Relationships have the greatest potential to influence the direction of your life. Think back for a moment over the history of your life and take a quick inventory of what has had the most profound affect on what your life is or has become in this present moment…my guess whether that affect was positive or negative…the answer would be Relationships.
I could definitely tell you a few horror stories of relationships that I have had in my past that left a devastating wake of destruction, but I won’t. I won’t because I think we can too easily allow the hurt in our past to overshadow the good, the good that was there and is sometimes easily forgotten. God has used the bad but has more profoundly used the good relationships in my life to get me where I am today. I thank God for the people that He has placed around me, because without them…I am positive – I would not be the man I am today.
Seems like only a few years ago that I was sitting on the couch in my college apartment talking with my roommate. We had become great friends, almost more like brothers. Talking that day, I started telling him about a job I was about to take on. I was young and passionate and full of dreams of what I was going to do and accomplish as I stepped into this new season of life, work, and ministry. I remember as I shared my dreams with him – he didn’t seemed to be overly impressed. He listened intently, was focused, but for some reason didn’t have much to say. So I ramped up the passion going on even more about the great things I would accomplish. I then waited with great anticipation as I thought that my passion would have become contagious and that soon he would see the grander dreams I was seeing…yet he sat their quietly meditating on what I had said. Finally I noticed he had gathered a few thoughts and had put together something he was ready to say. I listened intently waiting for him to congratulate me and celebrate this new opportunity with me…gushing over how great he knew I would be at this new venture. But that is not at all what happened. He spoke intently and firmly and what He said hit me like a throat punch that brought me back down out of the clouds of fantasy to a moment of reality and reflection.
“What your stepping into is a huge responsibility! You need to make sure you are ready to handle what will come your way. It won’t be easy. This isn’t a game. You need to grow up and make sure that you are ready carry the weight of responsibility that will be placed on your shoulders.”
That was it. Short and simple but yet so profound. I honestly didn’t like it in the moment. I honestly hated it in the moment. My pride was dashed (which was good and good friends can often do that effectively). My immediate thought was… “Don’t you know how good I am…how ready I am for this? Grow Up…What do you mean Grow Up?”
I have reflected over those words many times throughout my life before stepping in to new opportunities or promotions. I didn’t like it in the moment but I became grateful for a friend who loved me enough to tell me what I needed to hear, not just what I wanted to hear. We all need friends and relationships like that. People that can be honest with us no matter what. We can listen to them because we know they love us and they want the best for us. I was able to listen to my friend that day because I knew he cared for me enough to challenge me to grow. His challenge and words of wisdom were a major reason for the success I experienced in the next few years. It worked because I listened. I listened because I knew he cared. I knew he cared because of the time we had invested building a friendship.
Fast forward about 20 years. I had grown in leadership, experienced promotion, and was now carrying new levels of responsibility that I had never carried before. One particular day, the new stress I was experiencing was almost overwhelming. I am pretty strong…pretty solid and even keeled in most circumstances…but on this day the stress was getting to me. I have never had a nervous break down…but in the pressure of that moment I was as close to having a break down as I had ever been in my entire life. I quickly picked up my phone and shot off a quick text to a couple of close friends. (my tribe – as we affectionately refer to each other)
“Need you guys to pray…I am struggling today – Not Sure I can do this. I am exhausted and absolutely stressed and overwhelmed by all this pressure!”
Within seconds my phone was blowing up with encouraging text messages.
“You can do this…God has called you and prepared you for this…Don’t let the stress get the best of you…You are bigger than what you are facing…We are praying for you…You are not a lone in this…We believe in you….”
And on and on and on the messages kept coming. A couple of them even picked up the phone and called me, talked to me, listened to me, and prayed with me.
It was an overwhelming moment. I didn’t have to pretend to be strong or act like everything was okay. It wasn’t okay. I wasn’t okay. I could be honest and vulnerable to these individuals who I knew I could trust to know my weakness and fear. It was a moment in my life where I needed help and I had friends that when I needed them they held me up, strengthened me, and encouraged me. I can’t tell you how powerful it was and how powerful it is to have people like this in my life.
I could focus on the relationships that have been devastating…but I would much rather focus on the relationships like these that have been so much more positive in shaping who I am today.
Many of us have been shaped or profoundly affected by relationships negatively in the past, and as a result we now, in the present, aggressively shelter/protect ourselves by keeping people and potential relationships at arms length. We refuse to open our lives to new relationships because we fear the possibility of being hurt like before. The only problem with this way of living is when we protect ourselves from the bad…we also unintentionally protect ourselves from the good. We build defensive walls to keep out those that can hurt us but if we are not careful those same walls can also keep out those who can help us. If I had refused to let people in because a few morons had hurt me, in the moments I needed my friends the most…in the moments I needed my friends to challenge me or encourage me…there would have been no friends there to give me the support I so desperately needed. We were not created to Live Life Alone – and as bad as I hate to admit it – We were created to need others. We were created for relationships.
I have my group (my tribe). We talk almost daily. If it wasn’t for these men there is no way I would be the husband, the father, or the leader I am today. God has used them to help shape who I am and He is using them to help shape who I will become! There are still areas I need to grow…areas I need to change…weaknesses I have to overcome and God is using relationships like these to help me get where it is He wants me to go.
I don’t know if you have a group like this. A group where you can be transparent and honest where you don’t have to be a super hero all the time. If you don’t – I really feel sorry for you…you are missing out on something life changing. I would encourage you to find your group…your tribe and open yourself up to a new friendship or relationship that God could use to help shape you into the person He has created you to be. These relationships don’t happen over night, they take time to develop. It’s not always easy…but it is absolutely necessary. God wants to use people to help you become everything He created you to be. Check the walls you have built and make sure they aren’t being used to keep out some of the best friends that God intends to use in great ways to help shape you into a better you. Finding a group just might be the first step into building a relationship that God will use to change the rest of your life.