Yesterday, author Donald Miller posted the author’s note to his upcoming book. I get excited when I hear of a new book from him. Since I first read “Blue Like Jazz” some eight years ago or so I’ve come to see him as someone who puts into words so many of the things I think about faith, relationships and life in general. In the author’s note he writes, “If you want to be loved, be yourself with people who are kind and trustworthy.” I’ve been endlessly turning that phrase over in my head since I read it.
As I have journeyed to work through the struggles of my past – both internally and externally inflicted – I realize I have been indiscriminate with whom I have attempted to be in relationship. My personality drives me to unintentionally expect that others will approach the relational dynamic as I do. This has led to any number of disappointing and hurtful events. The reality is not everyone is kind and trustworthy. There are any number of reasons for this. Abusive relationships, traumatic events, deceitful motives…these are just a few of the reasons people can find it difficult to extend authentic love to others. Those issues are for each person to work through as they are ready. For my part, I need to cast the relational net not nearly as wide as I have in the past. But how do I determine who is “trustworthy and kind”? That’s not easy to assess in others, but I can assess myself by those measures. The unflattering conclusion is that I’ve not always been someone that others might call trustworthy and kind. I know I haven’t been that for my family as I should have been.
Last week my son, Ruben, moved onto the campus of Trinity University as he begins his college career. My daughter, Elena, has started her junior year of high school. As the prospect of the empty nest draws closer I find that I’m decreasingly concerned with the breadth of my relationships and much more concerned with their depth. Like offloading people I follow on Twitter but who don’t follow me back, I’m doing a real life deck clearing. The path before me is to deepen the relationships before me, the ones I know I need to have. It’s time for me to shake the dust from my feet and stop trying to forge relationships with those who, for whatever reason, are not interested in investing relational equity.
John, one of the pastors at my church, will be laying out a framework for people to pursue what he is calling a “fully-orbed relationship”. The premise is that people must eat, play, talk and work together. He’ll flesh out why this important, but these are the legs on which every relationship has to stand if it can be called healthy. We’ve done okay in a couple of those areas in our home but we really need to get at all of those in a more deliberate way. I’m not sure where this will go, but I suspect that it will be more satisfying than anything I’ve experienced.