Relationships that Matter
This morning, I’m at the airport, ready to catch a flight to cold and rainy Nashville. I had to postpone this trip from January because of some COVID concerns, and it’s a good thing we did. That weekend they had a massive snowstorm that shut down the city. This time, it is hopefully just rain. I’ll be with some new people on this trip, a younger community of people exploring what life in Christ can be. I know little about them, but I’m excited to meet some new friends. In addition, I have some old friends there, too, who are finding time to hang out with me.
I leave with an overwhelmingly grateful heart. Yesterday, I asked Sara how we were doing on contributions for the new need in Kenya. They wanted to know if we could find $14,110 to help buy food for nursing moms, seniors, and others suffering in the ever-deepening drought in the north of Kenya. You responded with $17,300 in just a few days. I always find myself surprised and overjoyed at how quickly people respond and with more than I would think.
Over the past few years, your generosity has helped hundreds of thousands of people in that region find relief from hunger, and be exposed to the Gospel. Their thanksgiving for physical substance and spiritual nurture is so amazing to hear. Thank you for standing with them in this critical hour of need. If you still want to give to them, I’m sure more needs will come. These people in the tribal regions are in desperate straits. From the bottom of my heart, thank you, thank you, thank you.
I’ve also heard from my friends in Ukraine over my recent post about the tensions there and the heart they carry in these threatening times. You can read one response in the comments on that blog.
I wish all the people I know could know all the other people I know. You would all be so enriched! I just don’t know how to pull that off. For me, those relationships are not only nearby but stretch all across the world. We just spent the weekend with some close friends visiting from Ohio who were with me on an Israel trip five years ago. That led to a few others from that trip getting together over the weekend for fellowship, some friendly bocce ball, and a football game or two. My friend Luis also stopped by to share some of Sunday with us. I love the nourishment of heart and spirit that great relationships offer.
I’ve often said it, relationships make us rich. I look back over my life and am so grateful for all the people Jesus has connected me to in the world. Some are on magnificent journeys of learning to live in the Fahter’s affection, while many others have yet to begin that journey. Each one is a rich treasure when they let you in on the reality of who they are, warts and all. None of us are perfect and relationships can go through awkward moments of pain and miscommunication. But if people can respond with honesty, love, tenderness, and generosity, there’s no brokenness that can’t be healed, no failure that can’t be mended.
I just got off the phone with someone today who is experiencing real hurt in his family. I could feel his pain, not for himself, but for those he loves who only know how to lie, gossip, manipulate, and get angry when their manipulations don’t work. Many people protect themselves from relationships because of hurts just like this. They figure it’s better to live isolated than risk the pain of judgment and rejection.
I disagree, of course. Yes, I’ve had relationships go wrong, too. Who hasn’t? Yes, they hurt, especially when people aren’t open to honest, compassionate dialogue to get past the inevitable bumps in the road. However, if you let those people win, you’ll rob yourself of the friendships God has for you. Lean into those relationships where you know you are loved, where people celebrate who you are even in your struggles, and see the value of tenderness and forgiveness. Lean away from relationships filled with anger, gossip, threats, and ultimatums. Don’t argue with them or even retaliate with anger. If they judge you without listening to your side of the story, they don’t truly care about you anyway. You don’t have to let destructive people have free access to your heart.
Paul told us to warn a divisive person two times, and after that, have nothing more to do with them. You can’t change people so damaged by trauma, jealousy, or their need to control others, until they are ready to take an honest look at themselves. But that doesn’t mean you have to hate them. You can love them from afar, pray for God’s grace to touch them whenever they cross your mind, and be ready should they ever open their hearts to genuine reconciliation.
It is dysfunctional to keep seeking the love of people who are manipulative and dishonest. Leave them to God to see what he might do to invite them to healing. Good relationships don’t require perfection, just a measure of grace that seeks peace instead of conflict. Give your heart to those who treat it well and learn to treat others the way you would want them to treat you. Healthy relationships aren’t rocket science. You know those relationships that nurture your soul, encouraging you to a wiser and lighter heart. And you know those that weigh you down with demands and distortions that shred your soul.
Lean into the former and out of the latter and you’ll find that relationships will make you rich, too.