My mind is always busy with various thoughts, possibilities, and future plans(generally all kinds of potential future plans, dependent on all sorts of odd contingencies). Lately, one of the things that I have been thinking about is my relationship with God and others, as it relates to the idea of dependency. I'm sure everyone has heard the saying, "God is the only thing/relationship you need." Obviously, this is true, right? Well, lately I have been questioning that premise, not so much in the sense of whether it is true or false, but whether it is a fairly framed question.
You may have already branded me as a heretic for even considering the possibility that the believer's relationship with God in this life might not be enough to be completely fulfilled. That's fine, however, I have been feeling lately that this question has much more to do with a right understanding of design rather than a lack of trust, although I suppose I could be deluding myself. Let me give a little background...
For awhile now, I have noticed that my awareness and level of fulfillment in my relationship with God is seemingly very closely connected with my relationship and intimacy with other believers. For many years, I felt there was something wrong with this. Now don't misunderstand me , there have certainly been times in my life where I have been unhealthily dependent on others for fulfillment(I still struggle with this being a very relational person). But, this connection between community, fellowship, and relationship, both on a spiritual and physical level, has led me to ask, "Is a relationship with God alone enough to fulfill the believer in this life?"
My tentative conclusion is this, a relationship with God alone is generally not enough for me to be fulfilled in this life. Okay, some of you are probably tearing your clothes and desperately looking for some ashes right about now. I understand...But I have come to this conclusion not because I doubt God's ability to fulfill me, ( in fact, the most fulfilling moments in my life have been the times I have undoubtedly and overwhelmingly been in His presence in humility and brokenness)but rather because I think he DESIGNED me(and humans in general) to need and relate to others.
First, I want to clarify. I only think that horizontal relationships can be fulfilling when we have our vertical relationship right. Also, I think there are certain situations(such as being imprisoned and isolated for faith, etc...) where a believer may only have God to rely on, being separated from other believers. With that being said, everything I read in Scripture points to God designing man to be fulfilled through other individuals as well as Himself. Even before the fall, when Adam still enjoyed unbroken communion with God, God concluded that it "wasn't good for man to be alone." Wait, man wasn't alone right? Adam had unbroken fellowship with God! Yet, God apparently didn't make man to be fulfilled ONLY through that vertical relationship, at least while on earth.
The reason this is important to discuss, is because I think sometimes believers feel guilty experiencing fulfilling relationships with others when their quiet time is struggling/stagnant. I am speaking from personal experience on this one and I still struggle with it at times. Why do I feel that fellowship with God and fellowship with other believers have to be separately categorized? As I have been reading in the Word, especially the New Testament, it seems clear that in one sense fulfillment through others is experiencing God. God reveals himself to believers through the fellowship of other believers. That fulfillment that we receive through deep spiritual conversation and connecting on a heart level with others is a gift and manifestation of God! This is why we are commanded to love our brothers and sisters in the faith, our enemies, and everyone else, because that love(given and enabled by God) is God revealing himself, both to them and us. This is why we are called in Hebrews 3:13 to "encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."
Now, several cautions. Fellowship with other believers is not a substitute for time spent alone with God. Many times, there are things God wants to teach me I have only heard when I am "meditating in my heart, on my bed, in silence." Many times I have had significant conversations with others, only to realize I substituted it for my time alone with God, which isn't productive or healthy. Also, my love and allegiance to others should never be greater than my love for God (Matthew 10:37). Oddly enough, although I have never figured out why, when I am truly valuing God above all else, it actually makes me more productive and loving in my other relationships. Lastly, it is impossible to be fulfilled without God. Although I think in certain situations God chooses to meet the relational needs in me that he designed others to meet, people are never able to meet the area of need that God has placed in my heart for Him.
This is an analogy that helps me. God is like a prism. When light passes through the prism, all the ranges of colors are seen and understood in their rightful places. And as humans, we are designed to see the range of colors, red, orange, blue, violet, etc...Let's say the color red is representative of a romantic relationship/spouse and blue is representative of other important friend relationships. For the believer, red should be representative of one area of life and fulfillment. Yet, many times, it is possible to get so focused on red that one starts trying to find blue in red. But, that's impossible. So then, red becomes kinda dull and boring. It isn't meeting all of the needs that it seemingly should. Why? Because the expectation placed on red is much more than it could ever possibly meet. Red can't be blue, any more than it can be orange or violet. It can only be red. But, when viewed through the prism, it is possible to see the worth and place of all of the other colors. THEN, Red fits and acts as a certain part of the picture, one that can now be seen for the vibrant, beautiful, and lovely part that it is. And now being able to see red's rightful place, green, blue, and orange fit and make sense. I have explained this better before, but that's the general idea.
If I had a little more time, I could probably better illustrate my position. But, Shakespeare is calling. I guess the point of this whole thing for me, is that God has been revealing to me that I don't need to feel guilty about wanting close relationships with others, and feeling somewhat less than human in the times when I am not experiencing those to any measurable degree. I have talked with friends who struggle with this same issue. But, the more I have prayed and studied it, the more I feel there is a subtlety false dichotomy that Christians sometimes force their thoughts about fulfillment and dependency into. Can God be enough? Of course! But I feel the better question is, Did he make us to be fulfilled and encouraged solely through relationship with Him? At this point, I don't think so...Loving God AND loving others as well as allowing God and others to love me, that is the Kingdom.
P.S. Any thoughts? Feel free to correct and council if you feel I am woefully off track or missing some important point. :-)