God’s creation, and ultimately God Himself. Every time we blame others for our reactions to them, we are really blaming God. He created them; He could have stopped them; He could have changed them.

What Now?

Recognizing any problem is usually 90% of the battle. When we quit looking to pop-culture to fill the empty places of our mind and pop-psychology to fill the empty places of our heart, we can then see ourselves and others as we all really are. There are no magic fixes to relationship problems. Instead, there has to be a certain looking to Christ for the power to overcome, and sometimes, simply to faithfully endure the tensions that will always exist between us until Christ returns.

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