One of my favorite activities growing up was coloring in a coloring book. I was always a lousy artist, but this was my substitute back in the days before iPods, iPads, and an assortment of electronics that captivate children today. There are several adults in our family who still enjoy coloring in those wonderful new intricately designed books that are popular now. Sometimes I join them.
The one disappointment for me in childhood was never having the big box that gave me every shade I might want to consider as I colored in my pages. In most areas of my life, I enjoy a lot of variety. It shows up with that desire for more different crayons and in the wide variety of music that I enjoy as well.
It doesn’t stop there.
I love getting to know different people, learning about their stories, hearing about the paths where the Lord has led them, finding out what excites them and fuels their passions, and how the harder times in their lives were used by the Lord. Yes, I am an extrovert, but I most prefer sitting with one person while we share a great latte or cup of tea for an unrushed time of relating.
Taking time to listen, share stories, and getting to know someone beyond the quick greeting on a shopping trip or even at church is an investment well worth the time. That kind of relating not only allows us to know someone else better, but we also see glimpses of the Lord and often learn something about ourselves in the process if we are listening well.
Most of us would say we are “busy”, but busy and urgent should never take the place of better and important.
I love and so much agree with this quote by Barbara Bush:
“At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child, or a parent.”
Sometimes we get in the way of opportunities relationally because of our own perspective about others or ourselves. We may believe we have nothing to offer the other person. We may believe that we have nothing in common.
And we may be wrong.
When I finished reading Unified by Tim Scott and Trey Gowdy, I was reminded of the blessings that can come from unlikely friendships where we set aside our misperceptions. Listen to one of the things Trey writes in the book:
“I don’t care how great things appear to be going in someone else’s life; we all need somebody we can trust, that we can be fully candid with, and who will give us the best advice for us and not just for them.”
A few paragraphs later he adds:
“Relationships where people put the other person first and remain committed to giving their best counsel for the benefit of the other person are few and far between……Once you know someone will keep a confidence, give you sound counsel, and genuinely have your best interest at heart, there is no limit to what you can share, and there is no limit to what can be gained.”
One of the things that stands out to me is how often Jesus took time to relate to people. Yes, He spoke and taught huge crowds at various points, but the gospels give us many glimpses of how He noticed someone that others bypassed. He took time for conversations with some that his earthly heritage and religious teaching would have told Him to avoid.
Jesus never compromised who He was in the process of valuing someone else enough to take time to listen and engage with him or her.
Polarization and divisiveness are so commonplace today that we can be tempted to think our differences are too great to have any common ground. But what would happen if we had a real desire to get to know someone beyond the differences? What if we utilized that knowledge and those different perspectives to make each other better? What if we were to look for common ground at a heart level first?
I think we learn far less if we stick with only those who look like us, think like us, come from our side of town, or have the same educational background.
Consider the unlikely friendship between David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel of the Old Testament. David was a shepherd boy who knew how to sing and initially brought peace to the troubled heart of Jonathan’s father, King Saul. Jonathan was of royal blood and privilege. These two would not have typically developed a friendship much less one of a covenantal depth. They would have been from opposite sides of town in those days, but spending time together allowed them to know each other’s hearts until they were knit in an exceptional bond of friendship that caused Jonathan to risk his father’s rejection rather than betray David.
When we look for a solution to our divided culture, our search seems to be in the wrong place. It won’t come from a program or any number of other forums. I think Tim Scott describes a better way in Unified:
“Politics is not going to change the nation. We will change the nation only by changing the condition of the human heart. And that can only happen through love. True friendship is born out of acceptance and unconditional love – a love that is consistent and intentional.”
The Lord’s challenge to us is always about love. Our challenge is to remember He is the source of love within us, and we need to model love as He did.
The love of Jesus was and is always consistent and intentional.
That is where we start.