Last weekend I helped celebrate the birthday of a very dear friend. It was a great party filled with reunions with old friends and meeting new folks. My friend and his wife have an extraordinary ability to keep making new friendships and still nurture old relationships.
The birthday boy helped save my life. At a particularly difficult point in my journey he refused to allow me to go through it alone. His attitude, his faith, his demeanor and his laughter helped provide a relational structure that gave birth to some deep healing. At the right time God provided me what I needed by providing me with the gift of a 'friend'.
Last week I talked on the phone with another man who by his own admission knows nothing of friendship. He knows of no one he can turn to in the midst of some pretty painful stuff. As a pastor I hear stories like this all the time and wonder about the relational poverty that is at the heart of so many people's experience. Too many are too lonely. And that loneliness can give way to a seclusion that is unhealthy. Either that or folks settle for shallow relationships in shallow places. Just hang around a bar during happy hour some week night. You'll see some surprisingly good things but you'll also be driven to tears as you watch folks try to fill deep holes with all kinds of things that aren't filling or fulfilling.
What makes some people relationship rich and others relationship poor?
Some people have a broken people picker which leads leads them to people who have no clue about how to bond with another person. The result is that they end up feeling relationally cheated and oftentimes used.
I find that those rich in relationships don't surround themselves with people who believe exactly what they believe. They feel safe with a diversity of opinion and expression. That's rare these days.
Relationship rich people might have strong opinions and convictions but they don't expect others to nod in agreement towards them. Healthy people actually like to debate.
Relationally healthy folks are interesting. They read. They care. They invest. Most people I know who are struggling relationally aren't very interesting. They parrot what others say and can't articulate anything significant that comes from some authoritative place deep inside of them.
As a Christian I can't afford to neglect the relationally needy. It's antithetical to the good news I proclaim. As much as I'd like to turn my back on the relationally dysfunctional at times the Spirit of God beckons me to walk towards them and not away. And in all honesty there are times when I struggle with that.
Not so long ago I was in a needy place. It would have been easy for people to walk away. And some did. Thankfully, not all. God used those who picked me up to help heal my life.
It's easy to love the lovable. It's not so easy to love the prickly and the damaged.
Open our eyes, Lord. Open our hearts. Give us all partners for the journey. Stretch us to see others the way you do. And may our lives be open to those who might require extra grace.