Sliding Door Moments

This post draws heavily from the research and writing of John Gottman, specifically in his book What Makes Love Last. His book has been incredibly helpful to me and I’d highly recommend it, both to those in romantic relationships, but also to single people.


Life is full of “sliding door moments.”  These moments come and go, so many in any given day that we can’t always count them and definitely don’t always notice them. But these are the moments that build, maintain, or allow to crumble the foundation of a healthy relationship. John Gottman coined the phrase “sliding door moments” during his research on relationships over the last several decades. These are interactions between two people that allow an opportunity to connect and foster intimacy if properly received and responded to.

Sliding door moments can be small (ie a smile from across the room, or a quick reach for your hand) or big (ie I need you; I’m hurting; I feel alone). Sliding door moments are bids for connection. When these bids are met in a positive way, trust is fortified. But these moments are also short and fleeting. If you don’t step through the door and respond positively to the bid for connection, the door will close and the moment will pass. Whether your relationship is brand new or you’ve been together for twenty years, these sometimes tiny little moments are the things that allow your relationship to grow stronger or to crumble.

Most relationships don’t collapse in a moment or because of one big fight or bad decision. Relationships fall apart because one or both partners no longer trust each other. When your significant other responds to your bid for connection in a way that makes you feel seen, known and cared for, they fortify your trust in them. When I hug my husband when he gets home and he hugs me back and tells me he loves me, he’s not just telling me he loves me. He’s saying, “I see you. I’m with you right now. I care for you.” He’s helping me continue to trust that he’ll be there for me and that I can trust him for the long run.

On the other hand, when my husband asks me to sit next to him on the couch while he works (or possibly just surfs online), he’s making a bid for connection but it’s a little more understated. He wants to know if I’m going to show up for him. If I’m going to be present and prioritize him even in the little things. If I do, it helps him believe that I’ll show up for the big things too. But if I miss his bid for connection and instead think he just doesn’t care about all the other things I want to get done, then I skip the opportunity to build up his trust in me and connect more deeply with him.

Now, I don’t mean to say that in the back of all of our minds we’re constantly manipulating and testing people to see if they’ll fail us. I think more of us do that then we’d care to realize. But what I’m getting at is the subtleties of our connections with those we love. We don’t even always realize the significance of the little bids we’re making unless we don’t get the response we want. If I tell my husband that I can’t sit with him because I have homework to do, a kitchen to clean, and a workout to get done, he’s likely to feel alone and a little rejected. Those negative feelings often help us realize that we were asking for more than just a warm body on the couch next to us. We were asking for connection, for friendship, or to be reminded that we’re not alone in the world.

I’m a really task oriented person. For example, when we bought our house, I literally moved in and unpacked in less than 24 hours (with a lot of heavy-lifting help from family and friends). I love the feeling of checking things off my list. Over the last four and a half years of being married to Patrick, I’ve come to realize how often I selfishly prioritize my own preferences over the needs of others. I’m not proud of how long it has taken me to learn to say, “Yes, I’ll sit and do nothing with you even though I have a to-do list calling my name.” I’m not proud of how many times I have silently told my husband that he can’t count on me to be there for him.

Understanding and giving language to the concept of the sliding door moment has been game-changing for me. It has helped me put into words and a new perspective, the importance of the little moments in relationships. Honestly, I have found this to be one of the most empowering skills to develop in my marriage and in my friendships. Seeing the value and influence of positive sliding door moments reminds me that today I can do something to make my marriage stronger, to help my husband feel known and loved. Today I can continue the bricklaying work of establishing a solid structure that will serve us for decades if we’re lucky.

If you’re married, I hope this helps you see your spouse better. It takes time and effort to begin to see your partner’s bids for connection, but it’s worth it. The way I reach out to Patrick is often so different than the way he reaches out to me. It takes practice to see these moments before they slip away. I hope that having language for this experience helps you learn to look a little harder, pause a second longer, and really see your spouse and their needs.

If you’re single, I hope this helps you love your friends and family better. I hope that this helps you to develop a strong self-awareness and a caring eye for others who are trying to connect. I hope that you see how this applies just as much to platonic friendships as it does to marriages. I also want to encourage you to see the value in cultivating these relational skills now, equipping you to be a loving and trustworthy spouse someday if that is part of your story.

