Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Relationships: What really counts for success

Question: What do you do on a Monday morning when you're behind in your work, backed up with deadlines, anxious to submit assignments that are only halfway completed, and committed to extra projects "up to the eyeballs"?

Answer: Go play golf.
  • There's a huge blizzard blowing in the Mid-West and a bigger one brewing. 
  • In Connecticut our daughter's backyard has 30 inches of snow and they're expecting least another foot this week. 
  • Here in Brandon the temperature just happened to be high 60's to the low 70's. With the sun shining brightly it just seemed wrong not to play a relaxed 18 with friends.
So we teed off at 10:00. I was joined by Tim Black - one of the pastors at our church, Doug Scharf - the local Episcopalian priest, and Don - one of Doug's parishioners (there they are, l-r, - Tim, Don, Doug - above). None of us played that well, but we had the best time. Sure, there were flashes of actual golf as we all got lucky once in a while, but it honestly didn't matter. What mattered was enjoying God's good Earth in the company of good people.

Study after study in recent years has concluded that satisfaction in life increases to the extent that people are involved in meaningful relationships. Men, by and large, are more likely to be "at risk" in this regard because they tend not to have a well developed network of friendships that go beyond the superficial.

It turns out that the majority of men do not sustain the kind of relationships where, in the face of some crisis... or concern... or joy... or challenge... or opportunity... or need... or celebration... they could readily pick up the phone and simply talk about it.

Think about it. How many people do you know who you could call today and say something like, "I'm worried about my job, would you please pray for me?" or, "I'm not sure that I'm doing that well in my marriage. Let's get together and chat." or "My daughter just called... they're having a baby! I just had to tell someone." or "You've been on my mind today, I just wanted you to know. Is everything alright?"

I concede this is a generalization... but, chances are, if you said "Yes!" to one or more of the above, then you are a woman! Women are - typically - more intuitive relationally then guys. But that does not mean that men don't need deep, meaningful relationships... it simply means that we have a lot of work to do in that area of our lives.

That's one reason I started my "The Men's Room" Wednesday evening group at our church. It was also the impetus behind my first book, "GET REAL: a spiritual journey for men". And it's what I'm asked to address 75% of the time I'm asked to lead a retreat or speak at a conference.

What really counts, if we want to say that we have "successful" lives, is the quality of our relationships. I for one am so grateful that I have a partner in life - Rebekah - who is also my best friend, that I have a network of men who I am not ashamed to say that I love, and that I belong to a faith community where we are not afraid to be honest with one another, to confess our shortcomings and share our joys, and where the healing love of God penetrates to the deepest reaches of who I am because the people know me... and love me anyway.

Listen to the words of David, a man who struggled deeply in his life and realized - too late sometimes - how important it is to be honest and authentic in relationships: "How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore" (Psalm 133).

Grace and Peace - because we live in a world that needs both.


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