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Salvation, Trust, and Boundaries

Updated: Jul 31, 2023






“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song and he has become my salvation.”


Isaiah 12:2

 

I think one of the most important and difficult aspects of any relationship is believing that someone is who they say they are. What’s more is that how much of ourselves we give into the relationship is directly related to how “safe” we feel or what we believe about the other.

In my own life, I’ve always had a hope for my relationships - that they would work out, that I would be seen for who I am, etc. Unfortunately, and often due to my own choices and subconscious reactiveness, many of these relationships ended in hurt on one side of the other. It’s really difficult to employ the longsuffering aspect of love (see: 1 Cor 13) especially when sometimes our part seems one-sided. For instance, I’ve often held a posture of tentativeness when it comes to being fully invested in peoples’ lives. I mean, you never know when someone is going to either get tired of you or see you for who you really are (and I don’t mean in the Christian, believe-the-best sense). Who I really am is a scary thing to expose to others. In fact, not only is it scary but it can hurt therefore it just makes sense to assume a posture of defense, right?

Before I met God I had this view that my position in life - my value - was up to me to cultivate. I had to orchestrate a unique tension of belief about me between all the various social spheres of which I wanted to a part. It was as if the tension, like tight guitar strings tethered to each person or group, pulled from every direction suspending me just high enough off the ground where I was on display but couldn’t stand on my own. I so desperately wanted to shed the manufactured version of acceptance that I had the false joy of experiencing and trust that someone or something cared enough to accept me and care for me as I was.


Enter salvation.

That word is so trendy and cringy at the same time not because it’s over used but because people can administer it in ways that are plastic and trite. Once when I was around elementary or middle school, I attended a vacation bible school at the behest of my neighbor, Mrs. Smith. She would round up all the neighborhood kids in her van, hand them a roll of pennies for the tithe, and cart us to the local Baptist church. There, a man led me into a back room and helped me fumble my way through the sinner’s prayer. And by fumble, I mean that he got frustrated with how a child couldn’t recite a long series of words that they didn’t fully understand, believe, or have the capacity to recall from short-term memory. He did his job, at least - I got saved. I’m sure he meant well as do most people who pursue salvation for whatever their motives may be, but how do we avoid accept salvation for what it truly is?

“God is my salvation, I will trust and will not be afraid for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” When I think of someone else being my salvation, I think of them filling in the gaps where I just don’t have enough. I have often struggled with a feeling like I don’t have enough (resources, competence, wit, intelligence, etc.) which has led to people pleasing, making poor decisions, social anxiety, and insecurity. In every circumstance the people who have walked into my life were in the same boat. Simply, we are all struggling to survive, like who we are, and feel accepted to some degree. I think there is a great fallacy in believing that anyone can truly provide that for us since we’re all in similar deficits. Really, who is capable of saving me? And if they’re capable, what should I believe about them when our relationship is tested?

The thing about God is that we’re not just mechanisms that are bound to do the will of a manipulator. That’s not how salvation works. God is also not our own personal genie who grants us wishes to make us feel better. Salvation is the mutual representation of 1 Corinthians 13 active in a relationship with someone who has the capacity to live above needing anything we could provide - aside from engagement. When Isaiah says that God is his salvation, he means that there is a certain level of trust with someone who loves us that they see everything, have the capability to meet our needs, and has established a covenant with us to do so. To our chagrin, however, a covenant is a concept that is not honored in our culture. It’s easy for us to fall into establishing a covenant out of emotion what what it gets us only to casually toss it aside when walking it out gets tough, or it costs us something great.

That’s why “God is my salvation” is such a significant statement. I have failed others in life much more than others have failed me. Yet, around the age of 30 I discovered that there was someone who is willing to do the work of walking beside me through life. I honestly saw myself as a failure in so many ways - the type of person you might like privately but only privately. But God kept showing up in my life unafraid of who I was and willing to engage me to work out my sanctification (moving from unhealthy to healthy) with stubbornness, pride, and denial. Furthermore, there were many people in my life in whom I saw things that made me sad: addiction, hopelessness, recklessness, anger, desperation. Growing up in an environment of codependency, I often felt like it was my duty to fix others and to be the rock. But if God is my salvation, then he cares not only about me but about the world around me. Simply, understanding salvation helped me define boundaries between myself and others. What a relief!

But it’s not all just God. I have a role in salvation too. The other part of this scripture says, “I will trust, and will not be afraid.” Again, 1 Corinthians 13 says that love requires faith and hope, longsuffering and endurance. My role in salvation is believing that God is who He professes to be not just for myself but also for others. If I am living in love, am I really trusting that God is capable of salvation for others or am I believing that it’s up to me? Truly, it’s up to the Holy Spirit to convict others of things but I get to participate in that process. Matthew 22:37 says that we are to love God with all of who we are, and love others as we have been loved. Walking through salvation with God is a model for how we are supposed to apply 1 Corinthians 13 to our own relationships with others - at the invitation of the Holy Spirit. Not through performance. Not because we should. Not because it gets us something. But because we are pouring out what we have already been filled with.

That requires trust that God is my salvation, he is working with me to model who He is to the world, and through my relationship with him the world will understand true love.

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