Everyday people all around us are aching for love and connection. Every day our friends, children, parents, spouses, co-workers, and neighbors are reaching out in big and small ways to connect and to find trustworthy people to walk with them in life. As Christians, our model is Jesus. Jesus showed us boots on the ground, arms stretched out, on our level love. He made it a point to show up and eat with people, to stop and play with the children, and to touch the leper who was cast out from his community. Jesus showed up and responded to people’s bids for connections and in that way, he changed the story. Now, we’re not Jesus, but if you know Jesus and the love He shared, then I’m confident that will influence the way that you show up for people. When we show up, let’s remember to remind our people of the One who will always love them more deeply than we can and let’s love them well in the meantime.

The Worship of the Body

Over the last year or so, I’ve been working on developing the discipline of honoring my body. There have been seasons in my life where I felt enslaved to food or enslaved to exercise. Seasons in the past where I felt almost addicted to working out. Seasons where I felt addicted to indulgence. Throughout both these seasons I’ve felt a powerful pull to worship either food or fitness. In response to that pull, I’ve grown in the discipline of gospel proclamation.

This may seem silly to most of you, or maybe you’ll deeply identify with this. As someone who has had season of excess in either direction, I have become so acutely aware of the temptation to worship my fitness or my food. So now when I work out and I feel like quitting (or when I don’t feel like working out at all) or when I feel like eating whatever I want and too much of it, this is the conversation I have in my head.

“The Creator God who made all things, made them to be good and full of life. That Creator made you and your body. Your body is not an accident. It is not going to burn to dust in the end. Your body is an important and purposeful facet of your human design. When you work hard and honor your body, you honor the Creator who made it and called it good. When you challenge your body to grow and strengthen, you honor the purpose of your body and the calling of God on your life. Being fit will not bring you life. Being thin will not satisfy you. Bingeing on sugar will not meet your needs. You are made for the Creator and He has made you with a body. Turn your eyes to Jesus. See His goodness, love, and beauty. Honor your body out of respect, awe, and worship of Him because of the great lengths He went to that you might have true and abundant life. When you care for your body, you proclaim the lordship of Jesus and the beauty of the Creator. Work hard. He equips you even for the small, daily things.”

Since I started this process I have gotten a lot better. With practice, I now usually notice very quickly when my heart slips into worship of other’s opinions of me, my own physical goals, or control. I don’t tell myself that I’m a disaster for being tempted or having those thoughts. I recognize the temptation for what it is and rebuke the lies. I proclaim the reality of Jesus’ authority and practice gospel proclamation to myself at 6:00am when I don’t want to work out, and late at night when I want to eat all the ice cream at once.

Health and fitness is an unquenchable god. Never satisfied, always asking you to bleed out for it. To try a little harder, to cut back a little more, to focus a little more on swimsuit season or how much stronger your friends are. Fitness is a fickle god that denies the intrinsic value of you as a created being loved by its Creator. You are not made to worship your body, you’re made to worship God who gave you a body.

In fitness it is so easy to worship your goals. If I weigh this much, if I’m this toned, if I workout this frequently, then I’ll be satisfied. But that’s idolatry and it’s a fickle god. When we worship anything but the Creator who loves us, we always find ourselves restless, feeling unknown, incapable, and insufficient. When our god is our body, our belly, our muscles, our mind, we end up unsatisfied and ruled by shame. Those gods are never satisfied. You are never enough for the idols you worship. Only in worship of the Father do you simultaneously find yourself so aware of your inadequacy and also overcome by the reality of how deeply and perfectly loved and known you are right now.

The chase of idolatry is fickle and unending, but the Father doesn’t change or move or send you away until you’re better. I’m learning to honor the Father by the way I care for the body He has given me. I’m learning to pause when I feel like giving up or when I find myself thinking about what other people think or see, and to reset my perspective. I’m learning to remind myself of the truths of the gospel that compel me to care for my body. God has made me human, with a body, heart, and mind. The body was intentional and an important aspect of His creation. When I care for my body I proclaim the Lordship of the God who made it. I proclaim my assurance in His purpose for me and His promise to restore all things to their intended design. When I care for my body I participate in His restoration in a temporary way until He completes it finally.


Minimalism

I think for many people the idea of going zero (or minimal) waste is intertwined with minimalism. Not everyone who is minimal waste is a minimalist and definitely not every minimalist is zero waste. But both movements share some common values: specifically, intentionality with what items you allow in your space. 

