Reviewed by Ashley Wiebe
Everyone is looking for better relationships. The desire to be deeply known and truly loved is hard-wired into the human existence.
This longing is unavoidable, yet often goes tragically unmet, resulting in the construction of walls around our hearts to protect ourselves from further relational disappointment, creating an even greater distance between how we were designed to experience relationship and our present realities.
In a culture filled with relational self-help books, it is refreshing to find a book that seeks to uncover the heart-work that must be accomplished within individuals, rather than an algorithm for relational success. While the use of “I feel” statements can be tremendously beneficial in navigating disagreements between friends and family, understanding the impact of who we are and who we were made to be will profoundly impact our ability to relate in the way our souls long for.
Strom highlights three forms of interpersonal relating: contract, committed, and covenantal. Of the three, it is covenantal that Strom advocates: “Covenantal relating involves persons-in-community, creating and keeping agreements, motivated by unconditional love and grace, over generations, with God or others as their witness.”
As he further unpacks this throughout the book, Strom uses linear and academic lines of thought. He uses a good mix of stories of people’s experiences to make The Relationship Project highly readable.
Author Bill Strom is professor of media and communications at Trinity Western University, and a member at Ross Road (MB) Community Church, Abbotsford, B.C.
Having picked up this book because of my desire to grow in my understanding and capacity for living in Christ-centred community, I was pleased to see Strom’s use of covenantal relating beyond the context of marriage relationships. The notion of viewing interaction with all of our brothers and sisters as covenantal relationships is one I hope to see more of within North American Christian – and particularly MB – culture. This marker of Christ-centred church culture is so deeply rooted in New Testament depictions of the church as Christ’s body.
May we all learn to engage in the rich and beautiful discipline of cultivating covenantal relationships.
[Ashley Wiebe is a member of Faith River Christian Fellowship Church, Saskatoon.