If you've seen the movie Forrest Gump you may remember the scene where Forrest starts running.. and running.. and running.
And then he stops. A crowd of people running behind him all stop as he declares he's ready to go home.
He misses home. More than that, he misses the people of home.
Even though he's surrounded by people who are running with him, their relationship is limited to the run they are on together.
As the end of 2020 nears, there is little question that most of us are tired of running. We've endured all kinds of obstacles to simply functioning. We're tired. And we kind of just want to go home. We're realizing as we do that at times we've traded the real relationships of life in for people that are just kind of running along side of us.
This Christmas, we need relational endurance. The courage to stop running and simply relate to those who we crave real relationship with. The pandemic has caused some of our most cherished relationships to be strained and conversations tainted by preferences, opinions, and our own wounds speaking out of turn.
So how can we build up our relational endurance in 2021? 3 ideas:
Go and Dwell with People
1 John 4:9 says "God's love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him." John had written earlier in his gospel "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as his one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)
Jesus didn't wait for people to come to him, he was sent and he went to them. Then when he got here, he didn't rush through things to check a box, he dwelled! Those examples are helpful for us right now. God has sent you to love people. Go to them. And when you get there dwell with them. Whether that's an afternoon coffee, a Facetime call, or a walk on a nice day, go to people!
Relational endurance grows with active pursuit of people.
Don't Give up on People, Give up for People
John writes in 1 John 4:10, "Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins."
Jesus' love for us was not conditional on our loving him. He went and sacrificed himself prior to experiencing any kind of love from us.
We often are tempted to think that if someone hasn't loved us or communicated with us or been present in our lives that their love is failing. As a result, we give up on them. What if instead of giving up on people that we haven't been able to connect with or be present with we gave up for them? What if we sacrificed our preferences or were generous to the point of sacrifice to let them know we loved them?
I can imagine those relationships would be different from that point forward.
Relational endurance grows with sacrifice!
Sustain relationships with Truth
"This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit," writes John in 1 John 4:13.
The Spirit sustains our relationship with God. That Spirit was sent as a "Spirit of truth." (John 16:13) We need to love with as much grace as possible - not only now, but always! However, truth sustains those relationships! As we go and dwell and sacrifice to be in relationship with people, it's speaking the truth in love that sustains those relationships over the long haul.
Learning to grow our truth muscles happens as we press into the Lord in our personal time with him, but also as we talk candidly with the people we love. If our conversations are all grace, we're hanging out. If it's all truth, we're just calling each other out. But if it's grace and truth, we are calling each other in to a deeper relationship with God and each other.
Relational endurance grows with truth!
So is it time for you to stop running? Stop running away from relationships that really matter. Go to people. Give up for them instead of on them. Be guided by the truth.
Instead of running through life with random people, let's run towards the people we love the most and build up our relational endurance.