January can be a time when we reassess many areas of our lives whether it is finances, health, or relationships. Something about turning the calendar to a new year feels a bit like turning to a clean page devoid of smudges, scrawls, lists completed, and lists undone.
It is often a reflective time.
It feels like we get to start over.
I have been involved with that as well. It is one of the things I have come to enjoy about January. Somehow the month seems quieter and lends itself to that if you live in the Midwest and days turn frosty, the wind howls, and a fireplace beckons.
Relationships are my greatest passion.
Yes, they can be messy, disappointing, challenging, and hurtful many times, but they also teach me so much about others, the Lord, and myself. They do so in a myriad of ways that nothing else can.
There are two cornerstones that influence the course of the development of all of our relationships.
The first relational cornerstone is knowledge.
I can’t very well have a relationship unless I know the person. A relationship implies a connection. The tricky part for most of us is how we go about the process of getting to know a person.
Early in our lives we use some fairly superficial observations as our source of knowledge. It’s not bad, but it is incomplete. Hearing what someone says and listening to how they express themselves and what they talk about often starts the process.
We add to that knowledge what we see them doing or being involved with and this helps us begin to discern a bit more about their interests, passions, and values.
On the basis of these two initial pieces of knowledge, we often choose whether or not to pursue a relationship. If we go forward, we discover there is much more to learn than we initially realized.
When I met my husband more than fifty-five years ago, I started to learn about these basic things. They let me know that I wanted to get to know him better, but it would take many years and a great deal of time to plumb the depths of his heart, the complexities of his thoughts, the strength of his spirit, and the nuances of his personality. Even now, I discover some new thing here or there that adds to the texture of the fabric of the relationship we have built.
I also have learned much about his character by observing how his words and behaviors tend to match. That spells integrity. All of this together has deepened my love, our love.
Do I, do we, invest that energy in our relationship with the Lord? Do we invest it with others?
The second relational cornerstone is habit.
Habit? That sounds boring and unexciting for sure. Habit suggests practice, diligent practice many times. That suggests work, discipline, a never ending process.
The truth is that if I believe I know all there is to know about someone, I will stop learning about him or her, stop pursuing him or her. The relationship will grow stale and may even fade away through neglect.
That belief will also reveal my self-centered arrogance. Ouch!
Only the Lord knows any one of us completely. There are no gaps in His knowledge and understanding because He is God!
We human types always operate with incomplete knowledge about the Lord, others, and ourselves.
Great relationships require lifelong learning.
To do that, I also need to develop the habits that cause my knowledge to increase. I need to continue to observe, listen very carefully, and spend intentional time with a person.
None of us are static. We are ever evolving and changing, sometimes in good ways and sometimes in bad. That’s why we will miss the rich discoveries of a relationship if we do not grow in the practice of investing the energy to keep learning.
That is no less true about my relationship with the Lord. Yes, it means developing my relational habits with Him.
My knowledge of Him will always be limited because I am finite, but it will be very restricted if I don’t continue to learn to know Him better.
I can do that certainly by time in His Word, reading and studying it, but there is more needed. That can stay stuck in the cerebral if I get hung up on that alone. Solitude with Him where I am conversing with Him, listening to His whispers, learning more of His heart for me adds richness and texture to anything I read or study. I also observe how I see Him working in the world around me, in the lives of those I know well, and in the lives of some I have never met.
For me this means recommitting to practice daily the habit of learning about the relationships I value most. After all, they are God’s gifts to me. How am I stewarding them?