Relational Paradise Lost and Found
God has created each and every one of us as relational beings. We are designed to be in a relationship first and foremost with God Himself, and when mankind was first created this was the case. God met with Adam and Eve, He spoke with them, cared for them, nurtured them. They knew who they were in relation to God their Creator.
God has also designed us to be in relationships with other human beings. God saw of Adam that it was not good for him to be alone without fellow human company and this was even with God as his companion. God gave Adam a wife, Eve, who was to partner him, complement him, to share with him, and furthermore to be his lover and together to procreate on behalf of God according to His instructions.
From the time of our conception God has a plan for us to be part of a human family. Initially we are reliant on our mother’s womb for all of our needs and then on our parents after birth. God has created family, a place where we can feel safe and secure, wanted and special. A place for nurture and encouragement and the instilling of the sense of belonging and meaning.
It does not end there for God has designed us for relationships with others within the wider human society. This may take the form of friendships, the extended family, community, society and Church.
It is truly not good for a person to be on their own, out of relationship with others, isolated and fending for themselves. However, there is in my mind a hierarchy of relational needs and if these are not met in the God-given order then there is a risk of a distortion in our emotional development and relationships with others.
The relationship with God is, I believe, the foundation for good relationships and Adam and Eve knew what it was like to have that direct relationship with Him. However, after the Fall when they disobeyed and sin encroached, this foundational relationship changed. All of the initial sense of who they were was challenged and the initial paradise of relational experience was lost. When this experience of God as the foundation does not happen it leaves a void in us – an inner need which cries out to be met. There is a sense of insecurity that leads to fear and a sense of aloneness; a loss of status - of who we are in relation to God, and a loss of purpose – leaving us without direction and role. Ever since the Fall mankind has sought to regain this lost relationship; there is an inherent knowledge of what it should be but also a sense of the loss of it. There is now an innate human need to find the relational paradise which has been lost. However much we try we can not find this on our own; nothing we can do will achieve what has been lost. We can strive for perfection, for achievement, for fame and notoriety but only God can fill this gap. This is why Christians believe that Jesus is so important and that He made it possible to re-enter a relationship with God as Jesus dealt with the sin which has been a barrier between us and God.
God had also created human safety nets for people’s needs and in His plan He designed the marriage of a man and a woman to be a strong, stable, lifelong relationship with two people becoming bonded to each other as one, creating a place to nurture a child/ren. God created the foundation of the family to be the married couple – the parents – first, to give a place for the children to be. A child’s experience when they are conceived, born and nurtured is only as good as their parents’ ability to offer and fulfil their God-given role. Adam and Eve when first created did not have any baggage of their own and could have offered this perfect role with God’s help, but all of our parents, however good they might be, are still limited by the fact that they are not perfect and nor were their parents and the upbringing they experienced. Yet in spite of this many parents give their best to their children. We live in a society where marriage has been undermined and deemed unnecessary but by doing this we risk losing one of the key core factors of this hierarchy of meeting relational needs.
Marriage is designed to offer a sense of security, stability, and a firm basis for the couple themselves and for the children they have. I see today a sense in many lives of insecurity, uncertainty and living in fear, for the reluctance to commit to marriage leaves those involved always wondering “What if?” A real wake-up call to the change in our society is when we consider the recent programmes on television showing the Amish community where marriage is held in such high esteem that divorce is rare. Although their lives may seem strange to modern commercialised societies, they have held on to values which we have long since lost. Within a strong marriage there is the safe nest for young to be produced, nurtured, and encouraged to grow, develop and be prepared for life in the outside world.
For those who are not married there is still a relational need waiting to be met and this is where family, friendships, groups, activities, and colleagues all give an opportunity to know other people, to relate, support and encourage. Everything today seems to be portrayed as sexualised but relational does not need to be sexualised. We can have friendships and there have been friendships since time immemorial which are not and never have been sexualised. David and Jonathan in the Bible are an example of this where their hearts were knit as one and they were committed to each other. This shows a mutually giving relationship, one based on a care and concern for the other not just what I can get from it. It is far easier to have good friendships if in childhood you have experienced positive relationships and good examples of social interactions.
No man is an island and nor are any couple and there is a need for them to be part of the wider community. In a world where there are differences of opinion, lifestyle, morality and beliefs, it is essential for Christians singles, couples and families to find other likeminded people and give support to each other, encourage each other, and reinforce each others’ determination to live for God. This is where Church comes in. It is not the building but the people. It is the coming together in Christian community and relationship often described as fellowship to worship, share and learn. It gives a point of security to go out from and face the challenges of the world beyond.
God has designed us as relational beings. Adam and Eve knew relational paradise as well as physical. This relational paradise was lost at the Fall. We still have relational needs and through faith in God through Jesus and the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives, as well as through parents, family, friends and Church we can still find relational paradise today.