I believe the Bible gives us a cycle, or process of stages, that every relationship goes through.
Every small group.
In order to know where you are in the relationship you must first start by knowing where you are at. God asks in Genesis 3:8-9 "Where are you?" You are either, hiding or seeking. Adam in this scene is hiding, but he doesn't know that he's lost. Many relationships are set on "cruise control" thinking all is well and not even know they are getting lost; because if you aren't seeking, then you're hiding.
Before We Begin
There is a "cycle of death" that has begun in the garden. In fact, I thought about titling this post that, but that would not be fun to read, huh? So, let's look at the stages of this cycle and apply it to the subject of marriage; while at the same time keep in mind other relationships such as small group meetings or church or any other group.
Genesis 2:17 "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."
That word, surely, comes from the Hebrew and it means; in dieing you shall die. The best way I can describe what this means is to say, "go look at a picture of yourself 10 years ago." We are all dieing. Our eyes are failing us. Our hair is leaving us. Hearing, reflexes, muscle loss, etc. We are all dieing on the road to death. That's what the world was introduced to when man and woman ate from the tree.
Revelation. At the beginning of every relationship there is a fresh "vision" of what could be. It's the open our eyes to the possibilities experience.
With Adam, when God pronounced a new future for him (in the sweat of your face you shall eat. Genesis 3:19) He then must prophecy a new relationship with his wife. He calls her "Eve" --the mother of all living. This had never happened before.
Inspiration. The fuel necessary to ignite the passion needed to overcome the inevitable problems. Now Adam had to transition from being a "gardener" to becoming a lover. This new passion made Adam forget what he had lost. Without passion, the fire of revelation is quickly extinguished. This loss of inspiration is where the relationship problems begin.
Question. Why did God force Adam and Eve out of the garden?
Because they had eaten of the fruit of knowledge of good and evil....(the cycle of death had started) and to ensure that they don't get caught in that never ending cycle, God says Adam must not take of the tree of life and eat, because he would then live forever, Genesis 3:22-23....forever in a state of death. That's not God's plan. His plan is for us to live with Him forever.
No death means immortality.
Immortality means we don't escape this cycle of death.
No escape means we never get the opportunity to live with God in Heaven.
Deep huh? Again, God does something that many times we think is for punishment but the reality of it is, it's because of His protection.
Formalization. The courage to act on the inspired revelation. This takes place with our commitment to sign on the dotted line. We're now willing to make the necessary sacrifices to see the vision fulfilled.
Genesis 4:1 "Adam knew Eve his wife and she conceived and bore Cain."
Adam now has to transition from being a love to becoming a father. Another new role that had never taken place. This is where we'd say "the rubber meets the road" of relationships and originations. It's one thing to talk about doing something because of revelation, it's another thing to do it. This is one reason I tell young ladies who are in a dating relationship, "you don't owe him one thing; not sex, not holding hands, not kissing, nothing! Cause there's no ring on your finger."
And all the ladies, said......
Now remember all this is taking place in Adam and Eve's life under the promise that one day...."And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." Genesis 3:15
So in there mind, this boy is it. Cain! The boy called "spear" is going to fulfill God's prophecy. Adam must now transition from being a lover to being a father.
Institutionalization. Where the light of revelation slowly begins going out. We as men tend to be the most romantic when we are pursuing her. Then when we have her and children are here, we tend to woe. Or, how about this? Things are going good. We like how the small group or church is going, we want things to just keep going like they are.
Institutionalization is setting in and without fresh revelation accompanied by inspiration with formalization, then death is just around the corner.
Many people say that Cain and Able were twins because of the lack of a word in Genesis 4:2. And that is possible, but I want to share some possible new insight concerning this issue. In Genesis 4:1 it says, "Adam knew his wife Eve and she bore a son." That word "knew" is the most intimate word for a man and woman to experience together.
There is a huge difference between "making love" and "having sex."
Without the revelation being fulfilled, and inspiration being fanned, Adam and Eve have found themselves in a relationship that has become nothing more than automation. They're going through the motions without new insight.
Eve names her next son, Able, meaning "vanity!" Can you hear her voice? The actual Hebrew means, "a sigh."
Too many marriages "die"by divorce during the "empty nest" stage because after the kids are grown there is no new revelation! They've spent the last 2o years of their life together in the institutionalization mode and now they look at each other one day and say, "death to this."
In the same way, groups, churches, friendships that don't get new purpose beyond what they started out as, end up dieing a slow death.
Crystallization. Where the truth becomes locked in time. The cycle of death which Adam loosed in the garden was now working in his family. “Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.” Genesis 4:8
Now in Genesis 4:3 is says, "in the process of time..." That word process in the Hebrew means, "at the end of days." In other words, at the end of this relationship cycle...is death. All things die. What was once full of promise has become a cold corpse. I believe this death of a son and loss of the other brings Adam and Eve back to the beginning. What is needed now more than ever is fresh revelation--and it happens. “And Adam knew his wife again.” Genesis 4:25
This time they name him, Seth. "And as for Seth, to him also a son was born." Genesis 4:26
This is another first in history; because now Adam transitions from being a father to being a grandfather.
New revelation! This is what God was getting at in the beginning of the garden.
Now we understand this because we've had thousand of years to figure out that the seed of Jesus came from the bloodline of Seth who came from Adam and Eve.
But they didn't have this. They had to go through it the hard way.
They had to learn to see past the now, and into the future.
What would life look like if we had entered every relationship with God's long term vision for it?
We'd say things like, "I want to marry you and have kids that have kids that have kids who love God and follow Him all the day's of their lives."
Instead of, "let's move in together and see how this works out."
We'd say, "I attend this church to play a role in reaching the hundreds and thousands of people who need God."
Instead of saying, "this is my church, why change anything?"
We'd say, "I bring people to this small group to grow and multiply the Kingdom of God."
Instead of saying, "if it gets bigger then we'll loose what we have."
We'd say things like, "I want friendships that will grow stronger through change."
Instead of, "I may lose that friendship if things start to change."
I pray that if any of your relationships are on their way to dieing, that God would give you fresh revelation, new passion and a deep commitment to know what to do with it.
Happy Valentine's Day!