Let’s start over with the idea that humanity was designed by the Creator. We were meant to live a certain way. When God created everything, He called it good. Mankind quickly decided that we wanted to live our own way instead of God’s way. Jesus came to bring the Kingdom of God here to earth, to return the Spirit of God to mankind, and show them how to live with God as their Lord.
In this episode, we begin discussing man living by their own design with some (seemingly) silly examples (like robots). This moves to the idea that the the modern, western world is beginning to acknowledge the effects of pain. However, mankind still chooses to live by their own design – we look for our own solutions, as opposed to obeying God.
For example, many results of abuse include “bad behavior”. People lack the basic abilities to interact with other humans in healthy ways. They can’t focus in school. They take offense easily. They constantly feel their very existence is threatened. The consequences of those actions are alienation, more abuse, or punishment. When this happens on a very large scale, we end up with generational oppression. In America, this generally manifests in racism and all its tangents.
The penal system is one of punishment. It is a transactional relationship. When people get pushed to their limits, they get focused on their “needs” or inconveniences, and start reacting out of demands, which turns everything into a transaction. This leads to many people feeling disrespected or neglected much of the time.
Secular responses to deep pain will always fall short. They will only be the best of human strength and wisdom, which will forever be insufficient.
The answer is God’s love. Genuine care. Loving by serving. Walking in the Spirit, walking united as the Body. God can break down great things through humble obedience. We have seen Him break racial stereotypes and expand the boundaries of our “family” to include people that don’t look like us. We’ve experienced plenty of rejection, as well. But if we remain in a state of transaction, we will always be offended and always be withholding love from those who need it most.
The systems of the world are largely transactional. Business, banking, government, taxes, etc. We create “machines” to manage our world, and all those machines run on transaction. This means we are regularly investing our selves into machines that do not allow us to function on a human level. This tears at our humanity, and makes it hard to differentiate those interactions from ones with other humans. It is certainly nice for things to run like a well oiled machine, but humanity rarely does, so we cannot hold that expectation over ourselves. We cannot “transact” with other humans and think that it will result in healthy relationships.
Real love is not transactional. Transactional relationships do not make room for love. Economic exchanges are “fair” and based on expectations. Love is sacrificial. Grace is undeserved; it cannot be deserved. When we apply economic principals to our relationship with God we will be very disappointed, and miss the amazing acts of love He is doing right before our eyes.
The confusion between love and approval can begin at an early age, through discipline, or through a lack of genuine displays of affection. People generally feel more loved when we’re being praised. It takes intentionality to show that we love when we disapprove, and to not withdraw signs of love when we disapprove.
These feelings towards love, approval, and disapproval get transferred to our feelings towards God. This can lead to people feeling God is punishing them, testing them, or teaching them something any time something bad happens. Confusing love and approval can prevent you from resting in grace.
Instead of jumping to anxiety and assumptions in the face of pain or discomfort – instead of viewing pains as enemies – we should view them as opportunities to know God more. The only thing we should “assume” in a painful situation is that it is painful and we need God.
God is often accused of working in transactional relationships, but He does not. So what is a transactional relationship? Let’s look at some examples:
A child will often do something to get praise from their parents
A child might settle simply for attention from their actions
These interactions can never bring satisfaction because there will always be another “task” to be done, or eventually, an interaction will not go the way you want, which means you don’t get approval, which means all your “hard work” goes unrecognized.
Transactional relationships create a very unhealthy way to nurture who we are. It “feeds” a desire in us, like caffeine can “feed” our desire for sleep while depriving our body of the rest it needs
Transactional relationships bring “control” into a relationship. People try to control through their transactions, through their performance. It puts an unhealthy, critical eye on everyone else’s actions
Transactional relationships are often the subject of jokes and sitcom plots. While this makes funny television, unfortunately it “normalizes” transactional relationships.
Look at them as “economic relationships”. You would spend a set amount of money on an item at the store. You have performed a just transaction, involving expections, even exchange, etc. This is great for business, but utterly destructive for human relations.
The ideas of transactional relationships get planted early on in our helpless state as babies. All we know is what we feel, and that we are utterly dependent upon others. So we express displeasure at our circumstances until those circumstances change (hungry, hurt, tired, needing a diaper changed, etc). While it is good and healthy to indulge these “expressions of displeasure” on behalf of helpless babies, the nature of our nurturing relationships must change over time, and certainly once we receive the Holy Spirit of God.
Grace utterly destroys transaction. It is totally undeserved. It is the New Order of the Kingdom of God. It takes care of our mistakes, but doesn’t necessarily force our hearts to want anything. Some people don’t want grace, because it forces us to give something up. In a marriage context, I can do things that hurt or offend my wife, through impatience, aggravation, etc. But there is still love in the relationship. Our hearts still desire each other and our relationship. I have “sinned” by simply performing an act that was hurtful. However, once my heart starts wandering to others, now I have compromised the very fabric of the relationship. I no longer desire my wife or my relationship. It’s not a matter of “missing the mark”, now my heart is inclined towards other things. This directly applies to our relationship with God, and the relationship with sin and iniquity. A transactional relationship rarely gets to the point of the desires of the heart, and merely measures everything on a surface level looking at performance, while the true desires of the heart never get fulfilled, dispite how successful the transactions may have been.
