What My Long Distance Relationship has Taught Me about God

by - 2:20 PM

I've been thinking a lot about my relationship recently. Well actually I've been thinking about two of my relationships -- those being with the Lord and the one with my boyfriend. See, the one with my boyfriend became a long distance relationship last summer when he started playing professional baseball in the Dodgers organization. This post has been sitting in my drafts for a long time because I've been nervous to share it. Now he's back at spring training, so it popped back into my mind. The more time I've spent doing this whole long distance thing I've realized that a lot of things that I would apply to it should be applying to my relationship with the Lord, too. So get ready for a double dose of relationship advice (neither of which I feel very qualified to give).

1. Count the Cost and Decide that It's Worth It

When it comes to starting a long distance relationship, you have to take a minute to think about what you're getting yourself into and be absolutely sure you want to do it. I've never come across something so consistently challenging in my life. If I had doubts about the person, there is no way that I would be willing to put in the amount of effort that it takes to maintain a healthy relationship. You have to decide that the sacrifice is worth it because of how much you care about the person.

One of the most intimidating things in the Bible to me is the idea of counting the cost. Jesus says in Luke 14:33 "Simply put, if you're not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it goodbye, you can't be my disciple." Jesus is basically saying if you aren't willing to put my plans above your own don't even bother. Christ is meant to be absolutely central in our lives and our first priority. This can mean giving up a lot of things whether that be friends, worldly pleasures, or just that extra few hours of sleep on a Sunday. Maintaining a relationship is hard work, and it takes your whole heart. Romans 8:31 says, "If God didn't hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing Himself to the worst by sending His own Son, is there anything He wouldn't gladly and freely do for us?" The Lord has already decided that we're worth it and done everything He could for us. We need to return that favor.

2. Absence doesn't make the heart grow fonder.

This is a really important idea to remember. As a person who has the love language of quality time, absence couldn't have a larger effect on our relationship than it does. I also have anxiety, which in this distance, shows itself as feeling lonely and rejected whenever long periods of time pass without us talking to each other. (Not to mention, the definition I have for that "long period of time" seems to change everyday). Now, I'm not saying sit on the phone with each other every hour of the day. You have a life to live and people right in front of you that you need to be enjoying also, but that doesn't mean that you don't need to keep your partner involved. Whether it is sending them random pictures of your day or just filling them in on the details of day, it keeps you both feeling like you are an important part in each other's lives.

When it comes to God, the same rules apply. James 4:8 says, "Come near to God and He will come near to you" (NIV). How can we expect to build a deep relationship if we are only devoting a few hours a week to hearing what He has to say to us? I've struggled with this for a long time because I put too much pressure on myself to do it. It's almost like I think if I don't spend an hour reading the Bible that it isn't worth anything, but that isn't something you can just jump into. I really suggest getting a translation that works best for you. I love the Message as a Bible for reading, and I take my ESV with me to classes. Also, take that pressure off. Start out just trying to read one chapter a day or pick a few days that you are going to read with what works best in your schedule. One of the weirdest things is that when you start the process of making time, you'll realize that you've always had the time to devote.

3. Communication is Key

On a related note, communication is so important. In the last point, I talked about frequency of communication. Another important thing to consider is the type of communication and making sure your points are getting across clearly as you intend them. The best thing you could ever do is try to schedule times that you know you'll talk to each other on the phone or FaceTime. Let's get real, texting kind of sucks. If all you do is text, you are basically just pen pals with your partner, and you miss out on so many of the best things like hearing them laugh and getting to see their expressions. You also don't get to hear the tone they say things with. I couldn't even begin to count the amount of times I've projected a tone on to a text from someone else where it didn't belong. Texts can so easily come across as angry or rude. Then, it becomes awkward to respond to and makes you feel like you've done something wrong that you just can't figure out. This can be largely avoided through using the phone what it was actually invented for - speaking to each other.

On the other side of this, communication with God is a bit more complicated as we can't hear from him directly anymore. We do have the words that He left for us which goes back to the last point of spending time in them. John 15:7 says, "But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon." Prayer is the best avenue of communication to God, but it can also be hard to make time for that. I've started trying to bring anything that makes me feel a bit anxious before Him. When you bring the little things, you'll start to bring the big things too. When you make the effort to keep Him involved in those big things, it is easier to be in the center of His will for you.
Psalm 16:7-8 "The wise counsel God gives me when I'm awake is confirmed by my sleeping heart. Day and night I'll stick with God; I've got a good thing going and I'm not letting go."

4. Be Open

While you're communicating, it has to be open and honest. Over time I've found out the when I'm more honest I am about the way that I'm feeling, I get a response that is closer to the one that I want. I really struggled a lot when my boyfriend got picked up last summer. I couldn't sleep, I didn't want to eat, and I cried almost every time someone asked me about it. I somehow expected him to know that this is the response I was having. When I wasn't getting the attention from him that I wanted, it just made everything worse. Then, I actually told him what was going on and his effort level changed dramatically. This same principle can apply to stories throughout our relationship. The other person has to know what is actually going on in your brain to be able to respond accordingly.

