At this moment I’m traveling through the Northwest and having an incredible time with a wide variety of folks. The theme of this trip seems to be the value of relationships, in God’s heart for us and hopefully in our hearts for others. Shortly before I left we spent a weekend with some of our oldest and dearest friends. When they left Sunday afternoon, Sara and I reflected on what a treasure that relationship has been over the years. On Thursday morning I got up at 3:30 a.m. to get to Portland 8 hours before I needed to arrive. Why? There’s a brother and sister in Portland that I’ve dearly come to love over the years. We have been together perhaps 4 days total in the six years we’ve known about each other. We just wanted to spend some time together and I came away so encouraged and my view of God broadened by what God is doing in them.
I spent most of my weekend with a traditional fellowship looking to be more relational in their life together. I think it became clear to us all how low a priority building friendships can often become. Even when we do activities or have meetings together, those things can become more important than the friendships that bring such rich treasure to our lives. They can even become a barrier to real relationships instead of a tool to help build them. People can serve together and miss the incredible joy that comes from sharing the journey of Christlikeness together. Unless relationships are a priority, everything else will swallow up our time and energy.
While I was there, two people I’ve never met before traveled an hours journey to spend a few hours with me. A week earlier they had never heard of me until one of them read an article I’d written. They went to my website and saw I was going to be in Salem. They just wanted to meet me. We had an incredible time talking for three hours. One of them even volunteered to drive me to Washington so we could have some more time together. I know I have met some new friends.
Last night I was with a group in Washington where one lady drives 90 minutes one-way to join with folks who want to share the journey together. This is why I think obligation is such a cheap substitute for building relationships. If people don’t desire to be together enough to voluntarily make sacrifices for it, the relationships won’t grow anyway.
One more thing. I spoke with a friend recently with whom I’d shared home group life until I moved away some years ago. They used to have lots of friends and how they’ve lost touch with everyone. We talked about how much work time he’d invested in friendships in the last few years and he admitted it was little. Work, commuting and home responsibilities crowded out the time they used to devote to building friendships. Having Jesus-centered friendship is an investment. If we don’t take time to build relationships we’ll find ourselves alone. That’s no way to live. We serve a relational God and I am convinced that almost everything Jesus does he does through relationships, not programs, models or works. Who is God putting on your heart today? Whether they be believer or unbeliever, invest some time cultivating a relationship with them and see where it goes. You’ll be amazed at what God will do. I find for every 20 or 30 relationships I give myself to, maybe 2 or 3 of those become great friends over time. If you’re not casting the net out there, the fish aren’t going to jump in it by themselves.
Do you remember on 9/11 all those phone calls from workaholic stock traders that were trapped in the World Trade Center? Their last thoughts and words reached out in gut-wrenching agony to affirm their love for spouses, children and parents. No one dies wishing they had worked more or seen more football games. When all is said and done the closest we’ll touch eternal treasure in this world other than God’s presence are the relationships we share with others. Make time for that however God leads you. They don’t just happen!