Today I want to write about the power of Relationships to transform the world.
Before I start, I am going to ask for your forgiveness. I have a feeling that what I am about to write will be challenging for some people to read. It’s only because what I am about to write comes from a deep place in my heart.
Our Conference adopted the following core value: Relationship – We build grace-filled relationships with our neighbors–becoming involved, serving with, and creating new ministry partnerships–acknowledging we exist for more than just ourselves.
Over the years I have grown weary of Christmas projects that are simply “feel good” projects. These are the kind of projects where you and I have the fun of shopping for gifts that are then sent off to some unseen, known recipient. I know these projects do a lot of good. The gifts we provide others are a great blessing. Please understand I get that. I also understand that some people, due to physical ability, are better able to support outreach projects through a financial donation. That also is meaningful and important. But over the years I think it has become easier to send a gift or write a check, than it has been to learn to serve someone in person. I believe my discomfort has grown from the story where Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and then says that what he has done is an example to be followed. (Read John 13)
I remember being in a retreat setting. The organizers planned a foot-washing ceremony as part of the opening worship. I noticed one woman hanging back. There were several people washing feet, but when one was available she did not rush forward. Finally, I understood why. She sat down in front of me and began to sob as she put her over-sized feet in the tiny basin provided. It took everything she had in her to become vulnerable. As I washed her feet I talked about how beautiful they were. I shared with her a story about another woman with big feet and commented that it takes big feet to carry the gospel into all the world. Something happened when she realized I saw her feet as holy, not large. That’s the power of relationship.
The Desert Southwest Conference core value of Relationship gives us a call that both guides us in the choices we make and empowers us to say no to other choices. The metric is this – does this activity build a relationship or does it only make me feel good?
Let me share with you some things I believe about Relationships. You might have some other things to add to the list.
- The art of developing relationships empowers us to overcome our differences. When you take the time to get to know someone, learn their story, the joys and pains of her or his life, somehow it is easier to let go of the things we use to judge one another. In taking time to listen to one another we discover a shared humanity that goes beyond difference in skin color, age, or belief.
- The art of developing relationships requires an emotional and spiritual maturity. To truly accept another person means you have to do the hard work of self-differentiation. It allows the other person to be who they are, and you will be who you are. Without this maturity, it is easy to be offended by what someone says or does. With maturity, you are able to find a way to remain in relationship and that, hopefully, allows the possibility of offering love and healing to another person.
- Adopting Relationship as a core value will guide the decisions you make in your life, in the ministries you set out to do, the projects your church engages in. It is about getting to know someone face to face. It is a commitment to learning another person’s story and to be vulnerable enough to let them know you as well.
- Adopting Relationship as a core value means that you no longer view your work, your task in isolation. Silos have a way of disappearing the more you live into the power of relationship-building. This means you recognize that others may have something to offer the work of ministry, so partnerships, collaborations become the norm for what is done and how it is done.
John Wesley went so far as to challenge those who listened to him with these words, “You have one business on earth – to save souls.” I don’t think Wesley meant that we are to run around and ask, “are you saved?” I think Wesley wanted us to make the effort to get to know people, become a friend, develop relationships, because in the intimacy of a relationship there is the possibility for hope and healing.
This week think about the choices of your life, your church projects. Do they build relationships or are the designed as “feel good” projects only?
This week identify one person you don’t agree with, maybe even don’t like their lifestyle. Commit one full month where you will invest the time and energy in becoming a true friend to that person. Then set out to do become his or her friend.
This week in some church meeting, consider if there is a teacher, or a school, or after school program that your church could partner with, and have the conversation to begin the process of developing that relationship.
Washing someone’s feet means getting up close and personal. There is no other way to live into a value where relationships are important.
Let us hold one another in prayer as we seek out ways to live this into reality.
Blessings – Susan Brims