When I was a kid and getting ready to stay over at a friend’s house, my parents always told me, “Now, I don’t care what things look like when you get there; you just make sure to leave it better than how you found it!” My typical response was something about it not being fair, or “that’s not my problem,” but trying to be a good son, I would do my best to clean up after myself, make the bed, take the dishes to the sink, etc. Didn’t always do this perfectly, but looking back now and having kids myself, I think I would love it if one of my boy’s friends did something like this.
Quick side note: If you read my last post, “A Diligent Pursuit,” you saw the story of how I pursued my wife. We had a big group of friends in college, and during one of our fall breaks, a bunch of us headed to her parents’ house for the long weekend. Now, when pursuing someone, it’s always helpful to make a good first impression on her parents. After the first night we stayed there, out of habit, I folded my sheet and blanket, and stacked it neatly on top of my pillow. I found out later that her mom noticed and was very impressed. Score!
Anyway, this constant challenge from my parents to leave something better than I found it has often reminded me of stewardship. It seems like most conversations about stewardship revolve around the environment or our finances. Both great things, but have you ever thought about this in regards to your relationships? Are people better off as a result of being in relationship with you? Has their relationship with Christ been strengthened; do they better understand who they are as a child of God; are they growing more and more into the person God has created them to be?
One more story about my wife: We had been dating only a few months, and we were visiting her parents for the weekend. Standing around the kitchen, her dad looked at me and said, “Since Krista has been dating you, she has blossomed so much into who God has created her to be.” Wow! I was floored. Krista is the only daughter, and her dad is a big fan. So for him to say this to me meant so much and in many ways confirmed to me that I was taking good care of his daughter. I wanted his approval, and this was a very clear yes.
I often tell dating couples that a good way to get perspective on their relationship is to step back and see whether or not each of them is truly growing as a result of the relationship. If you’re in a dating relationship, can you say that you and your significant other are healthy and moving in a positive direction? And, what if you two don’t end up getting married? What will your boyfriend or girlfriend look like in all aspects of his/her life as a result of dating you?
This stewardship principle definitely applies to all of our relationships. Are we leading each other into righteousness? Are we a positive and helpful presence? Do we speak words of encouragement and blessing?
I love Colossians 3:12-17. This passage tells us to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. It implores us to forgive each other as we have been forgiven and tells us to bind all of this together with love. And, as a sort of capstone to everything, the familiar verse 17 says whatever we do in word or deed to seek to do it for the glory of God.
If you want some good stewardship principles for your relationships, there you go! And as I was often told by my parents, I challenge you in your next conversation and interaction with friends: Leave them better than how you found them.