Friday, November 27, 2009

Relationships Come First

When I was in college, one of my dearest friends taught me a philosophy that has served me well ever since: "Relationships come first." Pam said it early and often in our friendship, and I never forgot those three simple words--in fact, I passed them along to countless other college friends long after Pam had graduated.

My schedule at college was packed--a full class load, a part-time job, leadership in the chorale, ministry team membership. But when I had to decide between writing a paper or having coffee and a deep conversation with a friend, the friend won every time. I'm not advocating irresponsibility; it's not that I was blowing off studying in order to watch a movie or play euchre with friends. Rather, I chose to prioritize meaningful investment in relationships--typically long talks over dinner or coffee--even if it meant staying up later to complete an assignment. If a friend needed me, it didn't matter if I had a test the next morning; I was going to put the relationship first.

Pam modeled it for me right from the start. She was at least as busy as I ever was, yet when I, a timid, lonely freshman, asked her to "sort of mentor me" during her junior year, she made time for me. Wednesday night dinner with Pam was a given on my calendar every week for the next three years, I think.

As she wisely pointed out, "In five years, what are you going to remember? The test material, or the friend you spent quality time with?" And you know what? She was right. I'm endlessly thankful for all I learned in the classroom during my four years of college, and there are a lot of things I'd do differently in terms of academics, to be sure. But I have never once regretted putting relationships first. What made the biggest, most lasting impact on me was not the ideas I pondered or the papers I wrote, but the people I learned to know and love.

These days, I may not have assignments or deadlines, but it's still all too easy to be task-oriented instead of people-oriented. Many days I find myself more concerned with crossing items off my to-do list than with caring for my son. So as I reflect on my college years, I want to remind myself: Relationships come first. The most important relationships in my life are Steve and Elijah--and they must be a bigger priority in my mind, heart and day-planner than any of the tasks I need to complete.

"'s easy to lose sight of what ministry is really about. ...We get our minds too focused on tasks, when ministry is ultimately about people. I just want to constantly remind myself that people aren't an interruption to my work. They are my work."
--Plan A...And There's No Plan B, Dwight Robertson and Mark Vermilion

1 comment:

Kelly said...

Thank you for this post.

Thank you for this much-needed, timely reminder...

...and thank you for all of our weekly lunch dates. I miss them, and I miss you. I always felt "sharpened" by those lunches.

How I wish we could have one this week. *Hugs*