Monday, January 28, 2013

January 27, 2013 The Harder I Go, the Behinder I Get: Catching Up On Our Relationships

I Corinthians 13:1-13

I have been following the story about Beyonce and her lip-synching at the inaugural with great interest, and it has prompted me to make a confession this morning – on occasion I have lip-synched my sermons.

Our Scripture passage for this morning is one I make a practice of using a few times a year.  We should probably read it every week – I Corinthians 13.

Last week I began with a disclaimer and I will add another one this week.  When speaking about relationships I have to confess that I have some fractured relationships in my life.  I have some relationships that could use some work.  I’m going to assume that I’m not the only one here this morning that needs to work on some relationships.

Relationships are at the very heart of our lives, and I can’t think of anything that affects us as much as our relationships.  When our relationships are healthy, life is good and we are happy; when our relationships are unhealthy, life is not so good we are unhappy.

The reality is that at any given time most of us have a mixture of healthy and unhealthy relationships. Hopefully, most of our relationships are healthy, but I don’t know if there is anyone who doesn’t have a few relationships that could use some improvement.  If all of your relationships are fine you are truly fortunate, or perhaps you’re not being honest with yourself.

This morning, reminding you again that I am not an expert in relationships, I will offer some things to consider about keeping your relationships healthy – 

1.  Relationships must be nurtured by time.  To put it in the language of finances, if relationships were a bank, and time was the currency, how healthy would be your balance?  In today’s hyper-busy world, time is a very precious commodity, but relationships starved of time become very difficult to keep healthy.  Next week, we’ll talk in more detail about time.

2.  It’s never too late to say I’m sorry.  They are not easy words to say, but we must learn how to say them.  I know those words are hard to get out, but most of us probably have someone in our lives who need to hear us say I’m sorry.  There are some people who have waited years to hear those words.  Yesterday, Tanya convinced me to go to the movie Quartet.  I have got to convince her to see more movies with aliens!  It was okay, but one scene was particularly interesting, and really, the most interesting part was not on the screen, but in the audience.  One character confessed to the other that the way she treated someone was the biggest mistake of her life.  The person she had treated badly overheard her make that confession.  What was interesting was the stillness in the theater.  It’s rarely still and quiet in a movie theater these days.  Someone is always messing with their popcorn or slurping their drink, but during that scene it was completely still throughout the theater.  It was the kind of stillness where you know something has touched a deep nerve.  I wondered how many people in that theater needed to hear, or to say, the words I’m sorry.

3.  Communication must remain open.  Far too often I see couples, in particular, who fail to keep communication open and healthy.  Over time, they close off parts their relationship from healthy communication.  As time passes there are some areas of the relationship where conflict exists, and as they become weary of conflict they close off those areas as a way of avoiding further conflict.  While it is certainly understandable why people would want to avoid conflict, this does not bring health to a relationship.  When areas of conflict are pushed to the margins and not discussed, there is the danger of bitterness creeping into the relationship.

4.  Differences between people are a gift, not a problem.  The old phrase that opposites attract is very accurate to all kinds of relationships.  Tanya and I are very different people.  We have different points of view.  We don’t always agree on everything.  But none of this is a negative.  In fact, the differences in a relationship – be it a marriage or a friendship – is positive.  The differences between spouses, for instance, can be very healthy.  One person may be very structured while the other is very spontaneous.  We need structure in our lives, but a measure of spontaneity is wonderful as well.  The difference between those two perspectives can bring a healthy balance in a relationship.

5.  Compromise is not a negative.  Every relationship needs a measure of compromise.  If one person insists on having their way all the time, the result is going to be an unhealthy relationship.

6.  Love is the basis of relationships.  Love is a great gift.  Most of us, while we may have many acquaintances, will have only a few deep, loving relationships.  To love, and be loved, is God’s great gift.  Appreciate the love you receive.  Appreciate the gift of loving another person.  When Paul penned the words to I Corinthians 13 he was tremendously inspired by God.  He prefaces the chapter with the final words of chapter 12 as he writes and now I will show you a more excellent way.  He had just finished writing about variety within the church and how those differences can sometimes bring division.  That spurred him to write of how love is the most important foundation for our relationships.  It is the absolute foundation, and trumps everything else, and if you really want to build a great foundation read, and live verses 4 – 8, where Paul writes Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rue, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered.  It keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.  If you can live those verses you will transform all your relationships.

7.  Don’t live with guilt and regret.  Some people live for years with guilt and regret because of struggles in relationships.  Don’t allow guilt and regret to bring pain to you life.  If necessary, go back and read #2 (It’s never too late to say I’m sorry).

8.  Encourage people to be who God wants them to be, not who you want them to be. 

My parents did not push my siblings and I in any particular vocational direction.  What we did with our lives was our decision.  They didn’t try to tell us how we should live our lives and let us make the major decisions about our lives.  They would offer advice when we asked, of course, but they did not try to shape our lives for us.

Some people don’t have that good fortune.  Some people feel a great deal of pressure from family and friends to be what the family and friends believe they should be.  But we are created in God’s image, and we must encourage others to reflect that image, and not ours.  We don’t need to be in the business of trying to make someone reflect our image.

9.  Love is the one only thing we can multiply by giving away.  Share your love freely.  Give it away.  You can run out of time and money, but you cannot run out of love.  Love is a great gift because we actually gain more as we give it away.

I don’t always express my gratitude and love as I should to the people I love, and who love me.  But I am exceedingly grateful for the relationships in my life.  My life has been so enriched by my relationships.  And it’s especially interesting to me how relationships come to us.  One relationship leads to another, that leads to another, and on and on.

When I met Tanya, I never saw it coming.  We met in January of 1978.  My good friend, Kim Frazier, and I stopped in Hardin Hall after leaving the fieldhouse one evening.  Tanya was there with a friend, and Kim introduced us.  Tanya was actually interested in Kim, and decided that if she got to know me better it would help her get his attention.  I haven’t seen him in years and would love to find him (not that I have a score to settle with him) and I often wonder where he is and how he is doing.  I’ve searched Facebook and on the internet for him but I can’t find him.  I would love to find him and tell him I am grateful to know you, and I am very grateful for how our relationship led me to Tanya.

Meeting Tanya meant that I also eventually met her parents.  I was really nervous about meeting them, and I’m sure I didn’t make a great impression on them, and that says more about me than it does them.   Some of you know what that’s like when someone knocks on your door because they are interested in your child – that’s a big moment, isn’t it?  Before you get too worked up about who is coming to see your child, don’t forget when you knocked on someone’s door and that you may have created some anxiety. 

Tanya's parents have been kind of saints to me, because they were very nice to me, even though I gave very little evidence of how providing much of a life for her.  They grew to love me because their daughter loved me.  And that opened up another family to me, and it brought the great gift of our children into my life.

Tell someone I love you.  Today.  Thank God for the relationships you have.

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