I have been in a long-distance relationship for a year, and the whole process has been arduous, ambitious and awkward. The long-distance relationship is one that can abound in communication issues yet persist in a fragile flame of romance. Many may see these relationships, but few understand the joys nor the difficulties.
To give my long-distance relationship the greatest chance to succeed, I began to shape our dating around the selfless love God the Father and His Son had while Jesus lived on earth. By doing so, I have seen glimpses of vigor and strength, despite the distance.
Here are three principles I’ve applied to my relationship:
1. The Father and Son loved consistently and faithfully.
In his Gospel, Luke writes “…crowds of people came to hear him and be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:15-16). Wait a second — how could Jesus withdraw and snub the ill?
I saw my relationship in Luke’s emphasis of Jesus’ withdrawing to “lonely places.” As the sick sought healing, Jesus exchanged His engagement with the immediate world for time of intimate fellowship with His Father.
The verses in Luke 5 are not to say Jesus disliked engaging the people. After all, Jesus quoted Isaiah as coming to “proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind” (Luke 4:18).
Luke writes of Jesus’ devotion to show the strong, unhindered romance between the Son and Father. Jesus denied the immediate world around Him in His commitment to a relationship.
Because I date long distance, I have had to deny immediate excitement in exchange for a withdrawn conversation with the one I am dating. At times, the social plans sprouting around me happen to fall on the same days I’ve committed to a Skype conversation. I am left to make a decision between the visible friendship and the long-distance romance. I choose to do this for the same reason as Jesus: I have chosen to commit to romance. I have found regular communication to provide a place to express myself and a faithful structure to listen.
When we give and receive undivided attention, we offer one another a reason to trust. We show one another the romantic significance our relationship deserves.
2. The Father and Son loved through an active dialogue.
There was nothing Jesus did not bring before His Father. Jesus seeks to obey His Father: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34).
Other times, Jesus pleads with His Father to change the circumstances. “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will. But as you will” (Matthew 26:39).
Jesus understands there are times to speak and times to listen. There are times when He utters prayers, and times when He yields in respect of His Father.
I strive to model Jesus’ communication in our distance relationship.
Speaking and listening shows value and significance. When I take time to ask specific questions, I not only generate dialogue, but show her she is one I desire to hear.
But it’s not that easy. In my long-distance relationship, I have found even the simple action of generating conversation to be hard. Long-distance conversation too often trades stale obligation for the exciting, passionate personality I know to be there. When conversation topics grow boring, I forget the beauty underneath the surface.
Here is when I look to the diverse interchange between the Father and Son. Jesus chooses to show His devotion in a back-and-forth dialogue and consecrates His attention to the One He loves.
3. The Father and Son invite others into their relationship.
Jesus answered a disciple’s desire to learn how to pray by exposing His own prayer life. “[O]ne of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘When you pray, say…'” (Luke 11:1-2).
Jesus knows He encounters the Father in special relationship and wanted those in His immediate context to be a part of it.
The long-distance relationship can be vulnerability poison. Hiding the relationship from my friends is easier to do when it is one so far away. They don’t observe my relationship, so why would I be vulnerable?
I admit it. I find selfish comfort in letting my long-distance problems remain far away.
Silence is easier, especially when hiding things that show weakness. But in my spirit, I know that I cannot walk through difficulty unless I invite others to work through them with me. Dating long distance is not an excuse to pass on vulnerability.
I look to the model of Jesus and seek to open my relationship to those around me. Vulnerability is an opportunity to advance trust, love and healthier relationship.
Long distance is tough. The aches I feel in constant daydreams about the day I see her again are heavy burdens to bear. But even this burden provides me with unique opportunities to offer dating as a holy, living sacrifice.
Marcus Privitt is a M.Div. student, is the creator of reverentone.com, a blog seeking Yahweh worship in all things. He can be followed on twitter @marcusprivitt.
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