A newborn wakes up in the middle of the night and from sheer hunger, shrieks a shrill cry that awakens the entire house. Father comes running into the room with the hopes that the bottle in hand will satiate what his distressed child needs. Little does the father know, but in addition to the sustenance provided by the bottle, the newborn needed his father as badly. This moment between father and son communicates that the world is safe and the relationship that exists between this dyad will be enough to help you, small new life, become all you can. Relationships pervade the entirety of life. The distance between the refrigerator and the kitchen counter top, creates a relationship of space in which individuals can enter into and exit. The early morning exchange between a man and his barista fosters a sense of relationship between what he orders, the ways in which the order is given and received, and then the satisfaction between the customer and the barista. Around every corner, in every interaction, and throughout the majority of life, relationships work to shape the experiences people have in this world. Within this idea of relationship lies a responsibility - an individual's responsibility to self and to community.
The mutual exchange between the individual and the community(ies) he/she finds him/herself amongst dictate the relationships he/she lives. As individuals enter into and out of community, they are simultaneously engaging in or withdrawing from community. What happens when the individuals within those communities are confronted by the fact that they are not sure who they are becoming as individuals? When the answer to that question is unknown, the community's ability to connect becomes subjugated to the identity formation of the individual. More often then not, relationships do not work because the individuals within those relationships do not have a firm grasp on who they are and who they are working to become.
The nature of relationships can be traced back to the first human encounters - Adam had a relationship all of creation including a direct relationship with the Lord. The primitive roots begin in the relationship of man to creation as well as humanity to humanity. With the introduction of woman, Adam found a companionship that did more than simply provide him someone to walk around the garden with - in Eve, Adam found relationship, relationship which would begin to form his identity. The Lord look at all He had created and did not simply stop when he had created all the birds of the air and fish of the sea. He looked at all He had created and said: "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner" (New Revised Standard Version, Gen. 2:18). The Lord recognized that after the splendor of all creation was finished, He breathed life into humanity and in so doing created an extension of the concept of relationship. The extension connected man's identity formation in the context of relationship with creation into identity formation in relationship with others. Man's relationship with creation works to shape his ability to recognize the magnitude of the Lord's omnipotence and in that recognition work to become more like Christ.
In that same way that creation calls to the omnipotence of the Lord, relationship with other people furthers that identity formation. Who we become and the dynamics of our faith are essentially formed in relationship. The process of becoming more like Christ evolves from a constant recognition of self in the context of relationship with the Lord, creation, and others. Along one's journey through becoming, sin obstructs and affects the ways in which creation has the ability to speak as well as man's ability to relate to man. Theology of relationship then becomes the study of those moments of obstruction and how they work to foster and inhibit identity formation through relationship.