Every year, I learn something new about maintaining relationships. Looking back at 2018, I learned four lessons from some important events that happened in my life.
1. Stuff doesn’t matter; relationships do.
“I’ve just been in a really bad car crash,” my wife said, shaken up and in pain.
When she called, I was outside working on a project. I meant to spend a couple hours fixing something, and it was taking all day. I was exhausted and frustrated. Nothing was going according to plan. But I dropped everything.
Picking up my wife at the accident scene put everything into perspective. Nothing else mattered. All that mattered was that she was OK, she knew how much I cared for her, and we could thank God for watching over her.
The challenge is that life gets busy and noisy. When I rush from one thing to the next, I don’t notice all the people in between the tasks. If I’m not careful, my life starts revolving around the insignificant details and I lose sight of loving God and loving the people who matter most to me.
2. It takes two to destroy a relationship.
This year, I made the difficult decision to attend a different church. After four months, no one from my previous church family had reached out or talked with me. Initially, I took this personally. I felt like the meaningful relationships I’d worked so hard to build were worthless to those friends.
But when I took a step back, I realized that I had done nothing to grow or fix those friendships myself. What was I doing to make sure they didn’t decay into nothingness? Why was I waiting for them to make the first move?
I can’t play victim to deteriorating relationships. It takes two people to destroy what was once a thriving relationship. If I’m not working hard to nurture a friendship, I can’t blame the other person for not working twice as hard to make up for my slack.
3. Listening shows my love.
I was having a bad case of the Mondays when I got a text message from my wife: “I need to have a really difficult conversation with you…just so you know.”
I texted back, but she didn’t reply—for three hours! My imagination wandered, envisioning all the difficult conversations we might need to have. When I did hear from her again, I learned that her phone had died right after she sent the text and she was in the middle of a busy workday. She cautiously asked, “Are you mad?”
Three hours beforehand I was. But since then, a stillness had come over me. I told myself, “Don’t get mad. Just be ready to listen and love her.” That had to be the Holy Spirit at work.
Turns out, she was keeping a secret about her business finances, and she had felt convicted after her morning devotions. She was afraid to share her secret, but more than anything, she needed me to listen and she needed to hear how much I loved her.
Being receptive instead of being mad made all the difference in how we resolved the situation. We actually walked away from that tough conversation sharing our love for one another.
4. Without God, all relationships suffer.
Last year was rough. I stopped praying because I was “too busy.” Getting ahead at work, finding a house after my landlord sold the home we were renting and so many other distractions took my attention off God.
When I stop reading my Bible or setting aside time for daily prayer, it’s not just my relationship with God that suffers. I was full of sadness, fear and anger, and I’d lost sight of forgiveness, love and compassion. My negative emotions overflowed into every one of my relationships. I burned a lot of bridges and lost a lot of friends as a result.
Without hearing and reading about the love of God, I easily lose sight of what love is and what it looks like. And what’s a relationship without love? So I made a commitment to spend more time with God, pursuing a deeper relationship with Him. Time and again, I saw how His abundant love overflowed into my relationships.
The secret to making any relationship work is maintaining a devoted, two-way relationship with God first. Being reminded of how He pursues me, loves me and listens to me changes how I build relationships with the ones I love.
Copyright 2018 Matt Stickler. All rights reserved.