Do you remember that movie Meet the Parents? It’s a hilarious movie, and Robert DeNiro’s character, Jack Byrnes, is my favorite. One of the things he talks about is the “Circle of Trust”, and his future son-in-law spends the entire movie trying to break his way into this sacred circle.
I love this concept of a circle when thinking about relationships. Actually, I think of it as a series of circles, the innermost circles including a very small number of people who know me intimately. Then the circles expand outward, each one including people who know me at various levels. And it goes both ways – not based solely on how well people know and care for me, but also on how well I know and care for them.
“Relationships are the most important human experience available to us. I realized in my twenties that the meaning of life is not about what happens to people; it’s about what happens between people. Learning to connect with each other, to experience empathy, to step outside our own experience, and to experience love in all its forms—these, I believe, are the experiences for which we became human.” ~Martha Beck
I think one of the coolest features that God gave us humans is the ability to know when we’re malfunctioning. We were built to live a certain way, and when we’re following those instructions, all is well. But when we start to get off track, our body and mind start sending warning signals. Stress, exhaustion, sickness, worry, loneliness, fear…these are all warning signals that something is out of balance with the way we were meant to live.
Looking back now, as I try to put together the puzzle pieces of my life, I think one of the main reasons I was feeling these warning signals was because my circles were out of balance and low on resources. I had become so caught up in controlling my own life and keeping up with society, that a close look at my inner circle would show there was no one there but me. And my outer circles were fading fast.
Feeling like I was the only one in my inner circle had led me to build up all kinds of walls. Walls of safety. Walls of security. Walls of comfort. For a long time, I was proud of these walls. Look what I had created all by myself! And I had been laying my own bricks for so long, I didn’t think anyone else knew how to do it. At least, they didn’t know how to do it the right way. My way. Yikes.
I knew enough to know this wasn’t right. It wasn’t supposed to be just me against the world. But I wasn’t sure exactly what right was supposed to look like. Lucky for me, I was raised by amazing parents who did teach me what track I’m supposed to be on. I shouldn’t have felt that I was the only one in my inner circle, because the reality is that my family will always be there to help me. But, I got distracted and lost somewhere along the way, certain that I could do everything on my own. Finding my way back has caused me to take those initial lessons from my parents, expand on them by discovering how God wants me to live, and then actively make the changes necessary to get back on the path He intended for me.
So what does all this path-finding have to do with circles of relationships? Well, everything actually.
If there is anything I learned in the business world, it’s that to be successful you must have a vision, a purpose. And to achieve that vision, you must actively pursue the goals related to that vision. You already know I think the purpose of this life is love. So how do we actively pursue love? Relationships.
And how do I know relationships are key to achieving love? Because I’m starting to know God. And I know He created us in His image. And His image is actually a relationship – a perfect trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is where relationships begin, and it’s our example of how we were intended to live. Not alone, but in relationship.
As I have learned over and over again on this journey, words are nothing without action. And actions are nothing without love. And relationships are the action of love.
It’s completely defined for us in the Holy Trinity – why there are three in the first place. As William Paul Young explained in The Shack, from his perceived point of view of the Holy Spirit, “Unless I had an object to love – or, more accurately, a someone to love – if I did not have such a relationship within myself, then I would not be capable of love at all.” And there is so much love involved in this triune relationship, that it’s overflowing, and so we were created to join in this relationship.
And isn’t that so true? Think back to your first love as a teenager. Or falling in love with your spouse. Or holding your newborn baby. When you feel the power of true love, don’t you feel invincible – as if you are safe, secure, and comforted? Doesn’t it feel as if it’s literally pouring out of you, and you can’t wait to share that feeling with others? If you haven’t felt the power of true love, don’t you want to?
And so it all begins here, with the Holy Trinity as the central and most important relationship of all. When you fill yourself with the love of God, to the point of overflowing, you will naturally want to find others to share it with.
So back to those circles again.
How many circles are there? Who should be in each one? Who should stay out of my circles? Where does my spouse fit in to this? How do I find real friends? How do I keep real friends? How do I find time for relationships? Can I really be “friends” with God?
How quickly my brain goes into overdrive, trying to fix it all at once, all by myself. Like everything else on this journey, this change can be overwhelming. I had to step back from it and work on one circle at a time. And if you want to learn something the right way, doesn’t it make sense to go to the source?
So when I started over, re-building my circles, I started with the one example I knew was right. God. I needed to work on my relationship with God. THAT is my innermost circle. Just the Holy Trinity and me. Then I won’t be fixing the rest of it all by myself. He will help me fix it.
I think it’s vitally important to get that innermost circle in working order. If it’s working, then the rest of the circles will start working too. Because when we live how we were intended to live, all is well.
So take a moment to pause here. Evaluate where you are. Are you experiencing any warning signals? What circles do you have in your life? Is God in your innermost circle?
In Part Two of this series on Circles, I will dive deeper into how I’ve been working on that relationship with God. And in future parts to this series, I’ll move on to all the other circles and how they overlap and work together. It’s fascinating stuff, discovering what we were created for and watching action produce amazing results.
I am forever indebted to my now best friend, Kimberly, who persistently showed me that it is more than okay to let others help you with your walls. She taught me that real relationships are more natural than I ever realized, and she continues to hold me up as we journey together on our way back to our right paths. I am so grateful that God helped us find each other. I love you, Kim!