I still am amazed that God has called me to be a leader. I think at times I could easily be a loner. It takes a lot less energy. But God had better things in mind for me knowing deep down I do want to love and be loved. I guess more than that I am being forged into a better me by my role and my relationships. I meet a lot of people in my role. What has been the most surprising over the years for me is to see how people connect and then grow with each other in relationship. Strangers can become friends for life. On the other hand sometimes the initial sparks of chemistry fizzle into charred hope.
I have discovered that all relationships are doomed to some sort of disappointment. Great friends can disappear like a meteorite burning up as it hits earth’s atmosphere. When they reappear somewhere it is like the meteorite has changed into an odd rock without any warmth. As a pastor I have seen members of the ‘family of God’ just leave without saying a word. No goodbyes, no explanations, just a quiet divorce. I assume then that they went out looking for a better father, mother and better brothers and sisters. They left their ‘relational circle’ disappointed once more with the quality or lack thereof of their relationships.
It’s obvious that relationships can make a huge difference in life. For instance, a good marriage, it is proven, prolongs life! Even a bad marriage, it appears, is better than loneliness. A great boss motivates you to want to grow and change the world with him or her. A trusted friend makes you feel loved even when you can be a bit of a silly fool. Watching a sports match with someone who shares your passion is so much more fun. We are not meant to be alone. The key element of our personal growth and satisfaction in life will always be those life-giving relationships.
When I was younger this all seemed simple. My relationships were fun and easy. But as I grow old I see I am not the same easy-going smiling guy that I was when I was battling pimples. Life expectantly whacks you over the head more than a few times and the trusted heart-guard goes up. Old men can be some of the most cantankerous people on earth and I have no interest becoming like that!
Relationships can only grow when we are deliberate in taking the time to listen to each other and share moments and a part of our lives with each another. A new friend of mine said the secret to his great relationship with his wife was not doing the dishes, but sitting on the couch shooting the breeze. A phone call from a friend is good, but it cannot replace sitting over a hot brew of Arabica and intentionally opening up some part of the brain to each other.
Relationships also grow deeper when they are tested by trials, differences of opinion and personality traits and yet we choose to not give up in spite of the anvil of discomfort. I know that sounds like a tough compromise that many would rather avoid. It reminds me of the shocking comment by a TV evangelist saying a man could divorce his Alzheimer wife because she is no longer there. Do you discard a person when that person no longer meets your needs?
Reality tells me that most relationships go through moments of disappointments and frustration. In those times the potential for betrayal and broken trust is real. At church I like to take part in having communion together with others by literally touching the bread and breaking it with another. Originally communion was a family meal. It was all about finding relief and forgiveness. It’s still about repentance and renewing our commitment to Christ and each other.
You’ll remember the whole backdrop of the first communion service was about fear, betrayal, denial… fragile community I’d say.
Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:
” ‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’[a] 32But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
33Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”
34“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”
35But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.
I find this so interesting. Jesus was making an everlasting blood covenant with His friends and at the same time He allows us to take a close look inside and see the fragility of that first community. I am struck by the word Jesus uses “scatter”. “You men will scatter in all directions.”
Jesus commitment to the fragile men in his group was strong as blood, eternal. But the disciple’s commitment to Christ and the community was shaky at best. Peter disowns Christ to save his own hide. Judas betrays out of greed and then won’t forgive himself. Everyone is walking in sadness and fear. They goofed up with Christ and the community.
But Jesus taught us well through example about next steps. He didn’t send an email asking for clarification or an answer for failure, he just went out and appeared unannounced into their world. There was no dithering or doubting on his part about how much he cared. It was a confirmation that it is possible to get past the disappointment and enter into a heart-covenant relationship.
To all the friendships that have somehow stood the test of time. I salute you! You are a walking testimony of grace and perseverance. To all of my friends and family who have patiently loved. I salute you, too! You are the meaning to what this life is all about.
Oh, lest I forget, I really do need you….