Now the part of this that applies to the Lord is a bit different considering He already knows our thoughts and our hearts. I wouldn't say that in this case it is as much about being willing to talk to Him as it is about being open to the plan He has. Like Isaiah 55:9 says, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts" (NIV). It is easy to slip into thinking that you know best. Sometimes things are going to come out of nowhere and throw off your plans, and maybe that is because God has something better in mind for you. Romans 5:1-2 "We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand - out in the wide open spaces of God's grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise."

5. Trust in the Promises

Trust is really important in any relationship but especially in one in which you are separated by distance. You both have opportunities to violate the trust of the other person. You will drive yourself insane if you are unable to believe what your partner tells you. I, personally, think this is a bit easier if you started off being together and then were separated as you had a real chance to get to know the person and build that with them. Either way, you have to know that they are as committed to you as you are to them.

A verse that I have found myself clinging to recently (and quoting over and over) is Romans 8:28 which says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him." This is one of the greatest promises that the Lord makes us after that of eternal life with him. We don't get to define what good is, so it can be hard to see at the time. That doesn't mean it isn't coming or that there isn't a different way to look at the situation you have found yourself in. Psalm 37:4-5 says, "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will act." Trust is just as important in this relationship as it is in any other one.

6. It's not all about you.

You have to make sacrifices for the other person, and that comes in many forms. That can be in staying up late (because timezones suck), dealing with feelings of loneliness, and the money it takes to go see them. You're sacrificing time you could be out to talk to them and choosing to stay with them even though you can't be together. Often, you'll be called to place their needs and feelings above what might be the best option for you.

This takes a bit of a different turn when looking at the Christian's relationship to God. While yes we are called to sacrifice some worldly pleasures, I don't think that is the best way to apply this principle. I like to think of it more as viewing yourself through the light of who God is. Romans 12:3 says, "The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for Him." Yeah, it isn't all about you in this relationship either, but that is because you honestly don't bring a lot to it. Isaiah 64:6 calls our righteous acts "filthy rags." We are saved purely through the power of God and our willingness to accept His help. Psalm 40:2 says, "He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn't slip." Anything that you have that is good was given to you by God which we're told in James 1:17. When you start to view the good things in your life as gifts, you are able to begin to grasp what He has done for you.

7. You're allowed to have feelings that aren't positive.

I wish so much that I would have known this during the summer, and that is why it's important for me to talk about it. If I haven't implied it enough in this post, being in a long distance relationship is not fun. Also from a personal standpoint, there are a lot of things about my current situation that are completely out of my control. I don't like those things, and I don't like the fact that everything about them is entirely unpredictable. When my boyfriend first got picked up, everyone kept telling me not to rain on his parade which was the hardest thing in the world to try to do. I was miserable, but I wasn't supposed to tell the person who I talk to about everything about it? I don't think so. One of the bonuses of having a partner is that there is another person for you to work and talk through your feelings with. That is a strength not a weakness. Be sure that these feelings just come in seasons though. This should never be anything that is ruling your relationship as its central theme. Just remember that you are a person, and you're allowed to have feelings. It's best to tell the other person so they can help you sort them out.

It is healthy to have doubts in my personal opinion. I'm sure that there are others who would disagree with me on that. I believe that if you never ask questions your faith isn't built on anything firm. You're basically the foolish man who built his house on sand. When the rains come and the floods rise, your house is going to go splat just like the song says. Don't count yourself out or feel like a bad Christian just cause you have a few questions. Psalms 94:19 says, "When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy" (NIV). From personal experience, the answer God has for your questions will satisfy that desire for knowledge. You're also allowed to struggle with different things sometimes. 2 Corinthians 4:8 says, "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed" (NIV). I don't know about you but none of those first words sound very positive to me. Paul is telling people that problems are going to come along, and he ends that chapter by telling people to endure because good times are coming. My favorite verse applying to this is James 1:12 which says, "Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life."

8. Always have a day to look forward to.

In both of these relationships, we might not be able to identify the end date. I have no idea when my long distance relationship is finally going to become a regular relationship again. That is why it is important to try to always know the next time you're going to see each other. Try to never say goodbye without knowing when you'll be back together. There was a time when my boyfriend was acting like baseball season was all year round and that we wouldn't see each other until he was done playing altogether. If you've ever wanted to know what hopeless feels like, it is that. The frustration from that issue spilled over into our relationship causing issues. Now, I know all the times that I am going to see him for the next year. (Guess what? Baseball season is only 7 months of the year). Having the general idea of when and how much you'll be together takes a lot of frustration out of the equation.

I also have no idea when Jesus is coming back or the day that I'm going to die or which one will happen first for that matter. That being said, I know that I have something coming in the future that is going to be so much better than what I have now, and I know that I can't wait to see that. In John 14:2-4 Jesus tells us, "In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going." If He's been preparing for the last 2000 years, you can bet its going to be pretty sweet once we get there.

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  1. I adore everything about this post. it's basically my life. me time = best time.xxx