What We Lost – the Relationship Breakup

The main casualty of our decision to try and become Lords of everything like God is a breakdown in all kinds of relationships between ourselves, God, other people, creation, and us too. This might explain a lot of what we see is wrong in the world around us – and what the fix needed to start with.

This is Session 3 in Series 2 of the Enter Life Curriculum. [Series 2 HomeEnter Life Home]

The Story


One of the most awe-inspiring places I visited on my motorcycle journey home from Vancouver to Cape Town was the city of Volgograd in south-west Russia. It was awe-inspiring for all the wrong reasons – this was the site of one of the bloodiest battles in World War Two back when the town was known as Stalingrad. In just 6 months over 1 million soldiers on both sides died in a brutal close-combat war of attrition made even more miserable by winter temperatures that went as low as mnus 30 degrees Celsius. The Russians eventually won the battle mainly because they had more replacements to keep feeding the slaughter.

Now, a massive monument stands on the hill where the greatest fighting took place. It’s a statue of Mother Russia calling her children to come and fight the approaching enemy. It’s a very humbling place to visit.

1-P9052432-1

Genesis 3 paints a picture that helps us see why things have gone so badly wrong at so many points in our history as people on this planet. It shows us what has gone wrong between us and God – and between us and just about everything else too. Whether there was a real talking snake and a juicy apple is mostly besides the point – it’s a powerful story that grabs our imagination and tells us some deep truth.

Here’s the breakdown: God creates everything very good – including us. God breathes his breath into us and gives us everything we need. God is really keen to have a loving, trusting relationship with us but refuses to force that on us. In the story, God lets us know what our options are by putting a tree in the garden and warning what will happen if we choose to try become like God. Before that happens God and the first humans get to enjoy a really cool relationship. The story tells us the people are naked and without shame – which is a way of saying there was nothing to hide from God or each other, or be ashamed of.

Tragically, the decision is made to try and shove God aside and become like God – something we keep trying to do . 

The next thing we hear in the story goes like this:

‘… the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?

He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.’ (Genesis 3:8-10).

It’s amazing how quickly things change. In the previous chapter things were cool between God and people. Now, just hearing God makes them afraid and sends them running into the bushes to hide. How sad is that? So we come back to the scenario at the top of this post. If God were waiting in the room next door – would your first instinct be to burst in, or hide?

calvin_hobbes

The main casualty of our decision to try and become Lords of everything like God is a breakdown in all kinds of relationships: relationships between us and God; between us and others; between us and the rest of creation; between us and ourselves. Here’s how Frederick Buechner puts it:

The power of sin is centrifugal. When at work in a human life, it tends to push everything out toward the periphery. Bits and pieces go flying off until only the core is left. Eventually bits and pieces of the core itself go flying off until in the end nothing at all is left. “The wages of sin is death” is Saint Paul’s way of saying the same thing.

Other people and (if you happen to believe in God) God or (if you happen not to) the world, society, nature—whatever you call the greater whole of which you’re part—sin is whatever you do, or fail to do, that pushes them away, that widens the gap between you and them and also the gaps within yourself. (Wishful Thinking)

3504_379294872154791_2143166503_n

Exactly how this happens is kinda hard to explain but it’s easy to see the evidence around us, right?

Take the relationships you have with others, for example. How far back do you have to remember to think about a difficult relationship in your life? What about the stories of conflict you hear all the time in the news – conflict that is born out of broken-down relationships between people?

Or the ‘relationship’ we have with creation. Just the existence of societies like the SPCA, or things like canned hunting or the mess we’re generally making of the environment are just a few reminders of how broken things are.

And what about the relationship we have with ourselves? Someone in my youth group once asked me this: ‘it says in the Bible to love your neighbour as yourself, but what if you hate yourself?’ Too many young people struggle with a destructive self-image. The ‘relationship’ they have with their inner selves sometimes gets just plain toxic.

A poet called Steve Turner once said this: ‘God, here are my thoughts. Some of them hate each other.’ Sometimes, like David in Psalm 13, we ‘wrestle with our thoughts’, and give in to patterns of behaviour that really are bad for us.

Things are generally pretty messed up right? The bit in Genesis 3:16-19 might sound harsh from God but actually it’s more God saying: ‘ok, so you chose to try do life without me – well here’s how life without me works … ‘

2667168049_824c4df9a9

So what now?
Well, God doesn’t leave things like that – which is seriously the best news you will hear, ever. The first hints of God’s grace and mercy towards us are right in the middle of Genesis 3 too. God graciously intervenes in the relationship between ourselves and the Devil, making sure it’s a hostile one to protect us from even more temptation. God provides ways for us not to be totally ashamed of our ‘nakedness’, giving us ‘garments’ that allow us to get on with life as it is now. God prevents us from achieving immortality – and staying the way we are forever.