Many people remain “fussing babies” complaining to try to get what they want. This is generally because of pain, or a vow, or never surrendering to God and being vulnerable. Once we are ingrained in this way of relating, we subject ourselves to imagined abuses. We turn every relationship into an abusive relationship, with ourselves as the victims of the abuse. It becomes a constant state of living in expectations, where those expectations are rarely verbalized, and rarely met, so we always feel wronged or slighted or unloved, dispite all our efforts to receive love. We will constantly misinterpret the words and actions of those around us, which simply sets them up to fail. So now we are every day experiencing “abuse” at the hands of people who are not abusing us.
God interacts through unconditional love. God loved us while we were still sinners. God told us to do all things out of love, and Jesus did that. So even things that He did that do not look “loving” (using whips, insulting pharisees, rebuking Peter, confronting crowds with bold questions, expressing impatience at people’s sin and doubt), these acts were in fact done out of love. Even when God’s wrath abides on us, it is love. The clear and distinct choice between Heaven and hell is a loving choice. They are not similar. There is no need to do a “cost/benefit analysis”. The choices are clear and entirely different.
Our relationship with God shouldn’t be one of trying to discern the task God wants us to do. He wants us to abide in His Grace. He wants us to know Him. He wants us to love. He knows that we are made of dust, that we are weak and sinful – this is what grace is for.
God sets out a way for us to live. This can bring blessing, but can also bring suffering. Jesus lived perfectly and suffered immensely. Obedience to God is not a transaction to get you what you desire. God does not work in transaction, but satan does. His kingdom is designed around them. He makes false promises, he amplifies offenses, he tempts us to arrange the whole universe around our desires and comfort. If God was transactional in His relationships, Hebrews 11 would look very different.
Transactional relationships are a trap of satan. There is no fulfillment or freedom there. There is only an endless striving to feed a bottomless hole of pain. Only grace and cover that wound. Only the healing power of the Spirit can set us free.
For more information about transactional relationships, please see the book “Love: No Strings Attached” by Rich Buhler
As we continue to explore pain and its effects, we will talk about vows – how pain changes our belief systems and causes us to make decisions that can last a lifetime.
The most destructive pain isn’t any specific kind of act or occurance, but rather whatever affects your sense of worth.
Many people make vows in an instance of abuse. This is a decision the victim makes concerning what they will allow in their life, or what they will pursue. Vows are so powerful because they are made to defend the victim’s very existance. It changes fundamentally their motivations and how they interpret the world around them. This essentially changes who you are. People also make vows of revenge – a decision to punish the abuser or those like the abuser through manipulation, etc. The vow becomes the mechanism by which the victim navigates the world – they now have something they can trust in.
A vow prevents you from becoming who God made you to be. It injects into your very identity something outside of God’s plan, something that is entirely self-focused and born in pain and extreme emotion. If we simply look at the destructive behavior that manifests as the result of abuse, we will never reach healing. We have to go to the vow and undo its binds. A vow binds a person by perpetuating the abuse. It creates a false reality where the abuse is constant and can never be let go. A vow ensures that the victim will perpetually be a victim.
Sometimes vows are known; the victim is actively and knowingly choosing to live out a decision. They constantly justify behavior. Conscious or not, this is a way of repainting reality. It also secures the victim identity. It sets the person up to be “failed” in every situation, because they are always defending themselves, whether or not attacks are coming, which means in their eyes, they are always being attacked, let down, betrayed, disrespected, etc.
Some people end up ministering out of a vow to make sure their pain would never happen to someone else. This sets you up to work in your flesh and strive against God. The Holy Spirit is the one that enters into us and unpacks our pain and bondage. Many church-attenders in America don’t believe the Holy Spirit is a real person of God. If you never experience the Holy Spirit, and only hear others talk about Him in vague terms, then the Holy Spirit can be anything. If you want freedom, you have to seek the Holy Spirit.
How do I recover from what’s happened to me? God has given us something better than what the world has to offer – His Holy Spirit. Through accepting the grace of the sacrifice of Jesus and pursuing the Holy Spirit, our healing is guaranteed. God does not play games nor send us confusing answers.
So what do you do? First, learn to forgive. Forgive your abusers. Forgive God. Forgive yourself. Forgive the countless perceived abuses and slights that come every day. A large part of forgiveness is allowing guilt to rest on the offending party. Also, you must fully realize the depth of the pain and destruction that occurred to you. If you simply think “Oh, they said mean things and shouldn’t have”, you have not realized the depth of the pain, and so are not truly forgiving them for what happened. If you are crushed by the realization that the abuser stole your very identity with their words, now you are truly forgiving them, and ready to undo the lies and chains that resulted from that destruction.
Secondly, you have to admit the weakness you were in at the time of the attack, instead of applying that original incident to your current condition. You have to look at the abuse through the eyes of a child, or with a clear and compassionate eye toward your circumstances at the time of the abuse. This doesn’t just mean your physical prowess or ability to defend or avoid, but also understanding the magnitude of the abuse at that time in your life.
Third, get help from someone that knows about the topic. Seek a body of believers working in their spiritual gifts.
Learn to trust again. If you can never trust God or others, there is no hope for you. You are left with only your own imperfect hands to save you. Trust just a few people that are worthy of trust and start the process.
For more help healing from past pains, please see the books Love: No Strings Attached and Pain and Pretending by Rich Buhler.