Recently, I have had many opportunities to pray about relationships. Since moving to South Korea to teach English for a year, I’ve had to face the challenges of maintaining consistent contact with those I love back home, making new friendships here, and even addressing relationships in a larger context, including the shaky relations between North and South Korea.
Often I am tempted to be overwhelmed by the dramatic highs and lows of my relationships with others, whether romantic or friendly, or even my interactions with co-workers or students. It can seem really frightening when a friend is angry with me or students are rebellious, or there are sudden arguments with loved ones. However, in all of my prayers regarding relationships, I have been consistently pointed away from looking to others for a sense of peace, and instead have been led to learn more about my relationship with God to find happiness and purpose.
I really learned how to rely on God in this way after I broke up with my first boyfriend in high school seven years ago. For a few months I hopelessly prayed for a new relationship but was met only with quickly deteriorating self-confidence and happiness. I knew it was time to address this situation prayerfully, as it had become obvious that another person could not complete me or validate my worth. It was time to rely on God for all of my love, confidence, and direction. Gradually, my prayers shifted from asking for specific relationships with others to focusing on my relationship with God.
The turning point came late one tearful night as I worked with Mary Baker Eddy’s hymn “ ‘Feed My Sheep’ ” (Christian Science Hymnal, No. 304). The first and third verses were particularly helpful:
Shepherd, show me how to go
O’er the hillside steep,
How to gather, how to sow,—
How to feed Thy sheep;
I will listen for Thy voice,
Lest my footsteps stray;
I will follow and rejoice,
All the rugged way.
So, when day grows dark and cold,
Tear or triumph harms,
Lead Thy lambkins to the fold,
Take them in Thine arms;
Feed the hungry, heal the heart,
Till the morning’s beam;
White as wool, ere they depart,
Shepherd, wash them clean.
After each line, I contemplated how to love God, love myself, and love others better. My prayer with the hymn went something like this: “Father, please show me how to take each step forward toward unshakable happiness and love, not reliant on anyone but You. Show me how to love others more, be kinder, a better friend and a better person. I want to be obedient to Your direction and rejoice with each step, no matter how tedious it may seem, because Your plan includes all of Your children, and it is harmonious.” Then the anxiety I had been struggling with completely vanished, and I fell asleep.
After that night, although the fear had gone, it became my moment-by-moment prayer to stop looking to others as my source of love and confidence. Mrs. Eddy wrote, “When we fully understand our relation to the Divine, we can have no other Mind but His,—no other Love, wisdom, or Truth, no other sense of Life, and no consciousness of the existence of matter or error” (Science and Health, pp. 205–206). This was my goal—to understand my relation to God, and rely on no other love but God’s love. Whenever I felt unconfident, unhappy, or lonely, this became my rebuttal: “God is the source of my happiness, confidence, beauty, poise, joy, love, and I can never ever be separated from God. There is not a moment when I am not reflecting infinite Love, purpose, wholeness, and I cannot experience any lack, because I am already a complete idea of God, now and always. My happiness and value come directly from infinite good, God. How can I feel deprived when Love is loving me all the time? How can I feel insecure when I am moving forward in the arms of my Father? This is true for each one of us.”
I knew it was time to address this situation prayerfully as it had become obvious another person could not complete me or validate my worth.
That may seem like it was a lot to say as I walked down my high school hallways, but it wasn’t. And each day I affirmed that it was God who was moving me into my right place, with the right people, interactions, and experiences. The idea that another person was the source of my joy became absurd. Acknowledging these facts was a continual exercise, but the truth of those statements gave me a great sense of peace. The uplifting, joyful thoughts were my divine rights to claim and to express at all times.
Any fear I felt about finding someone to love me fell away because I began trusting God to do that work for me, and the opportunity to love those already in my experience grew.
After a few weeks, I remember being amazed when I realized that I was, in fact, perfectly content not to be in a relationship with someone, because I was finding my unshakable happiness from God. For many months I enjoyed working on this opportunity to establish my relationship with God. The joy I found from this prayerful time was so uplifting, and I was completely free from any of the previous fear or depression. It also blessed me many months later when I started dating a good friend and my ex-boyfriend came back into my life, seeking to rekindle a supportive and lasting friendship.
Since that experience I have been blessed by many loving people, all unique and adding to my life in meaningful ways. But to suggest that I carried on completely carefree and unconcerned about my relationships with others would be inaccurate. I sometimes still find that my confidence and joy are unstable, or that I become fearful regarding certain relationships or the lack thereof. However, these situations provide humbling opportunities to be diligent about focusing on my relationship with God by following Jesus’ teaching: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment” (Mark 12:30). This love for God can be our foundation and principal relationship. Then, in all our human relationships, we can “go out with joy, and be led forth with peace” (Isa. 55:12).
Wynne Nuernberg is originally from Kent, Washington. She is currently teaching English in South Korea.