10 November 2016

All Relationships are Telelogical


It was the fall of 2003. I had returned to college from summer break, and I had exciting news that I had to share with someone. While volunteering at our church's day school that week, I mentioned to my pastor that I now had a girlfriend. I'll never forget his response. He didn't congratulate me or slap me on the back or even really smile. He looked me right in the eye and said, "So, what are you doing with this girl, Rick?" At first, I was a bit baffled because I thought he was asking if we were, you know, having sex. "Nothing!" I responded. But it turns out, he wasn't thinking anything like that. He was asking me what my plans were for this relationship. Was I just using this girl as arm candy, someone to have fun with when I'm not doing school? Or was I considering whether we were compatible for marriage? What was the goal? At the end of the conversation he said, "I expect that in a few months, you should have decided to either marry this girl or to turn her loose. She sounds like a sharp girl, and it would be wrong to ask her to limit her future options for you just because you want to have fun." Wow. That was heavy, and unlike anything I had thought of before. And within a year of that conversation, my wife and I were married.

I recalled this conversation recently while reading the book Scary Close by Donald Miller. In one chapter, Miller recounts an exchange he had with with a friend and counselor.

"The whole thing reminded me of a conversation I'd had with my friend Al Andrews. Al is a counselor with a practice in Nashville. We were driving once when I confessed to him I'd hung out the previous week with a girl I probably shouldn't be hanging out with. She was in a bad marriage and had leaned a little too much on me and I confessed I liked it. I liked playing the wise, kind counselor and yet at the same time it felt unwise and even wrong. Al sat there and nodded and didn't have the slightest look of judgment on his face. Finally, when  I finished rambling, he said, "Don, all relationships are teleological."

I asked him what the word teleological meant.

"It means they're going somewhere," Al said. "All relationships are living and alive and moving and becoming something. My question to you," Al said seriously, "is, where is the relationship you've started with this woman going?"

I knew the answer to that question immediately. It wasn't going anywhere good. Within months, I'd be this married woman's surrogate husband, the man she could talk to, and as a man, I'd likely turn that into something physical and then I'd be a best-selling author in an extramarital affair..."
There are many pastors who could have avoided a lot of trouble had they thought in these terms. Likewise, married people who have close friends of the opposite sex other than their spouses should take heed. Where are those playful conversations and cups of coffee together leading? In fact speaking of couples in general, it's important to remember that marriages are also relationships, not stagnant contracts. You and your spouse are either growing closer or growing more distant from one another. Realizing this fact should cause you to be more intentional about your interactions with everyone around you. All relationships are teleological. Where are yours going?

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