Thursday, May 3, 2012

It's All About Relationships

"Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments." Matthew 22:37-40 NIV

The greatest relationship we will ever have is with our Father. No other relationship should ever come before the intimacy we have committed to develop between us and our Creator. We have chosen to become His follower, and our complete being needs to be focused on total surrender to a love relationship with the Father. But we do not live on an island. Every day we are developing human relationships. As we consider the relationships we build in our earthly lives, we have to begin here -- "Love your neighbor as yourself." To be a commandment second only to loving God with your entire being states that how we handle relationships is a vital aspect of our social existence designed by our Creator. We cannot dismiss them and neither can we address them half-heartedly. Both reactions negate the importance God has placed on relationships.

This is a challenge for me. As an introvert, I am drained by people. Don't get me wrong; I love being with people. It's just that I must integrate "me" time into my day to recharge. That can tend to lean me towards selfishness. I will plan out my day to balance people time and recharge time. Unfortunately, the enemy will use this to his advantage and tempt me with an abundance of alone time to the detriment of time with people.When all is said and done, I am making life about my comfort rather than meeting other's needs.

Don't get me wrong; boundaries are not a bad thing. Balance is good as well. But when it is used as an excuse, it can become a hindrance to following the Father's commands.

So relationship-building requires selfless love for others. With the same intensity that I am protecting my personal time, I must love on others for I am to love my neighbor as myself. Obviously, I am loving myself all too well. I must work on loving others better.

But what does it mean to love others and who are our neighbors? I had a wonderful step-dad. Raymond loved everyone. There wasn't a person he would meet that he did not thoroughly cherish. And since he was a man who lived in the "now" in everything he did, he would take time for anyone, anytime, anywhere. I never knew someone who could make genuine friends of their co-workers and the mailman. He simply oozed time for one-on-one conversation. I say conversation, but his "conversations" consisted of asking a question and listening to the other person's answer with complete rapt attention. And then his entire body would reflect the emotion most empathetic with the speaker. If they were recounting something joyful, Ray was joyful. If they were sad, Ray was sad with them. If angry, he provided calm. If frightened, he gave safety. His entire focus was on other people and their needs -- any person his life came in contact with.

A week after Ray passed away, there was a knock on my mom's door. There stood a twenty-something girl holding a potted flower. "I just heard that Mr. Wells passed away," she said. "I had to find out where he lived and come to tell you how sorry I am and how much I will miss him." The young woman was the check-out girl where he bought his groceries.

That must be how Jesus walked on the earth -- completely focused on others. Attentive. Sympathetic. Helpful. Listening. Responding. Empathetic. Compassionate. With a selfless love.

Further Thoughts:
  1. If I am to love others as myself, in what ways do I love myself?
  2. List the ways Jesus showed love to others.
  3. How did Jesus find balance between his own needs and meeting the needs of others?
  4. What is hindering me from loving others like Jesus did?
  5. What is one change I need to make today to better love those around me?
Lord, forgive me for my selfish ways. Show me today how to love better. Open my eyes to other's needs. Open my ears to their heart's cry. Teach me to love Your kids as You love Your kids.

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