I consider minimalism to be a natural response when moving toward minimizing your waste. The fewer things you buy, the less waste you produce. However, my journey toward minimalism has mostly been about freeing up my time and energy. The fewer toys in my house, the smaller the mess to clean up when my daughter takes out every toy. The fewer one purpose kitchen utensils in my kitchen, the fewer dishes to wash and the less chaotic the cupboards. I'm not a minimalist; I'm aspiring to be one though. I find that whenever I simplify in my house, I feel a deep sense of relief and peace. I think it is partly related to the awareness of how much time I'm saving in the future, but also clean lines and spaces promote a sense of rest and peace. This doesn't come very naturally to me. 

While I think I've always been drawn to organization and aesthetics, I definitely find myself looking for satisfaction in shopping more than I like to admit. As I'm working toward minimalism in a way that will serve my family and me and not just for the sake of minimalism, I'm finding a necessary submission to Jesus as I work to worship Him and not things, purchasing power, or the rush of getting cute new things. We are always looking for satisfaction and purpose. Some of us are tempted to believe we will find it in food, things, spending, or control. Some of us are tempted to think we will find our purpose in power, fame, beauty, or perfection. The thing we all have in common is a temptation toward idolatry. Whatever it is that you seek after for satisfaction, fulfillment, or purpose is your own false god. It will always leave you empty, lonely, dissatisfied, and feeling hopeless. Only the Creator, who has made us in His image and for His purpose, will satisfy our restless hearts. 

One of my biggest fears with starting Pure and Simple, was that I might be involved in exposing people to new ideas and new commitments, but in a way that doesn't draw people's attention and affections ultimately to the One whom they are meant for. I don't want more people to be zero waste and find their identity in that lifestyle. I want to see more people wholeheartedly following Jesus of Nazareth, the one who made Himself like us, surrendered everything for us, suffered and died on our behalf. I want to see more people aware of the power of Jesus who was victorious over sin and death and will reign over the restored creation some day. Then I want to see people respond to the reality of that same Jesus with faithful stewardship of His creation, including this Earth and our bodies. When Jesus, the Word of God who was with God in the beginning, is the reason that we are motivated toward physical discipline, financial stewardship, healthy relationships, and environmental stewardship, we find sustainable, lasting change possible because we are no longer depending on the things themselves to satisfy. 

So if you're like me and you're tempted to find happiness or satisfaction in things, I want you first to pause and consider the One who will actually satisfy, restore and revive your heart before you move toward minimalism. Having less stuff will not solve your idolatry problem. If you look to minimalism to cure you of your idolatry of things, you'll find yourself idolizing minimalism. No closer to Jesus. No closer to others. No closer to freedom. 

If instead, you turn your eyes upon Jesus and repent and believe the Gospel, you will find freedom and rest for your soul. Minimalism doesn't satisfy; Jesus does. 

Why Start Pure & Simple

As a Christian, I believe that God's intention for humanity and creation is about reconciliation and restoration. The story of the Bible starts with a Creator God who, out of the overflow of His glory and perfection, desired to make all of creation, including people. Humanity and creation lived in fullness, perfection, and intimacy with God, as it was intended to be. That perfection was corrupted by humans who decided to do what was right in their own eyes, rather than what the Creator intended. From that point forward, brokenness entered the world and distorted the relationship between God and his people. Throughout all the generations moving forward, the brokenness of the world has been clearly evident. Families have been torn apart, the world crumbles, societies fail, and humans abuse their power both in relationships with others and with the creation. 

Into the midst of that came Jesus. Our perfect representative before the Creator God. Jesus said throughout his ministry, "The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." In His life, and through His victory over death, Jesus inaugurated the new kingdom, the beginning of the restoration that we all ache for whether we acknowledge it or not. As believers in Jesus, we are called to be representatives or ambassadors of Jesus. In order to do that well, we need to understand what the Kingdom of Heaven is about. In Jesus' life and teaching, we see him proclaiming healing for the sick, freedom for the captives, food for the hungry, and restored relationships with God. In the book of Revelation, we see a word picture of this kingdom in its finality. Heaven comes to earth. The earth does not burn away into dust while believers in Jesus float around in the sky playing harps. God dwells with His people. There are no more tears, no more hurting, no more death, and no more sin. People dwell upon the restored Earth in restored relationships with each other and with God. This is the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus talked about. 

The story of the Bible is about God restoring all things back to their intended design. Restoration means taking what no longer does what it's supposed to do or what is in bad condition and making it like new. God intends to restore our relationship with Him through the power of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. He also intends to restore creation to its original, intended glory.

