Operator: “911, what’s your emergency?”
Caller: “Oh it’s awful! Just awful! I don’t know what’s happening next door, but it sounds dreadful. Please send somebody right away!”
Operator: “Sir, what seems to be the problem?”
Caller: “I don’t know. I can’t see into their house. But something isn’t right. Some kind of strange disturbance. Some… wretched noise…seriously, you need to send help right away!”
Operator: “What’s the address?”
Caller: “Yes it’s…”
Operator: “Sir, there’s no alarm. His wife informed us this morning we may receive calls.”
Caller: “What’s wrong?”
Operator: “He has the flu, sir. Have a good day.”
Vomiting is a horrendous experience. Well, maybe not for everyone. Some people walk into a bathroom, open their mouth, and quietly allow the contents of their last meal to traverse from the depths of their stomach, up their throat, out their mouth, and it’s all done in secret. Nobody even knows it happened.
Not me. When I vomit, everybody knows about it. The flu has encased my very soul. The contents of my last meal have betrayed me with the worst kind of betrayal known to man. And it will pay, it will pay dearly. I will get down on my hands and knees and use every muscle in my God-created body to spew that meal out of my system. Velocity and carnal damage is of no consequence. That meal is coming up, and it’s coming up hard. If any small bits and pieces stay behind, I’ll be coming back to the throne-room again. Six times if necessary. Neighbors may wonder what’s happening. Ocean currents may be impacted. But that meal is coming up. And I’ll be danged if I’m not kicking some rock-hard abs when it’s all said and done.
Our culture doesn’t comprehend that relationships require vomit. I’m not sure how many people have told me this, but it’s evidenced throughout our culture that one must have an affinity with another human being to have a relationship with them. Did you know that? It’s true. I’ve heard it from countless numbers of people. If you don’t have an affinity toward another person – or common interests in the same interests they have – then no real bond can ever form. You’re off the hook. You can go hang out with others who are more like you. Who think more like you.
Hmmm…that’s never sat well with me.
In fact, somebody I considered a good friend of mine once told me this very same thing – relationships require affinity...period. Unfortunately, we had very little in common. The writing was on the wall, this relationship was headed for disaster. After some honest discussion, things went downhill…fast. So I did the only thing I knew to do. I vomited my thoughts and feelings all over the place. It was messy. He looked at me as if I may need some kind of medical attention. But when it was done, something amazing happened. I’ll never forget it. He picked up a towel and started helping clean up the mess. It changed my life. It changed his life, too. And after dozens of hours of dialogue of trying to get on the same page, our relationship is fully restored. It wasn’t pretty. There were disagreements. Maybe even some yelling. But the vomit is gone.
Unfortunately, this situation isn’t the norm. Sometimes I vomit my thoughts and feelings up all over the place and receive returned looks of pity. I start cleaning up the mess; they start walking out the door. Months later, they may wonder why things aren’t working out the way they once were. It’s because the vomit is still there. My personality reeks of it. I’m still the same person, but they’ve moved on.
One cannot base all relationships solely on affinity. Instead, one must choose to have a relationship with another human being. That’s my conviction. “Relationship” is a verb. It takes action. Transparency. Determination. This is an amazingly simple understanding, but living it out is extremely difficult. Most people don’t even want to try. It’s too messy. Too smelly. They give up.
This conviction of mine is all based on the life of Jesus. Now, if Jesus was simply a human being and teacher, then one could argue that his relationships were based on affinity. He was homeless. He was a wanderer. And he hung out with those who lived a similar lifestyle, giving bits and pieces of wisdom along the way. But if Jesus was God (which I believe to be the case), then his example is completely different. He created the universe and everything in it. He came from heaven to earth. And while on earth he began relationships with people who had no affinity with God. There was no similar lifestyle. No similar education. No similar family life. Yet he destroyed all socio-economic norms. He began to form relationships with them. Living with them. Laughing with them. Crying with them. Even moments of vomiting thoughts and feelings occurred. And Jesus decided to help clean up the mess. It changed their lives. Their broken relationships with God were fully restored. Amazing.
If you have a relationship that seems to be going downhill, give it a good vomit and see what happens. You may receive the cold shoulder. You may be left to clean up the mess all by yourself. But maybe, just maybe something beautiful will happen. The relationship will be restored. And maybe you’ll be restored, too.