Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Be Intentional

 I've learned a lot from this friend of mine. We met about two years ago...on a set of bleachers at a baseball field. Little did I know that the friendship that would ensue would so deeply impact my walk with God. There's a lot to like about this friend, and I know I'm not the only one who thinks so! But perhaps, if I were to pick one quality that I appreciate the most, it would be this: my friend is intentional about people. 
 From what I hear, he showed a deep desire at a young age to love people as God loves them...to be purposeful about every relationship in his life. From serving as a youth group leader in his teens, to working in children's ministry at his church near his college, to running a Bible study for his college baseball team...he is constantly adjusting his life to the will of God. And he cares deeply for others. What surprises me the most is how he's able to do this with a very full plate of responsibility. He's in his senior year of college now and is extremely busy with school, baseball, and other leadership opportunities he's been given this year. But...even so...he continues to make time for those who are most important to him. 
 I realize that this is hard to do in this modern day and age. How many of us use the excuse, "I've been so busy," so justify ourselves not reaching out as we ought?! Oddly enough, we've become more connected than ever before, thanks to the advances of technology. We can reach anybody anytime anywhere in the world...instantly. But, sadly, we're also becoming more disconnected than ever before. Instead of taking time to actually call somebody, we settle for a text...it's easier, takes less time, and (lets be honest) we can be in control of what we want to say or reply to. Instead of sitting down to write a note in our own handwriting (messy though it may be), we send an email instead. Instead of making time to hang out with those we care about (with no agenda involved and no time limit or expectation), we have to "set something up" because...well...we're "so busy."
We apologize to others for "being out of touch lately" but we really wouldn't change anything because we "have so much to do." 
 In previous generations, before the invention of television and smartphones and computers...even automobiles and air travel...people had to take time to connect with each other. It took days for a handwritten letter to reach its recipient...and days for a reply. It took often days or weeks to travel by hoarse or carriage to go see someone...and usually given the length of travel, you stayed awhile with them. People had to make time to be with one another. As a whole, I think that society back then was far more intentional about relationships in general than we ever are or will be. The speed of modern life has changed this...and I'm not sure if its for the better. 
 It has become so easy to invest into one another these days in spurts...we stop our lives long enough to care deeply and listen carefully during sharing time in our small group or Bible study, but the minute we hit the door, it's back to our usual pace. We're great at being "all-in" with one another during a trip together or camp for the summer, but when everyone goes back home, we get lost in our world of work or school or other activities. And often, we lose connections that we could honestly benefit by. 
 Thus, people like my friend are sort of uncommon these days. They seem old-fashioned...in a totally good way. There's a sort of gifting of their presence that makes one seem valued and genuinely loved. And when they say they appreciate you, they mean it. When they say they'll pray for you, they follow through. There's a type of commitment they demonstrate to those around them that quietly defies the modern concept of friendship. 
 In his insightful book, "#Struggles," author Craig Groeschel drives home this point about presence very well:

"Presence is powerful. So why do so many of us settle for something less? 
...Actually get together with people. Be physically present with one another. Not digitally. Not virtually. Not just in a group text, but in the same living room. Make the time to love people face to face, not just keyboard to keyboard. If you want to get really crazy, don't set a time limit on how long you'll hang out or what you'll discuss. In other words, just be with someone...
You know that device you use to text with? It might be hard to remember, but what's something else you can do with that device? That's right! You can actually talk on that thing. It's a lot harder, but maybe you could scroll down through your contacts, find that person, tap their number, and call them on the phone...you'll hear the words and listen to their voice, which will also be communicating something. You might even ask if you can pray with your friend, right over the phone...I promise you that a person-to-person conversation can go to amazing places that texting back and forth will not go. Let's say you decide to get reeeally crazy - you want to take it to the next level. You don't just text. You don't just call...you can actually go see them...just sit down with your friend, face to face. Ask a few questions, and then just listen. If it seems appropriate, put your hand on their shoulder. Maybe even hold hands across the table and pray with them. And if they happen to start crying, well, that's probably okay and may be just what they need to do. You just wrap your arm around their shoulders. Or if you're a guy, punch them in the arm to cheer them up. Just let them know that you're right there in it with them. 
Presence is powerful."

 We don't do this often enough these days. I've missed so many opportunities to give the gift of intentionality to others over the years. And I regret that very much. Being blessed by the example of this friend of mine has taught me much about the amazing impact of being purposeful. No matter how many plates you may be juggling in your life, you're not "too busy" to take time for another person. Sometimes, a random act of kindness or a listening ear on your part may be just the thing that person needs to help them in a tough time, or remind them that God cares about them. 
 I fondly recall many times that others have gone out of their way to take time to minister life-giving hope to my aching soul, often little knowing that the gift of their presence was exactly what was needed at that moment. 
 My friend has challenged me to do better in my relationships with others. Even though I, too, have a very active life and work, family, church, and other commitments often take many hours of my day, I need to remind myself that I'm not too busy to call a friend and tell that they matter. To drop a card in the mail...just because. To listen deeply when others hurt and need to talk some stuff out... 
I. Am. Not. Too. Busy. 
And neither are you. Perhaps this post brings somebody to mind that you should follow up with and reach out to. I'd suggest you do as soon as you're finished reading this post. Because you never know...to them, it may mean the world.