Imagine that. God immediately begins to do something about the mess, choosing not to undo what happened but to make sure there’s a way we can be transformed and saved through the pain and suffering that’s part of life now.

Those first hints are just the first few indicators of a grand plan to rescue those broken relationships – of all kinds. In the next session we’ll take a look at the center piece of that plan. A new relational agreement that begins to put back together and restore what was shattered when people chose to try do things their own way.

It really is an incredible story …

redperson

Teaching Kit

A few ideas about how to teach this session to a class or youth group. These are just our ideas – we’re pretty sure there are some way better ones out there. If you know a video clip or intro idea or teaching illustration we’d love to hear about it and include it here too. Use the comment box below to get in touch.

What’s the one thing you want people to remember when they leave?
How are you going to get that idea across in the time you have?

Intro options

Some ideas to get people thinking.

1) The breakup of relationships are a core theme in loads of movies. Here’s a clip from Thor you could use to get people thinking. It’s not pretty but it’s a neat illustration of how bad choices wreck lives and inflict suffering on others. After watching this, get your group to think of other examples of relationships that go bad in movies – or in real life. What are some of the most common reasons relationships get ruined?

2) The very existence of societies like the SPCA, or things like canned hunting or the mess we’re generally making of the environment are just a few reminders of how broken things are. What’s the issue or cause that people in your group are most passionate or angry about? What’s at the heart of these problems?

3) Do you identify with Calvin in this cartoon? Do you have the feeling that God (or someone else) is out to get you? If so, why is that?

calvin_hobbes

4) Do you identify with any of these?

2fef8f67305c284671ed1e927c7caa9e 483308_554239624617044_394683329_n 3504_379294872154791_2143166503_n  tumblr_m5ik5usGdw1qiaqpmo1_500480510_10152096985540335_885461449_n

Options for your input time

1) Focus on this text in the Genesis story. Does that scene ever play out in your life? What would it take to stop trying to run away from God?

‘… the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?

He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.’ (Genesis 3:8-10).

2) Get your group to think about this definition of sin from Frederik Buechner. Do you agree with this?

The power of sin is centrifugal. When at work in a human life, it tends to push everything out toward the periphery. Bits and pieces go flying off until only the core is left. Eventually bits and pieces of the core itself go flying off until in the end nothing at all is left. “The wages of sin is death” is Saint Paul’s way of saying the same thing.

Other people and (if you happen to believe in God) God or (if you happen not to) the world, society, nature—whatever you call the greater whole of which you’re part—sin is whatever you do, or fail to do, that pushes them away, that widens the gap between you and them and also the gaps within yourself. (Wishful Thinking)

3) See if anyone in the group can describe the next part of the Story. What does God do next, or even what does God do ultimately to fix the problem of messed-up relationships caused by sin?

Finding Jesus in the Story

Jesus experienced all kinds of relationships when he was physically here on earth. One of the strangest and hardest to deal with was when his mom and siblings thought he had lost his mind because of the strange things he was saying and came round to take him home! (Mark 3v21) Imagine how that must have felt for Jesus.

Then there was the breakdown in the relationship he experienced for a while with God – his father in heaven as Jesus became the embodiment of sin on the cross (Matthew 27v46).

o  Does knowing that Jesus has experienced pretty much the worst kinds of messed up relationships change the way you think about him? What about the idea that Jesus’ main mission was to bring peace and wholeness to our relationships again (Colossians 1v20)?

Something to take-away

1) What relationships in your life are showing signs of having been damaged by bad choices you, or the other person have made? What could you begin to do to repair what’s been broken?

2) Is there something in your life that’s causing you to try and hide from God in the bushes as Adam and Eve did in Genesis 3? What would it take for you to come out and invite God to be present again in your life?

Group Kit


In this tab you’ll find ideas and questions to help you lead your group through an interactive, story-based journey. Our leaders guide has more info on how to use our Story-based framework.

Click on the time bomb to see how you could run this session in 15 minutes, 30 minutes or longer.
timebomb

Download a PDF version of this session here

Rewind
Think back over the last few weeks – how have your most important relationships been? What about the ‘relationship’ you have with yourself?

If God were in the room next door – and waiting for you to go in and have a chat, how would you feel? Excited? Nervous? Would you want to run in or away?

theWordSpace_cropped
Get the conversation started …
Get everyone to check out the WordSpace posts from this week on their phones or from a printout (you’ll find them in the next tab.)

o Is there a post that stands out for you? Why so?

o Is there something in a post that raises a question for you? What is that?

o If you had to choose one post to share with a friend, which one would it be?

