Like a Bull With China

Like a bull in a china closet.

That's what I feel like sometimes. It occurred to me while I was just writing to a friend whom I have never met. Our relationship has developed online and we have many values and interests in common. I have longed to connect with them on a more tangible basis for a long time, even something as simple as talking on the phone. But at this point they seem to maybe feel reluctant about that. It does not come up in our emails but I get that sense.

So the pragmatic thought came to my mind. I could track down their phone number and call them myself. I wouldn't have to wait for them to get up the courage to call me. They do have my phone number but they have never chosen to use it thus far. I could just track them down online and initiate a closer level of communication myself.

Of course that idea was immediately attacked and shot down by a flood of intense objections from the heart side of my mind. But what caught my attention was one thing in particular that my heart demanded I pay attention to. The best way I can put it into words is the term delicate or fragile.

Our relationship thus far has been very positive, very personal and to a great extent very vulnerable and heart-oriented. I have been deeply blessed, challenged, stimulated, inspired and even have melted down many times with emotion as I have read their emails and their blogs. I cannot help my empathy from being aroused as I have identified with so many things they have expressed or endured or even enjoyed since I first “met” them. I feel like I know them more than I know most people. And yet I have never seen them, never spoken to them and have only caught glimpses from a distance of them in occasional pictures.

But the very idea of just calling them up and introducing myself because I would like to have a more tangible connection with them immediately fills me with horror, at least on the other side of my brain. That is not because my heart does not want to experience this but because for me to initiate something for which a dear friend may not be ready to experience would be the height of rudeness to put it mildly. In essence, it would be like crushing a delicate rose starting to unfold under a muddy boot or to close my hand tightly over a fragile network of crystals appearing in my hand that looks something like a snowflake. My desires for closer contact if allowed to clumsily interfere with what is slowly growing naturally could more than destroy all the enjoyment and beauty that is starting to emerge.

Unfortunately I have seen this happen many times already in my life. Time after time I have had beautiful and wonderful relationships suddenly crushed and turned into enormous sources of pain inside of me because of some ill-advised move or clumsy comment on my part. The result has been long-lasting misunderstanding, judgments, pain, bitterness and even hostility in some cases. What was once beautiful and promising suddenly became dangerous and painful. It has happened so often that I have sometimes been tempted to question my own integrity or even normalcy. I sometimes wonder if I have some inherent flaw that destines me to ruin every good friendship that I try to establish.

So I certainly will discard this crazy idea that I would like to initiate the first call with this friend. Instead I will leave it in God's hands who connected us together in the first place and will enjoy watching this delicate structure of friendship continue to grow larger until it may be strong enough to support other things on its own. What I am talking about here is fear and the strong effects that it has to tear apart the trust and healthy intimacy what God wants to construct in people's lives and hearts.

Which brings me to another insight. God is Himself an amazing labyrinth of delicate and beautiful intricacies that we nearly always tend to smash around in through our confused and mistaken ideas about Him in religion. Very few people actually come close enough to Him with enough respect for this part of Him to really appreciate and connect with His heart at more advanced levels. There are some exceptions like Moses and John the disciple and I really cherish reading what they saw in God that few other people ever came to appreciate.

So when I feel like demanding that God speak to me audibly so that I can't avoid knowing His will, or when I complain because God's ways seem so uncomfortable or painful at times, I am in effect resisting knowing God at the more intimate and delicate levels that He wants me to enter into with Him. I, like so many others, have an addiction to power and force and because of this have confused ideas about God. What is growing on me is that real love, real passion, real life as designed by God is a wonderful dance of both intimacy and respect, of protecting the incredibly beautiful delicacy of the emotional structures that are forming between hearts and yet cultivating and encouraging true affections so that the matured relationships are built on much deeper cords of love and mutual respect and understanding instead of on brute force or unbalanced dynamics.

When both sides allow a relationship to grow in balance by encouraging emotional connections in all sorts of areas at a healthy pace, the labyrinth of roots can become a strong support system when forces of opposition or misunderstandings hit later on. This is an area where I need to grow a lot more. So for now I will listen to my heart and wait to allow my friend to grow in their trust of me as I continue to open my heart in various ways with them mutually.

I believe this is God's plan for the body of Christ. He wants us to both grow in knowledge of His heart and in our connections with others who are likewise growing in His grace. In forming this growing network of strong intertwining roots and bonds and relationships we become united in Christ and learn the real truth about loving each other that testifies to the world that we are indeed the children of God.


  1. Clay,

    This was a post which greatly interested me.

    3 years ago I "met" a friend online, and our friendship has deepened through the years. Occasionally we send each other packages, just an assortment of little things we know the other will cherish.

    The one monkey wrench in this friendship is that I'm a writer (expressing myself best in written form), and she's a talker. She loves to talk on the phone, long rambling conversations which sap my strength.

    She initiated phone contact by asking if she could call me some time. When I gave her my number I thought it would be a once in a blue moon type of thing. But it's become more frequent than that. So many times I've let her call go to voice mail because I'm not up to a long talk. I know this has hurt her. We've discussed it many times, always arriving at the same impasse: she needs to reach out to me via phone, needs to hear my voice, etc. I need a bit more emotional distance. Also, there's something disquieting to me about having long conversations with someone I've never even met in person.

    Anyway, that's my two cents for what it's worth!

    Oh, I've given my blog a new name and new look. I hope you'll check it out some time:

  2. Deb, I really appreciate your perspective on this - honestly. I, like so many, tend to have narrow perspective on some things but don't even realize it many times. That's why God wants us to rest and trust in Him instead of figuring everything out ourselves.
    I am actually a little baffled about which is stronger for me, writing or talking. I definitely know that I am much more vulnerable in what I write than what I can allow myself to say. But I also know that when I feel connected to someone that I can quickly overwhelm them by going much longer than they feel comfortable with sometimes. I am trying to learn to be more sensitive to others feelings but am not very skilled yet. I think this too is leftover baggage from things I didn't learn when young.

    I look forward to looking at your new blog. I appreciate your friendship too even as limited as it has been. I enjoy communicating with people who are honest and transparent even when our views may differ.


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