Over the past several months, you have learned new ways to stay healthy physically, spiritually, and emotionally. You have learned different ways to communicate with and stay connected to the people entrusted to your care. You have discovered innovative ways to be and do church. Each of these experiences has helped to shape you into the leader needed for this point and time in history. My question is, how have you kept yourself relationally healthy?
We know that relationships create the conditions that lead to trust, hope, and satisfaction. So, how are you doing in caring for and cultivating the relationships needed to navigate the uncertainty and confusion of a pandemic and of anti-racism?
A Person and a Story
G. K. Chesterton wrote, “The only two things that can satisfy the soul are a person and a story; and even a story must be about a person.” How are you keeping yourself focused and healthy regarding your relationship to Jesus, the people with whom you live, work, and associate, and the community in which you live?
Let’s focus upon two relationships that are necessary for leading today. These relationships are with God’s story and with God’s people.
Your Relationship with God
Let’s start with your relationship to God’s story.
1. Listen to God’s story.
Listening keeps your relationship alive. As you listen:
- Put yourself in the story. Ask yourself, “What voices of truth do I hear in the story?”
- Reestablish your relationship with stories that have grown too familiar.
- Give God thanks and express your gratitude for others.
2. Learn God’s story
The Christian life is a story of relationships. It is your RELATIONSHIP(S)…
- with others and a peace regarding those relationships that is the number one ingredient in a quality life.
- to God and to the people God has entrusted to your care that has you in your leadership role at this time.
- that help make you who you are. God is Love, and love is impossible outside of relationships. In relationship to God and to one another, you have no choice but to live with, listen to, and learn from the people around you.
3. Live the story
Christians live the story of Jesus.
- God gives you a new heart and puts a new spirit within you. The word dwells within you. You become a living container for God’s word.
- When you tell the story of Jesus forgiving his enemies, you become someone who forgives his or her enemies. When you tell the story of Jesus’s crossing the street to help an outcast, you cross the street to help the nearest outcast.
- Remember your relationship with God’s story is hazardous to your status quo. God’s story has the power to change the world. Be grateful for the ways your life is transformed.
Your Relationship with God’s People
Another relationship necessary for leadership today is the relationship with God’s people.
Whether you like it or not, as a leader, you are in the people business. Loving and caring for people has become a way of life. It is never easy but greatly rewarding. It is in and through the people God has put into your life that God shapes you into the person and leader you were created to be. With that in mind, here is a little exercise to assist you in becoming a healthier and more effective leader:
- Think of one person for whom you are grateful. A person who helps keep you healthy by reminding you of God’s love and acceptance. A person who encourages you.
- Get a face in your mind and a name on your lips. Keep that person in mind as you read the following:
Was It Just Two Pieces of Paper?
Sister Helen P. Mrosla, an assistant professor in the School of Education at Seattle University in Washington, tells the story of Mark and his classmates in a ninth grade math class she taught in Minnesota. One Friday, things just didn’t feel right. The class had worked hard on a new concept all week, and she sensed that the students were frowning, frustrated with themselves, and edgy with one another.
Two Pieces of Paper
To stop the crankiness, she asked the students to put their books away and to take out two sheets of notebook paper. She then asked them to list the names of the other students in the room on their paper, leaving a space between each name. Then she asked them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and to write it down. It took the remainder of the class period to finish their assignment. As the students left the room, each one handed her their papers. One of the students, Charlie, smiled. Another student, Mark said, “Thank you for teaching me today, Teacher. Have a good weekend.”
On Saturday, she wrote down the name of each student on a separate sheet of paper and she listed what everyone had said about that individual. On Monday, at the beginning of the class, she gave each student his or her list. Before long, the entire class was smiling. She listened as the students said things like, “Really? I never knew that meant anything to anyone!” “I didn’t know others liked me so much.” After a few minutes, the class went back to studying math. There was no mention of those papers in class again.
A Common Experience from an Uncommon Moment
It was several years later that Sister Helen learned that Mark had been killed in Vietnam. She had gotten word that Mark’s family wanted her to attend his funeral. At the funeral she watched and listened. One of the soldiers who acted as pallbearer came up to her and asked, “Were you Mark’s math teacher?” She nodded “yes”. He said, “Mark talked a lot about you.”
After the funeral, most of Mark’s classmates headed to Chuck’s farmhouse for lunch. Sister Helen was invited to come by the house. When she arrived, Mark’s mother and father met her at her car. “We want to show you something,” Mark’s father said, taking a wallet out of his pocket. “They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it.” Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded, and refolded many times. Sister Helen knew what it was without looking at the paper.
A Folded Treasure
Mark’s mother said, “Thank you so much for doing that. As you can see, Mark treasured it.”
Mark’s classmates started to gather around. Charlie smiled rather sheepishly and said, “I still have my list. I keep it in the top drawer of my desk at home.”
Chuck’s wife said, “Chuck asked me to put his in our wedding album.”
“I have mine too,” Marilyn said. “It’s in my diary.”
Then Vicki reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet and showed her worn and frazzled list to the group. “I always carry this with me. I take it out and look at it every time I need encouragement. I think we all saved our lists.”
- Do you still have a person in mind? Sometime today, tomorrow or this week, practice addition. Add a word of gratitude to their lists.
- Make a phone call. Send a Text. Write an Email. Write a note and let them know how much you appreciate them and care for them. It can be as simple as “Giving God thanks for you today. Know how much you are loved and appreciated.”
Relationships create the conditions that lead to trust, hope, and satisfaction. There are two relationships necessary for leading today: relationships with God’s story and with God’s people.
So, how are you doing in keeping your relationships healthy? Remember, Sara Thomas and I (Tim Bias) are available to assist you along your journey. Please do not be afraid or hesitate to ask for help. Let us know what questions you have or what you might need as you develop the relationships that help make you the leader needed for this time in history.
God became flesh and moved into the neighborhood. “Love one another as I have loved you.” You and I are a part of that story. May your relationships always reveal the blessing!