Space Invaders & Other Thoughts About Relationships

Jacob and Ash

I love family vacations. When we were little, my brother and I were great at giving headaches to our parents. Road trips typically started like this: “Mom! He’s touching me!” She would turn around to find my brother smiling while I was drawing an imaginary line with my hand. My wise mother started renting a Lincoln Continental (which might as well have been a school bus in the late 80’s) and leaving for the beach at 3am.

I thought of our road trips today, sitting middle seat on an airplane. The guy next to me decided to play Solitaire with both elbows hanging off the sides of his armrests, his left elbow forcing me into uncomfortable positions to avoid him touching me. If mom had been there, I may have whined for intervention.

Sidebar: I am wondering if the reason women can’t fly at 34 weeks has more to do with the fact that they can no longer fit in an airplane bathroom. Navigating 30 weeks of belly in an airplane bathroom is not without its challenges! By the way, Delta, not all of your on-board restrooms have toilet seat covers. That’s gross. And even though you have a sign with red letters instructing us not to flush paper towels down the tube into 30,000 feet, you leave me no choice. The 3x3x8 is too small for me to squat, like a normal lady would so I must make my own plane toilet seat covers.

Anyway, I started to think of our responses when people invade our space. Do we find ourselves annoyed? Delighted? Encouraged? Pressured? And why?

My husband teaches the term “Refrigerator Rights”. These are the people with full access to our lives. When they come over, we forget to serve them and it doesn’t matter because they help themselves to whatever they want. The have free reign to snoop in our lives, closets, fridges, bathroom cabinets, marriage, ministry and we share reciprocal relationship with them. We provide a soft place to land for each other on hard, unbearable days and quite honestly, I am not sure we’d be even remotely sane without them. (Please note, we are only slightly sane now.)

These space invaders make life worth living.

When I encounter a small child, a Mama who appears to be struggling, a fragile, elderly person, someone on the streets, space becomes irrelevant. I don’t care what lines I have to cross, compassion presses me to act. I might only have a hug, a smile, some gas money, a few snacks, but something must be done… Except for those times where I miss it. When I’m in a hurry or I feel that twinge of emotion but I don’t act.

Then there’s the guy on the airplane who I want to get out of my space STAT. And all the people who touch my belly like its a Yorkie. And those who have unrealistic expectations of me. But, the truth is, I have committed all these space faux pas as well.

For example, I am long-legged, so I put the first quarter of my foot on the armrest in front of me, so my knees aren’t cramped into the seat. That’s right, if the person in 16C moves their elbow back three inches… Surprise! Toes! And when I see a pregnant lady, I get so excited and some undeniable force urges me to touch her belly and ask her tons of questions and tell her she’s gorgeous and ask if she wants some water. And I have been guilty many times in my life of holding others to unrealistic expectations.

I also forgot to mention those people who have realistic expectations of me, but I just can’t seem to meet them, even on my best day. Sometimes, I even want them out of my space. Space - Nasa Well, thank God for His grace.

I have a theory that we live and die on our expectations. Unrealistic expectations are the breeding ground for disappointment. If our emotions are healthy, unmet needs will be the catalyst for change and authenticity. If we operating out of dysfunction, unmet needs will press us to meet legitimate needs in illegitimate ways. That’s why reality is very important.

What is the real truth about the relationships we participate in? Have we communicated honestly with each other about our hopes and desires for the friendship or dating or working relationship or marriage?

I have to ask myself often, who am I when what I want from a person does not line up with what they are able to give? I also have to take responsibility for what I am contributing to my relationships: Half truths? Lack of follow through? All giving, no receiving? In other words, what’s my part? And what am I going to do with my part?

A heart set on control is a heart set on manipulation.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I have a hunch we all struggle with control. We’re human! If I’m honest, I want things to go my way – that’s my first preference. I am as selfish as anyone else. Only in a vulnerable relationship with Jesus am I able to love and prefer others the way following Him demands. 

Life is often like the middle seat on a plane. How are we going to respond?

“Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.” Romans 12:10 (the message)

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