|My favorite people in the whole world, plus me. :-)|
In my notes from the recent Mom Heart Conference in Texas, I have written Sally Clarkson's observation: "You can not pass on passion without a relationship."
All weekend long I kept thinking about relationships. About how Christianity is unique in that it is a relational religion. Our progress in our faith is founded quite simply on a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.
As I thought about this I realized it underscores everything in how I interact with the world. The two greatest commandments...
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40
Both about relationships.
If I want to be a good Christian? Have to focus on the relationship.
If I want to be a good wife and mother? I have to nurture my relationships with my husband and each child.
This seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it? Patently obvious? And yet in the course of our days, how much time are we focusing on things, on tasks, instead of on people?
I know we all have lots to do, and yes, the dishes do have to get washed. But is there a way we can think about our lives differently, and let those pebble tasks fill in the spots left after we focus on the big rocks... the people in our lives?
What if my to do list looked like this:
~ spend time in loving conversation with Jesus, through reading my bible, journaling, praying, singing
~ look deeply into my husband's eyes and tell him something I love about him; ask him how I can help him today and be cheerful about it
~ be silly and playful with my teenager even when he is gloomy
~ be patient with my intensely emotional daughter and help her redirect her outward response to her inward feelings
~ spend as much time as it takes with my four year old to gently bring him to an understanding of his wrongdoing and lovingly restore him
These things take time. Lots and lots of time.
If you have been reading this blog for a while, you'll have read about a woman in our community who is in a very difficult situation, and whom I have been trying to help since last year. I have had only a modicum of success. She has suffered so severely that she has shut down in many ways. She is a person who seems almost incapable of relationships.
I have shared the joy of discovering that she responds to children, and how that has impacted me. But we had sort of come to a stand-still. I was thinking and praying about her recently and realized that our entire relationship had been built around me doing things for her.
When I would talk with her she would pretty much just give me a long list of her woes and what she needed help with. She rarely initiates a conversation or asks me personal questions, and when I ask her about anything other than her physical needs, she finds a way to return the conversation there.
I realized we needed to become friends.
So the day I returned from the Mom Heart conference I sat down with her, and said "You know, I really don't know that much about you. If we are going to be friends I need to know more about you!" Then I started telling her what I did know. As I went on, she started to smile. I think she was genuinely surprised that I remembered all the tiny details I have gleaned over the past few months. I asked her a few new questions, which she answered, then as usual she turned the conversation back to her troubles.
Praying silently, I said, in a light but firm tone, "You are in a tough place right now. Things are very hard for you and we talk about that a lot. But life is full of blessings, so every time we talk I want you to tell me one great thing in your life. What is something you're thankful for from last week?" To my surprise she got a huge smile on her face, looked me in the eye, and told me how a man from our church had fixed her refrigerator.
She made eye contact. She was not talking about children. She smiled.
In that little moment, our relationship deepened. It made me want to be her friend more.
At the conference, Sally told us that she had been taught, as a young Campus Crusade for Christ leader, "You can not build a successful ministry without time."
If we think about relationships as ministry, which they should be, we have to give them the gift of time. Not only time spent with one another instead of doing yet another chore, but also simply the passage of days and years.
My relationship with my husband is so much stronger now, after twenty years of knowing each other. My relationships with my children grow deeper and more rich over time, especially when I take the time to hear their hearts. And without doubt my relationship with Jesus (His ministry to me) has grown extraordinarily over the years.
All this takes perseverance. Perseverance is my theme word for 2011. I am seeing it in almost every aspect of my life.
And with my troubled new friend I see it again. Through relationship, with a commitment to persevere, my ability to love her and serve her is growing in a meaningful way.
I have to be intentional about my relationships, or the distractions of the world will overwhelm them. I have to choose to spend the time to love the people in my life as they need, despite the obstacles, taking the long view.
And boy am I thankful that Jesus takes the long view with me!
Have you found growth and joy in changing your focus from tasks to people? Is there a relationship that you need encouragement to persevere in? I would be privileged to pray for you!