We don’t live in a vacuum. Everything we do consists of dealing with other human beings. I’ll be the first to say that I failed “Relationships 101”. I got stuck taking the summer course over and over and find that I’m always having to refer back to the Bible on how to manage the relationships in my life.
I’m impatient by nature. Impatient with systems, processes and yes above all impatient with people. My husband continually reminds me that I’m not like most people and by default I have to learn to take it down a notch in my expectations of others. He’s right and I try. I try because once it’s said and done, my testimony before God will not be about my acquisitions and achievements but how I lived on earth with others. Christianity is the only religion that expects its followers to live out our faith. No other religion speaks of sharing Christ’s love for mankind or our responsibility to make it known.
I came across a verse that summed it all up for me. It covered the gamut of people in my life and gave me a simple approach on how I should relate to them.
“And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14 NIV)
I’m big on action verbs and these four will do it for me: warn, encourage, help, be patient. Well that last one was prefaced by a helping verb but I digress.
When you see a friend taking a nose dive to nowhere, the wisest thing to do would be to pull them aside and warn them of the consequences. Sometimes we make decisions that may not be in our best interest. Having someone come along and tap us on the shoulder every now and then can very well save our lives.
This new year comes with high expectations. Unfortunately not all of them will be met and there will be times that those we love will be brought low. Encouragement is defined as the action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope. When was the last time we actually gave someone hope? To give them that belief that it may not be as it should be now but tomorrow can get better. There are way too many people in our lives secretly bleeding out from hurts. A kind, uplifting spirit will melt the heart of even the most stone hearted. Some people are naturals when it comes to encouragement. Others, need to practice the art of making people feel better about them-self. Even I the curmudgeon of receiving compliments and niceties enjoy the occasional “god job” or “it’s going to be okay”. It will make the difference between life and death.
Not everyone will have their life together. Circumstances take us all on different paths. I was always one who learned from the mistakes of others. I know people who are more braver (or sometimes foolish) than I, who prefer the whole first hand experience thing. Needless to say, some come out burned and once we quickly get over the “I told you so” reaction our next action should be to help. I’m a helping professional which means that I’m not in the social work field to make gobs of money. I take it for granted that helping should be human nature. I guess God didn’t think so or else he wouldn’t have to remind us to help the weak. Every dog has its day. If for nothing else but to know its not a question of if, but when it will be your turn to need another’s help.
God left the word patience for last. I would like to think he knew that at the root of the first three actions, patience would be that common denominator. Oh to wait on someone else to figure it out. To wait on them to see the light. To wait on them to admit that they need help. To wait on them to come around. I’d honestly prefer to hear water drip from a pipe indefinitely. Or hear nails go across a chalkboard (yes I dated myself).
This is where I can get preachy and remind everyone that Jesus died on the cross for us when we didn’t deserve it. We know that; or at least we should. I could just say that grace , the unmerited, unwarranted love of God should be our example in being patient with one another. Or I can just simply say that we all need to experience the miracle of what it is to see our friends, family, colleagues grow into themselves over time. To see that your kind words, your cautionary words, your help has lead them in some small way to become the person they are today. There is nothing more rewarding to know that you played a part in someone’s life. That keeping it real with them, (sometimes with curse words and all) brought them back from the edge. That you woke up out your sleep to bail them out of a jam. That you held their hands through some agonizing times.
I shudder to think of my old self. The one who turned the inner switch of patience off at the slightest mishap. How many relationships are no more? How many relationships that are never to be? It is with conscious effort that I stitch these four words into my heart and pull each out as the occasion merits to bless the brother or sister I deal with accordingly.