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There’s an old saying “figures don’t lie, but liars figure!”

In many presentations I’ve made, I’ve used statistics to buttress my points and drive a point home for an audience. But I am constantly wary of statistics since they are often so easy to manipulate into supporting the conclusion you’ve already made. Let’s face it, most of us go seeking affirmation for the things we already believe.

But here I go anyway!

Several studies have shown that marriages in this society are approaching a 50% divorce rate. But there are conflicting studies that seem to indicate either Christian marriages fail at about the same rate OR Christian marriages endure better than secular couples. Regardless, the reality is relationships are hard!

But no one who has ever been in a serious relationship doubts that reality at all.

And when you think about it, it makes sense that two people with different backgrounds, experiences, parenting relationships, and personalities, coming together to form a new family would experience the challenges of blending these two lives into a cohesive unit. Add children and in-laws, and friends, and cousins, and, well, this ain’t easy!

One of the overwhelming teachings of the Faith is that God is Trinity. God knows Himself before time was time as Persons in Communion. Being created in His image, it makes perfect sense that we too will really know and understand ourselves as persons in communion. We were made for community and to truly know ourselves in the face of the other (and the Other). So, it makes perfect sense that the primary way for the enemy to keep us in the dark about God and even our own selves is to do everything he can to disrupt and corrupt relationships. If the evil one can do that to us then he can more easily enslave us to addictions and passions and delusion. reduce relationships to co-dependency, break relationships in homes, among friends, in church communities, society, politics, and nations, and he is guaranteed the chaos necessary to keep humanity enslaved to a lesser vision of themselves.

The truth is, at the heart of many, if not all, my troubles is my ignorance of how to have healthy relationships.

So, what’s the answer? May I suggest protective gear – helmets, seat belts, shin pads – anything you may need to bear the sharp effects of truth (or should I say “Truth?”).

Our Gospel Lesson comes from Luke 18:15-17, 26-30, and here our Lord tells the whole crowd that they have to become as little children to enter the Kingdom of God. When He is asked if this is true then who can be saved, He responds “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27). In our Epistle Lesson today, St. Paul gives us a laundry list of relationships and how to have each of them be successful and do what relationships are suppose to do. This comes from Colossians 3:17-25; 4:1. He uses words (hard words) like “be subject”, “love”, “don’t be harsh”, “obey”, “don’t provoke”, and the most challenging “work heartily, as serving the Lord, and not men.” (Colossians 3:23)

In both these passages the principles for actual healthy relationships are laid out. But first, let me say that at the heart of most of our difficulty in our relationships is that we fundamentally have no idea as to why we have relationships. The purpose of ALL relationships is to make us like Christ! Period. End of discussion. The hard work of being in healthy and productive relationships MUST be centered on our FIRST relationship with God Himself. Get that relationship wrong and that weakness will filter into every relationship you have.

So, today, the key (and frankly, the absolute motivation for) to being Orthodox on Purpose is coming to value your relationship with God as your highest priority, second to none! Only this emphasis in your behavior, your priorities, your words, your actions, and your choices today will be strong enough to work the healing grace of God into every relationship you have or will have. That first principle sets the tone for all your friendships, family, and community relationships. To the extent your relationship with God is healthy, your other relationships will reflect that strength (or weakness).

This is why, dear one, the disciplines of the faith are all geared to keep you awake to your relationship with God. As we keep the Winter Fast, keep this in mind when you are tempted to disregard the wisdom of the Faith to shape your soul.

Today, let’s stay awake to the very difficult task of building strong relationships by focusing our best energies and efforts toward our relationship with the Lord.

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