The holidays naturally turn our thoughts and energy to our families and others with which we have close, meaningful relationships. The end of one year and the beginning of another naturally causes us to pause and reflect on what is most precious to us. Whether family is one you have been born into, or one you have chosen for yourself, some of the most profound life experiences happen amidst relationships with others, when teams come together, or when friends gather together.
It is my belief that God designed us to bear more fruit and experience more richness by doing life – and I mean really doing life -- with others. By choosing and investing wisely in relationships, we become better versions of ourselves and impact others in beautiful, long lasting ways. Proverbs 27:17 puts it well: Iron sharpens iron, So one person sharpens another. The more we focus on others, the more we’ll experience the abundant and satisfying life God has intended for us.
Here are three brief thoughts on how best to approach relationships.
Do it with a long-term view. Investing in relationships and building the community around us is best done with a very long-term view. God is rarely in a hurry with anything. In fact, in my experience I find him to be the exact opposite in most life circumstances. He takes the long term, eternal view. And in so doing, he works some incredible fruitfulness over extended periods of time. As we “sow” into the lives of others by serving them, a harvest will ensue. Maybe not next month or even next year – but most certainly in due time.
Be intentional about it. Investment in relationships is an intentional act, one that takes commitment, time, energy and resources. Building authentic relationships will also be met with a certain amount of setback and challenge. The more intentional and committed we are to working through the difficulties, the more resilient we’ll become. It is rare that in our deepest, most authentic relationships, we won’t have disagreements or troubles. But we will find ourselves stronger in the process, if we work through those setbacks in a gentle and loving way. Relationships that are tested and refined in this way tend to be the most genuine and long lasting in life.
Invite God to the center. It is clear that God is meant to be in the center of this whole equation, adding to and shaping the relationships we are in. Matthew 18:20 says For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. As we invite him in the person of the Holy Spirit to be in the center of our relationships, he transforms each of us. As we love on each other, he forms us into our true identity. In the process, we’re tapping into God’s ultimate design for us as his sons and daughters. We’re gaining the likeness of his image as we open ourselves to his abiding presence.