As followers of Jesus, I believe that our responsibility is to tell people about the life they can find in Jesus. I believe it is essential for people to understand their value, and I believe that is only ever fully known when it is understood in connection with their creator. As people understand that they are made in the image of God, designed for beauty, life, and fullness, it also should begin to change the way they engage with others and with the world. As followers of Jesus, our other responsibility is to care for people and creation. We get to be agents of the restoration that Jesus will bring to completion, by caring for people and the world.

This is ultimately where my passion for minimal waste, environmental stewardship, and my love for people comes from. I believe that deep at the core of my identity as a human is a call to lovingly, purposefully, and responsibly honor the people and the creation in front of me. As I commit to intentionality in my relationships, in my consumption of goods and services, and in my care for the earth, I honor the God who made all those things, loves them more than I can, and desires to see them thriving in their intended design. So when I began to think about making some changes to my life, it all centered around what the Kingdom of God looks like. Pure and Simple is the consolidation of a lot of the practical side of this shift, but this blog section is intended to be the more ideological end. My deepest desire in all of this is to see people who begin to understand the heart and nature of Jesus more deeply, and in response to that, begin to make even small changes in their daily lives that reflect the reality of His goodness and His Kingdom at work. 

I hope that Pure and Simple serves to encourage, inspire, and support you in whatever your walk of life. But ultimately, I hope that you come to know the deep, reckless love of God for you and that you begin to live into your identity as a beloved, image bearer of the creator God. 

love, 

shelby 

Open Your Mouth and I Will Fill It With Honey

Last February Patrick and I became foster parents to the cutest little girl. She was eleven months old at the time, tiny and pale, but full of joy. She is on her way to two years old now. She is a little less tiny, still pretty pale, but absolutely full of love and joy. We are kind of obsessed with her. But here’s the thing: we’re also her parents (going to be adopting her soon !!! ), and she can just be a little pill sometimes. She is precious and fun, but she is also feisty and almost two. So, maybe you can imagine that we don’t just have fun 100% of the time, or at least I don’t. But she is teaching me so much about the Father.

Last week she woke up from a nap just famished because, you know, she hadn’t eaten in two hours. So I fed her a snack of cereal, then some string cheese, but then she saw some grapes on the counter and could not be bothered to think about a single other thing than how badly her body needed grapes. So she’s pointed and yelling, begging for grapes, except she only has like 10 words and none of them are grapes. So mostly, she’s just yelling, as if the only reason she didn’t have grapes yet was that I couldn’t hear her screaming. I tell her to ask nicely and she says, “leese” which is close enough for me. I grab a handful of grapes and begin to cut them into smaller pieces and scrape out the seeds (I don’t why someone bought grapes with seeds). This delay makes it obvious to her that I don’t care for her at all and that I am in fact refusing her request for nourishment. So she yells again, but now with a shriek of resentment in her voice.

At this point, I say, mostly to myself, “Why don’t you just trust me to give you good things? I have always, 100% of the time, given you what you need. I’ve given you food, rest, love, play, warmth. In my eleven months of parenting you, I have always given you what you needed.”

In a moment, I realize that I am just like her. Sitting in my high chair, yelling for grapes (after having eaten a full meal) with no confidence that I will get what I need. Instantly, I am humbled by motherhood, brought low before the goodness of the Father, who knows what I need and always gives it to me. Even when what I need is to be reminded by my screaming child of His provision.

I read Psalm 81 this past summer and have carried it with me since. The past year I’ve grown a lot in my understanding of the Israelites, both their love and zeal and their fickle hearts. I have seen myself in their story in ways that I am not so proud of. Throughout the unfolding story of the Bible, we see the Israelites (God’s people with whom He made a covenant promise to make them into a great nation that would be blessed to be a blessing) in a cyclical pattern. They continually submit to the Lord in worship, then turn to other things. They cry out to God in their distress and need, not trusting Him to provide, but then He does. Psalm 81 is a recounting of their story in a small way.

Sing for joy to God our strength;
    shout aloud to the God of Jacob!
Begin the music, strike the timbrel,
    play the melodious harp and lyre.

Sound the ram’s horn at the New Moon,
    and when the moon is full, on the day of our festival;
this is a decree for Israel,
    an ordinance of the God of Jacob.
When God went out against Egypt,
    he established it as a statute for Joseph.

