Managing Your Closest Relationships: Part 2 of 3Blog / Produced by The High Calling
Remember the song "Do You Love Me?" from Fiddler on the Roof? Tevye asks his wife, Golde: “Do you love me?” And she responds:
“Do I love you?
For twenty-five years I've washed your clothes
Cooked your meals, cleaned your house
Given you children, milked the cow
After twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?”
Sometimes it feels that way whether we are husbands, wives, or good friends of others: I love you by playing a role, doing routines, acting the part. Sometimes, in our closest relationships, we wind up just going through the motions. We get into routines and those routines turn into institutions! After a while, we might wonder: why am I doing all this?
Too many men and women wake up after twenty years of career building only to find that their household has been steadily crumbling and turning to rubble. A life well lived is one that makes it a priority to manage well—meaning, to love well—those closest to us: family and close friends.
The Apostle Paul wrote, Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. (I Cor. 13:4-6, New Revised Standard Version).
I have read these words to hundreds of brides and grooms over the years. Every time, I was both encouraged and terrified. Encouraged because they paint a vision of what Spirit-filled life is supposed to be like; terrified because who can live them? Paul's words are poetic and gutsy.
Anyone can talk about love. Most leaders can cast a vision, but vision isn't enough. An architect draws up plans, but the engineer and contractor actually build. We can talk all we want about Christian love, but at some point we have to actually love people. This is belief in action.
Before we can be good managers of our larger lives, we must learn to manage ourselves. And before we can manage those larger relationships of work and community, we must manage our closest relationships.
Pay close attention to them. Seek to live out Jesus' law of love. Spend the time and energy necessary to keep these relationships strong. Learn how to love those closest to you in very specific ways. Loving your family means more than providing for them. Instead, invest yourself in their lives in very specific, real ways.
I met a pastor recently at a Little League game. After chatting for a while, I learned his church's board was meeting at that same time. He said, “I told them long ago that if it's between a church meeting—even the board!—and a Little League game or a date with my wife, I'm choosing family over them.”
The pastor, in my mind, just hit a home run!
Unfortunately, most of us are not hitting home runs. Leadership Network of Dallas, Texas, recently held a virtual conference featuring the comments from forty seasoned pastors. Each of them talked about what they would do over again if they could. Most of them said they had worked hard to lead and manage their growing, thriving churches but neglected their closest relationships. Their friends and family were angry and frustrated.
How about you? Are you managing backwards?
Questions for personal reflection, online discussion, or small groups:
- Why do you think it is so easy to neglect those closest to us while pursuing other goals? How are you doing in your closest relationships?
- Look over your calendar. What time block can you keep free to invest in those closest to you? If your closest relationships are, indeed, “investments,” how rich are you in these assets?
- What do you need to do specifically now to strengthen your closest relationships?