One of the things we tell people over and over again as we prepare to travel to spend time with our mission partners around the world is that relationships trump projects. Always.
Every culture that I’ve spent time with values relationships over projects – except American culture. Obviously, this is a generalization but I believe there is a lot of truth to this statement. We are a very project oriented culture. Success is based on whether we accomplished a goal or completed a project satisfactorily or have something to show for our day. Otherwise, we’ve wasted it.
One of the greatest benefits we receive from our time with our family around the world is the reminder that relationships are the heartbeat, the lifeblood. You absolutely MUST put them first.
I always remember our partner, Jason, telling us in Kenya how to go into a local market to purchase something. In our culture, you know what you want. You go in. Avoid eye contact. Grab what you need, pay for it, maybe grunt, perhaps even smile and then out you go. It is admirable to be “in and out”. In Kenya, when you enter the market, you take the time to make small talk with the owner or the worker. You ask about their day, their family, the news. And THEN …. you may proceed to inquire about what you are needing.
It kills Americans. Sometimes you can see the physical pain as their patience is stretched to its breaking point. I still have my moments where I forget the importance of BEING rather than DOING.
The works-oriented nature of the western world has influenced our faith and religious practices. There is a tremendous pressure for us to produce, to be busy working for the kingdom – at the sacrifice of relationships – not only with others but most importantly with God.
We are addicted to and obsessed with the work of the kingdom, with little to no idea of how to be with the King.
I read this recently in a tremendous article by Mike Breen from a couple of years ago but it is still incredibly relevant and horribly true.
I am incredibly guilty of this. I’ve spent so much more time on kingdom work than King love. The past few months this has been the primary thing that God and I have been working on. I know that sounds ironic – working on “not working on something”. But trust me. It is the right kind of work.
We spend a lot time right now just being together. Contemplating. God teaching me how to be aware of my Maker. Jesus teaching me how to sit at the feet of our Abba and be a learner and a lover. I utter “Abba, I belong to You.” over and over throughout the day. It has become my breathing prayer, my centering prayer to remind me this life, this day, this agenda is not mine. It – and I – belong to Another.
I’m learning to sit and stretch first and run second.
Just like physical therapy is teaching me the importance of stretching and posture so that I can move with more strength and distance without self-injury, spiritually I’m learning the same thing. So many of us are trying to run first and only sit when we run out of breath, collapse or cause self-injury. A relationship with God isn’t all “sitting” or all “running”. Both are a part of the journey but we’ve put (and idolize) the cart before the horse.
Life with God isn’t meant to be this way. Seriously.
With God, relationships trump projects. Always.
And our relationship with the King trumps all.