I heard an unknown voice say:

“I removed the burden from their shoulders;
    their hands were set free from the basket.
In your distress you called and I rescued you,
    I answered you out of a thundercloud;
    I tested you at the waters of Meribah.[c]
Hear me, my people, and I will warn you—
    if you would only listen to me, Israel!
You shall have no foreign god among you;
    you shall not worship any god other than me.
 I am the Lord your God,
    who brought you up out of Egypt.
Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.

 “But my people would not listen to me;
    Israel would not submit to me.
So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts
    to follow their own devices.

“If my people would only listen to me,
    if Israel would only follow my ways,
how quickly I would subdue their enemies
    and turn my hand against their foes!
Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him,
    and their punishment would last forever.
But you would be fed with the finest of wheat;
    with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

Psalm 81 (emphasis mine)

The Psalmist calls for the people to praise their God, guiding them to reflect on who that God is and hoping to lead them to praise. He identifies the God they are to worship, as the God of Jacob, the Father of their nation. The psalmist then identifies God as the one who “went out against Egypt.” The Israelite people were enslaved in Egypt, under a heavy yoke of oppression. When they cried out the Lord heard them and answered their cries by sending Moses to speak with Pharoah, the Egyptian leader. Pharoah was unwilling to let the Israelites go, so the Lord sent plague after plague until Pharoah relented. Then the Lord walked the Israelites to freedom, even parting the waters of the sea so that they could walk out of Egypt on dry land. The God that the psalmist would remind us of, is the God who brought freedom to the oppressed, safety from the waters, manna from heaven to fill their bellies while in the wilderness.

Then the psalmist says, “He established it as a statue for Joseph.” Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, spent years in prison in Egypt until the Lord raised him up to be the second greatest in all of Egypt. Joseph’s faithfulness to the Lord, his listening ear to the dreams and visions God gave him, meant that Egypt had plenty of food despite a horrific famine in the region. Joseph became the means through which the Lord provided salvation for his people (Joseph’s father Jacob, who would later be called Israel, and his brothers). The psalmist is not asking us to blindly worship a god who is far away, disinterested in us, and fickle. The psalmist is turning our attention back to the history of God and His people so that we might see with great confidence the faithfulness of the Father.

Only after a continued reminder of who God is, does the psalmist write this:

You shall have no foreign god among you;
    you shall not worship any god other than me.
 I am the Lord your God,
    who brought you up out of Egypt.
Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.

Worship the Lord alone; give Him all your honor and praise. He is the God who has been faithful to alleviate oppression and meet your needs. Remember that. And as you remember, open your mouth wide and He will fill it. We can trust that the Father is not subject to change. He has been faithful to His people. He will continue to be faithful. So open your mouth and He will fill it.

But you would be fed with the finest of wheat;
    with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.

Those who worship the Lord, remembering who He is, are “to be fed with the finest of wheat.” He promises to satisfy them “with honey from the rock.” The One True God has led His people out from under oppression, has given them life, and has filled them to fullness with all they need.

So when my daughter yells for grapes, with no trust in me to give her good things, I am reminded of my own idolatrous heart, my forgetful spirit that fails to remember the faithfulness of God. But in that remembrance, I am drawn to repentance and worship. He is the God who is always faithful to His covenant, who will always provide, sustain, and be with His people. Let us repent and believe in the promises of the God who lead the Israelites out of Egypt, who sent the prophets, and ultimately sent the long-awaited Messiah.

It can be so easy to misunderstand our own situation when we are like my daughter. We sit and wait. We see what we want, maybe even what we think we need. Then we ask our Father for it. But the time in between the request and the response can often feel void of interaction or care. It is easy for my daughter to not notice or to misunderstand my delay in getting her grapes for a lack of love or care for her. It is easy for her to not understand that I am taking the seeds out so she won’t swallow them and cutting the grapes into small pieces so she won’t choke. It’s not so easy for her to see the delay as an act of loving response to her request. My daughter will continue to learn that I am reliable, loving, and meet her needs. We must practice the discipline of remembrance so that we might not forget that our Father has always given us good things and will continue to do so. We might not experience all beautiful and easy seasons in life. But we can learn to trust that even in seasons of intense pain, chronic illness, grief, and loss, that our Father has not turned away. He has not left or betrayed us. He will give us the good things that we need. He will be our God; we will be His people.

 

This song is a good reminder to me of these truths.

Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we’ve come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us

Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

(Never Once by Matt Redman)