Today I’m going to be vulnerable with you again, because I believe that the story I’m living is one that may resonate with you on some levels. As a human being I struggle with issues of balance in my life.
I’m a husband, a dad, a brother, a son, a teacher’s assistant, a writer, a businessman, a volunteer, a thought leader, a child of God, an apprentice of Jesus, and an outsider. I’m sure there are more labels that I could type out for you, but these are many of the ones I wear.
In each of these roles, I have responsibilities…duties that must be fulfilled. As time passes by, my to do list piles up so much that I have to begin prioritizing, tossing out, and revamping my responsibilities. All of them seem to be screaming out for my attention, and all of them cry out…”Duty, duty, duty.” It all makes me feel like I’m just a stormtrooper… just a cog in the wheel.
The problem comes for me when I allow my duties to overshadow the importance of the reason why I’m doing those duties. In other words, I have to make a choice between a love relationship and a functional relationship.
Am I serving those I love with a heart of love and honest, authentic consideration and compassion for them? OR… Am I doing my list of duties because I feel obligated and forced to carry out tasks that I do not want to do for people that God has put in my way?
My point of vulnerability today comes from the answer to this question today. I have been living functionally rather than relationally. I treat those around me as obstacles, problems, and objects to be overcome, solved, and moved out of my way so I can go about the business of really doing what I want to do, which is serve myself. The Christmas season has in some ways, served to reveal this part of my character that I prefer to cover up. It’s just easier to live dutifully and functionally rather than relationally.
But I think there has to be a better way. I don’t have to stay stuck here, even though I can tell you, I’ve been in this place for a long time.
Soulstuck? You bet.
So how can we move away from living functionally rather than relationally. Today, I’m writing this down more for my own benefit than for yours. If you can take these suggestions and use them “functionally” in your own life, that’s great. Just remember that the “to do list” is not the end game, the wholeness and restoration of your relational connections is.
- Plan forward. I can tell you that my number one problem isn’t my current actions and reactions. It is my lack of foresight, lack of planning. It has been said that “Failure to plan, is planning to fail.” I have always agreed with this little proverb, but I have not fully taken it to heart. Get up earlier, before anyone else is awake, and spend some time thinking about your life, thinking through your values, you dreams, your goals…and create a plan. Block out weekends to spend time with your children, dinner dates with your wife, financial plans for your family, and business plans for your work. A little foresight goes a long, long way.
- Be thoughtful. My second child is my son, Cole. This past month he noticed that his teacher’s little counter bell was broken. She uses the bell to call everyone in class to attention and when her bell broke, it threw things off in the classroom. Cole and my wife were out at the store a few weeks ago and he saw a bell, got it, and gave it to her for Christmas. His gift was thoughtful and unselfish. He saw a need that someone else had, thoughtfully met that need, and served his teacher. Look for needs around you. In your home and in your workplace the needs show themselves in fussy children, in huffs and puffs from your co-workers, and in the conversations you come across everyday. Be aware of people around you, they are people… not objects to be moved.
- Be Considerate. Your needs aren’t the only ones that matter. Jesus clearly stated that in order to find yourself you must first lose yourself. Being considerate of others begins with self-denial. Put your own feelings and emotions on the backburner. Eat humble pie. Learn to serve with a willing heart, not be-grudgingly. You don’t know what other’s stories might have brought them into for them to be the way they are. Being judgmental only serves to build a wall. Consideration tears the walls down.
- Live with compassion. This ties in well with being considerate. Consideration is thinking about what others are thinking or feeling…compassion is serving them tangibly based on what you know about their situation. One is about thinking, the other is about serving, both are necessary.
As I sit here a couple of days past Christmas, reflecting on the decisions I’ve made, the planning I have or haven’t done, and the words I’ve spoken often without thinking… I must begin to create something better with what I know.
As this time of year comes to a close, I want to offer today’s thoughts as an encouragment. We can all do better. We can all change our direction. It has to begin though, with humility, a willingness to change, and an action plan. Without all three of these things, we will find ourselves right back where we were before… living out our duties and functions, but not in a relational, connected way.
How does this work for you? Do you feel the same way I have? What have you done that has worked in the past to get you unstuck? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.