Of all my past and present struggles, none has plagued me more than my inability to establish well grounded relationships that are rooted in love rather than superficiality, pride and vanity.

If I do find those few precious friendships, I have a hard time cherishing them and letting them flourish in a God-glorifying way.  I almost always get stuck at some point along the road, allowing my thoughts to snowball into something silly or dramatic or vain, worried that what others are thinking about me isn’t what I want them to think.

Honestly, I struggle to be genuine, often aspiring to be like successful or fun people in my life that I wrongfully idolize, which equals me usually putting on a front or facade that would lead my friends to think I am more successful or fun than I really am.  Boy oh boy.  All this is surfacing because in the past couple weeks, I have seen some real beauty in this part of my life; I look back on this week and it is overwhelming sometimes as I see the Father wonderfully reflected in my relationships.  What brought this change and so suddenly?  I have a few thoughts.

The at-risk children here at the Children’s Home are pretty intense.  They aren’t the least bit naive.  They have been exposed to about twenty times more terror in the past year than I have in my whole 22 years of living.  They are incredibly street smart.  They have been conditioned to see the world around them blatantly and as it is; no rose-tinted glasses.  Few are creative or imaginative.  They have low self-value and few have dreams at all.  Everything is merely face-value to them, especially when they first come to the home… naturally the children see right through anything that is not 100% genuine.  My getting to know them at the beginning was a train wreck because, like a nauseous deer in headlights, I had no idea how to interact with the children, opting for forced smiles and fake interest just to get through a talk with them.  If I wasn’t spit on, that to me was a gigantic success, and it didn’t matter how I went about avoiding the worst.  As long as they made eye contact with me without screaming and running away, I was jubilant.

But, like I said, I learned quickly just how much they saw straight through me.  I learned that if I was going to take this volunteer position seriously, I need to start being real with the kids, and sincere and genuine when I talked with them.  I needed to focus on them, their struggles, their ideas and their words, instead of being consumed with how they perceived me; a coworker once told me that if any staff is punched or spit on, it is rarely ever personal to the child. So I stopped being so vain and paranoid about how much they liked or detested me.  Let me tell you, that is a huge relief, to stop caring about that kind of thing and just be in the present, with the child I’m talking to, to anyone, really.

Basically what I’ve taken from my relational experiences at the Children’s Home I’ve also applied at home and my friendships with other wonderful persons in my life.  You cannot have solid  relationships unless you are genuine about it.  You can’t second guess every move or sound you make with people.  You can’t go into a conversation with vain precepts like How will she perceive me while we’re talking? Will she see the Spirit in me?  Will I inspire her? Will she like me?  I’d better be super holy in my speech.  This convo could be the one that changes her life forever... and yatatta yatatta.  It’s enough to make your head spin, so much that you aren’t even focusing on the person or what their communicating.  If those are basically all my encounters with these children – here’s the epiphany I had –  how will I ever get to know them?  Have good relationships with them?

It’s similar to my relationship with Christ.  The more I know God, the more I learn of His holy attributes, the more our relationship flourishes.  Makes sense, but this seemingly simple concept has eluded me, until now.