Ministerial Meandering

You don’t own me.

Lesley Gore recorded this song in 1963 at the age of 17.  It was her second hit song after ‘It’s my party’, which no doubt you all remember.  The first became a number one hit in the USA when she was still in school and only 16.  I suspect that was the end of her formal education.

Considering the feminist nature of ‘You don’t own me,’ it is a little surprising that it was written by two men.  Lesley Gore’s voice is not one I would celebrate personally, but it was typical of girl pop singers in the 60’s.

The song prompted me to think about the nature of relationships.  John Donne famously wrote that ‘No man is an island’, referring to our interconnectedness that would find a resonance with our indigenous cousins’ phrase, ‘All my relations’.  There is no doubt that we  - humankind - have a global, and, indeed, genetic connection that is quite illuminating.  Retrace our genetic roots far enough, and you will find that we all originated from the same crucible in Africa - and most likely with the same dark coloured skin.

However close our genetic or emotional proximity to each other, we remain individuals - unique in our own way.  We cannot and do not ‘belong’ to anyone - no-one owns us - nor should they try.

Nevertheless, we are owned - by God; we are his children.  Isaiah 43 says, 'But now, this is what the Lord says, he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.’

The purists and biblical scholars amongst you will rightly point out that in this passage, the Lord is referring to the exiled people of Israel, who were in Babylon at the time of his writing.  However, it is worth remembering that Israel became the name given to the individual, Jacob, after his fight with God at the Jabbok, recorded in Genesis 32.  The name ‘Israel’ mean ‘to struggle with God’; I’m thinking of adopting it!

Jesus also has a moment when he laments over Jerusalem, when he claims a motherly desire to possess its wayward people; ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!’ (Matthew 23:37).

But in earthly terms, we have no rights over another person.  We are given friends, lovers, angels, partners, and colleagues for a time - and, I think, for a reason.  

If they are wisely chosen - and this requires careful discernment - then they will help us to grow and mature - emotionally and spiritually, (and possibly even socially for some!). In this way such relationships can be a two-way process of mutual learning and love.  But it should never become exclusive or possessive; that is not our prerogative.  It is never an entitlement.

How then do we square this with the concept of commitment within a relationship, if commitment is not to presume some sort of ownership and exclusivity?

I would suggest that question drives us back to our a priori statement that we belong to God alone.  However many angels and friends and lovers we may meet on our earthly journeys, only those that continue to mutually help and assist growth in the spiritual sphere are of true value, and these may not last throughout life - nor as long as we might wish.  I can think of several relationships I wish had lasted longer - but I guess that God, in His wisdom, decided when was ‘enough’, and I had to move on.

Just as Hebrews 13:14 tells us, ‘For we have no permanent city here on earth, we are looking for one in the world to come’ (Phillips Bible), in the same way we cannot possess or own any other person here on earth.  We are children of God; ‘For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mothers womb.’ (Ps 139), and that is the relationship we need to cultivate above all.  You might ask “Why?” - and I would respond with the words of 1 Timothy 6:7, ‘ For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.’ (KJV).

Therefore, I would urge us all to enjoy the earthly relationships we have formed - but do not try to possess or own that which will pass.  Only retain that part of it which helps both your souls to grow.  That is what connects you to the Eternal.

Philip+ (unless otherwise specified, all biblical quotations are from the NIV).


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