This past week Helen and I enjoyed a trip to the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia. It was four days of “shut down” … truly trying to “stay off the grid.” Not watching television constantly (that’s a tough one for me), not checking email incessantly, not texting and social media-ing. Just “us” time. Now in truth, we did have wifi, and we did keep up with the world, and a couple things came up with the kids that required us to plug in, but it was a time for refreshment … frankly, after 20 years of marriage, a time for investment. Get this … we spent the time “talking” … I remember somewhat doing that when we were dating, but it seems it’d been so long that we were a bit rusty at it.
As usual, Helen was way ahead of the curve with planning some resources to help us with this “talking.” For the record, the book “101 Conversation Starters for Couples” by Gary Chapman ROCKS. Get it, if you’re a couple or if you might someday be a couple. It was a way to be intentional in our conversation, to have a means by which we could invest in “talking” with one another and amazingly, learning about one another even after 20 years of marriage and 24 years of relationship in total.
All too often in marriage … and in all relationships … we fail to invest but still seek a return. In investing in a financial sense, we all recognize the risk / reward trade-off. We understand that to gain something, we have to put something in, to an account, a fund or whatever. In some cases, we hear “Oh, but this investment’s a ‘sure thing.’” As if there’s some magic formula to gaining a financial return on some instrument in some way. But in relationships, for some reason, we assume that we’ll get the reward of the investment without in many cases actually making the investment in the first place. We assume the “sure thing” will occur, without our doing a thing to cause it to occur. In the immortal words of Shaggy from Scooby Doo … “Zoiks!”
This was my reflection this week as I continued my New Testament reading from 1 Timothy 5-6, 2 Timothy 1-4, and Titus. In 1 Timothy 5:1-4 (admittedly – and you’re probably used to this by now from me – not precisely on point) we read:
Never speak harshly to an older man, but appeal to him respectfully as you would to your own father. Talk to younger men as you would to your own brothers. Treat older women as you would your mother, and treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters. Take care of any widow who has no one else to care for her. But if she has children or grandchildren, their first responsibility is to show godliness at home and repay their parents by taking care of them. This is something that pleases God.
Yes, I know this is NOT talking about marriage and it’s not talking about conversations from a book. But what struck me as I read this, is how God appointed us in relationship to be intentional, to be caring … to invest … and by so doing to reap a “sure thing” return. But note, the sure thing only occurs when we actually make the investment.
In marriage, we say, “I do,” but we might as well say, “I already did, and that should be enough.” How many relationships go sour because we left them out in the sun to dry and never cared for them? I’m not just talking marriage relationships, but parental, grand-parental, sibling, and on down the line. How many friends do we call just because we haven’t called them in a while? When the compatriots of our relationships are struggling or suffering, how often do we reach out to serve as a salve to whatever wounds might be festering?
We invest in our careers, our golf game, our “toys,” our hobbies, our physique, our cars, our education … but our relationships? Hmm … Pastor Rick Warren once said, “If you show me how you spend your time and how you spend your money, I’ll show you what’s important in your life.” So true.
Look, I’m not saying that other matters in life are unimportant. I’m not saying that all our “relationships” are sound investments, let alone “sure things.” However, can we truly look around when the relationship account is at $0.00 and be surprised, when all along we never made the proper deposits or investments upon which the returns should have rolled in?
In another favorite quote / song of mine, Clint Black and his wife Lisa Hartman Black sing, “When I said ‘I do,’ I meant that I will, ‘til the end of all time.” That means continuing to invest, continuing to plop our relational capital in our account, to put our relational money where our relational mouth is. It doesn’t just happen magically.
Marriage – and all relationships – take work. Hard work. Trust me, Helen will share openly how poorly we’ve done that over our 20 years. But just as in financial investing, it’s never too late. Contrary to financial investing, however, there are relationship “sure thing” returns.
God didn’t just make Adam. He didn’t just make Adam and Eve. He didn’t just make Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel. He made billions of us. He organized us in families, friendships, close circles, “posses,” and “peeps.” We’re relational beings. Notwithstanding, it doesn’t come naturally, even though it does come innately. It requires effort, it requires sacrifice. I don’t say this because I’m good at it, I say it because I need to be, especially with the one woman (Helen of course) in my life who matters most of all. But right after that come Jared and Courtney, my mom and dad, mom-in-law, etc., etc., etc.
This week, let’s prayerfully ask God to give us room in our schedule, nudging in our spirit, longing in our hearts to invest … in the sure thing of the relationships He’s blessed us with on His earth. Sit down and “talk” with your spouse, take a walk with your kids, call your uncle, send a card to your grandmother, have coffee with a buddy (or buddy-ette). Heck, call me … we probably haven’t “talked” in a while (haha). It doesn’t take a lot of investment, but I’ll tell you what … it’s a “sure thing.”
Soli Deo gloria!