A month ago, I moved my wife and daughter … along with the last vestiges of our personal effects … to the great state of Texas. Our son and I had been here already, our son for two years and me for eight months after starting my new job in late-2018, but we wanted our daughter to have the opportunity to graduate from the high school she chose in Orange County. For my wife, she was born and raised in Southern California and had never lived anywhere else. I’d lived in Texas during a couple of my earlier years but grew up in SoCal and the bottom line is that we were making an enormous life change.
As we were preparing to leave, the bittersweet time with so many wonderful friends and family was a highlight of a time marked with both excitement and apprehension. To be sure, we felt convinced of God’s call for us to Texas, but in practical terms it was really hard to leave relationships with people we love dearly, with whom we have done life, and who have left us better off in innumerable ways.
One of the sweetest times of fellowship we had before we left was with the parents of a couple of my friends from high school. This couple were in more ways than I can express a safe haven for me in tough times in high school (which of us got through high school without tough times?). Their love of a goofy teenager at that time, and ever since, has changed our family’s lives for the good in so many ways. While high school for me is almost 35 years in the rearview mirror, we have remained in close contact with this couple and have continued to invest love and friendship in one another along the way.
And that’s where I’d like to take this message … into the reflection of the importance of relationship, of friendship, of “chance” encounters with people that become life-changing and glorious. Bottom line, I want to take us to a place … through our family’s transition, sadness and joy, excitement and apprehension, faith and hesitation … where we can together take stock of the blessings of other people in our lives. A place where, imperfect though we all are, we can ask God to increase our intentionality with others, to lean into the “chance” encounters with people He brings to us. I want to encourage all of us to not be flippant with relationships, forgetful of their bilateral value, in way that God alone can make mutually-beneficial. I want to remind us about “Switching the Flip.”
There’s a great admonition in Galatians 6:9-10 …
So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.
Paul, in writing to the Galatians, is talking about the importance of actively investing in the welfare of other people. Of taking the time to relate to others, to help others, to encourage others, to bear others’ burdens. He’s reminding us of the importance, in my parlance for this message, of “Switching the Flip.”
In addition to the hour or so that we spent with our friends, the couple that were my high school safe haven, we also spent some really sweet time with a number of our other friends before we departed on the road for Waco. In another especially sweet time, a bunch of our friends from our church in SoCal gathered to wish us farewell. During that time, our senior pastor called the group together for a time of prayer over us. His words were Spirit-led, loving, and encouraging, reminding us of the call we have felt “away” from SoCal and to central Texas. Our time with those friends was such a sweet reminder. Many of those friendships were borne out of encounters that were unexpected. Meaning, the friendships had grown out of situations we may not have expected at the time.
Had we been flippant about those at those times, we would have missed out on countless beautiful hours together with friends who have changed our lives. Had we been flippant about letting someone know that we were praying for them, had we been flippant about actually praying for them when we said we were going to, had we been flippant about calling them when we felt led of the Spirit or when God brought them to mind, had we been flippant in allowing the relationship to grow, we would have missed out on some of the most valuable jewels God entrusts to us in our lives.
“Switching the Flip,” to me, means not being flippant or careless in relationship. It’s taking seriously the notion that in God’s economy, people are put in our lives for a reason. It is being intentional about what Proverbs 27:17 describes as “iron sharpening iron,” the notion that as we have relational, emotional, and friendship-oriented actual contact with one another, we grow. But it must be demonstratively intentional. We can’t be flippant about the impact we have on others. Relationships are created in unforeseen circumstances and are used by God in unforeseen ways.
Flippancy robs us of greater and grander purposes God wants to bring to us through others. What chances did we miss today to leave someone better off? Is there a chance that someone you could have started a conversation with might have needed to know that they were worth you stopping to chat? What chances did we miss today to let God leave us better off? Is there a chance that someone we bumped into but didn’t go beyond, “how are you?” might be someone God could use to teach or encourage us somehow? I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that the people I mentioned above are those with whom we began friendship in ways like those. Seemingly innocuous introductions who because one or both of us decided not to be indifferent, became monuments to God’s love in our lives.
“Switching the Flip,” choosing not to be flippant in meeting, talking with, and caring for others is one of God’s greatest gifts. It is one of the ways we can see Him at work in multiple lives, in multiple ways, with geometric blessings as the result. I want to encourage … really, challenge … us to be mindful and purposeful in the “chance” encounters God brings us to. It can be in just calling a family member who comes to mind, visiting a friend you haven’t seen in years, reaching out to someone who needs to know that they gave you encouraging words 30 years ago, asking the checkout person at the supermarket how they’re really doing and listening intently to their answer, talking to someone after church that you’ve seen a thousand times but have never shown interest in, whatever. It’s intentionality, it’s time-consuming, it’s fearsome to a degree. But maybe as a result of us paying more attention now, to “Switching the Flip,” we’ll look back 20 years from now and be able to marvel, once again, about the ways God put just the right people in our lives at just the right time for just the right reasons. After all, that the business He’s in. And He can blow our minds, if we’re just not flippant about it … if we just choose more often, “Switching the Flip.”
Soli Deo gloria!