Refresh
Read the post in The Story tab.

replay
Some questions to help you replay your story …

o  Did the thoughts and ideas you heard in this session make sense to you? Did it raise any questions? How do you feel about what you heard?

o  How different would your life be if the various kinds of relationships you had were in a better place? What would it take for that to happen?

o  Spend some time imagining the scene in Genesis 3: 8-10 where Adam and Eve hear God and run away in fear. How would you feel if you were one of those two people? How would you feel if you were in God’s shoes?

o  If you were God what would you want to do next?

Re – draw your picture of Jesus
Jesus experienced all kinds of relationships when he was physically here on earth. One of the strangest and hardest to deal with was when his mom and siblings thought he had lost his mind because of the strange things he was saying and came round to take him home! (Mark 3v21) Imagine how that must have felt for Jesus.

Then there was the breakdown in the relationship he experienced for a while with God – his father in heaven as Jesus became the embodiment of sin on the cross (Matthew 27v46).

o  Does knowing that Jesus has experienced pretty much the worst kinds of messed up relationships change the way you think about him? What about the idea that Jesus’ main mission was to bring peace and wholeness to our relationships again (Colossians 1v20)?

remix
What practical action, response,or new way of thinking do you need to take into the week?

Re-pent …
Is there a pattern of thinking or relating to other people, to God, or yourself that needs to change? What would it take to start doing that? Maybe start by asking God for forgiveness and the power to be transformed in that area of your life.

Jesus invites us to repent often and with freedom. It’s a real gift from God – go for it!

Something to help you remix your story …
This part of the story kinda ends in a bleak place. Sometimes though, it’s good to just sit and reflect on the way things are and express that back to God.

Psalm 13 is a great prayer to use. Maybe spend some time letting these words shape a prayer:

How long, Lord? Will you forget me for ever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, ‘I have overcome him,’
and my foes will rejoice when I fall

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

WordSpace Posts


Here are five posts from the WordSpace we’ve posted specially to tie in with this topic:

#1
Ever feel like this world is just really messed up? Nobody needs to tell us that we live in a broken world full of injustice and suffering. Question is: does God care? Turns out God does!

‘LORD, you listen to the desires of those who suffer. You steady their hearts; you listen closely to them, to establish justice for the orphan and the oppressed ‘ Psalm 10v17-18

God cares. God is compassionate and just. And God calls us to reflect his compassion and care. Any ideas how you could begin to do that today?

Read Psalm 10 here: http://bit.ly/13YAJql

#KnowingGod
#do_justice
#linda

#2
What would you do if you were caught doing something to hurt someone you loved a lot? Would you hide because you felt bad, or try and beg for forgiveness?

Often when we realise we’ve sinned against God we go into hiding until we think God might have forgotten! Hosea’s encouragement is this, ‘Come, let us return to the Lord!’ (Hosea 6v1)

Coming back to God when we’ve let him down can be hard, but it’s also the most healing thing we can do. Do you need to return to God and tell him about some stuff?

Check out Hosea 6 here – http://bit.ly/1lUEsAH

#fridayfeedback
#andrewv

#3
‘A society can only be judged by its ability to take care of its most vulnerable. As things stand, ours is failing dismally’ according to Mugwena Maluleka. It seems we so often hear about rape, sometimes (at least in South Africa) even of babies. What does hearing about this bring out in you? Fear? Criticism of government? Anger? Helplessness? Or your own painful memories?

The Eternal Healer gives us a powerful and effective response to this evil: ‘Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.’

2 Chronicles 7V14 http://bit.ly/186Dqeb

#GodsStoryNow
#hein

#4
What would you do if someone deposited R250 000 into your account and it seemed like no-one would ever know? Seriously, how much cool stuff could you buy with that?!

That actually happened to a 16-year old in Georgia, USA recently. The guy bought himself a car and a whole lot of McDonald’s meals :/

Psalm 33v5 says: ‘The Lord loves righteousness and justice, the whole earth is filled with his unfailing love’

Righteousness is about being in right relationship with God, with yourself, and with others – even the people who make mistakes. Righteousness is about loving people – even (especially!) when no-one’s looking.

The guy eventually turned himself in to the police. How much space is there in your heart for doing things the ‘right-relationship’ way?

Ask God for more?

Psalm 33 here: http://bit.ly/Pcq1dY

#andrewv

#5
Someone in my youth group once asked me this: ‘it says in the Bible to love your neighbour as yourself, but what if you hate yourself?’ Do you, or does someone you know, struggle with a destructive self-image? Is the ‘relationship’ you have with your inner self sometimes toxic?

Messed up relationships of all kinds are what we get to live with in a broken world. The good news is that nothing is more important to God than rescuing broken relationships.

However dark the place you might be in right now, God has a path to healing for you. It may be through counselling or prayer or medication. It may be over quickly or take a long time.

Will you trust him for your healing?

Read Revelation 21v1-5 here: http://bit.ly/1yXK2GK

#andrewv

You may also like