Day 3: Putting Relationships First
Congestion and Relationships
Do you remember our earlier discussion of congestion? Congestion is caused by things that keep us from living the simple life and activities that keep us too busy to live the simple life. Congestion hinders relationships from developing to their full potential. It blocks the movement we must have to live the simple life. We are too busy in other areas of our lives to spend adequate time growing healthy relationships.
Here are some responses for the Simple Survey:
° “Michelle and I always loved to spend a couple of hours talking each night when we first married. Now we are so busy taking the kids everywhere during the day that we are too tired to have much conversation at night.”
° “I work more than 60 hours a week. I don’t know where I will find time to connect with my friends. I’m barely connected to my family.”
° When we first married, Mark focused on the little things that meant so much to me. He would write me a note almost every week. Or he would bring me a single flower. Now that we’ve been married three years, he’s stopped doing those little things.”
° Sometimes I wish I was a football game so that Jeremy would give me that kind of attention.”
° “I try to stay in touch with Susan, but she doesn’t reciprocate. I’m about to give up on her.”
Scripture is clear about the obstacles believers need to remove from our relationships. Because Christ lives in us, we are a new creation. Paul admonishes us to live by the new nature as we cast off the old ways of the flesh. 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
Read Colossians 3:5-14. List what qualities we are to put off and what qualities we are to put on.
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Yesterday you wrote a mission statement for a significant relationship in your life. Several things, however, can keep you from moving toward your goal.
° Busyness with other activities
° Exhaustion from doing so many other things
° The pursuit or enjoyment of material things
These obstacles are examples of congestion. To simplify relationships, movement must follow clarity.
Recognize the Congestion of Activities
Activities are replacing purpose in too many of our lives. We are so busy doing things that we are neglecting the things that really matter. Often activities replace important matters that help relationships grow. Busy ness causes us to hurt others and hinders healthy relationships.
In responding to our surveys, spouses and parents didn’t say they needed to provide more material items for their loved ones or more activities in order to enjoy the good life. In fact, in our surveys we heard little about buying nicer cars, getting children more involved in sports, working longer hours, or buying bigger homes. Instead, we typically heard that these items made life congested. They caused blockage that prevented movement toward the simple life.
33% say their lives are too busy
75% either state clearly that they are too busy or are unable to say they aren’t too busy.
13% strongly agree that family members can relax anal enjoy one another
List things and activities that prevent you from spending time with the people you care about.
How are these things damaging your relationships?
What relationships are being affected’?
What adjustments would give you more time to improve your relationships?
Recognize the Congestion of Selfishness
One of the most common types of congestion in developing relationships is selfishness. Instead of seeking the best for the other person, you look at the relationship from the lens of what the other person can and should do for you.
When the apostle Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthian church, he was dealing with a pretty self-centered congregation. In l Corinthians 13 Paul warned the Corinthians to cease their selfish ramblings and to start practicing selfless love toward one another. Paul’s description of true, unconditional love teaches us how to relate to one another selflessly.
Read I Corinthians 13. Then as you read about the following characteristics of selfless love, underline statements that indicate movement you need to make in your life.
1 Corinthians 13
1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Love is patient (v. 4). Consider the inverse of this description: love is not impatient. If you sometimes lose patience with a spouse, child coworker, or friend, you are seeking your own desires and needs before those of others. Patient love always places someone else’s needs before your own.
Love is kind (v. 4). Kindness implies intentionality. When you are kind to someone, you make an overt effort to do a good deed or to say a positive word about him or her. Kindness typically requires forethought, and that forethought is an effort itself to demonstrate love The very act of thinking about what you can do for someone else is a selfless act.
Love does not envy (v. 4). “I want only the best for my wife.” The speakers wife totally disagreed. “You say you want the best for me,’ she told her husband, “but your actions say otherwise. l can’t remember the last time you asked me what l would like to do or where l’d like to go. You seem to resent the idea of my enjoying myself”
What if you looked at relationships through the lens of wanting only the best for the other person? Congestion occurs in your relationships when you envy others.
Love is not boastful (v. 4). We know someone who has been pretty successful, at least by the world’s standards. And we admit, he has some pretty impressive accomplishments. But do you know what else we noticed about him? He has no friends. As a matter of fact, we don’t enjoy being around him either. Why? He always talks about himself and what he has accomplished. The only people who stay around him are eager sycophants, not real friends. Love does not seek to dominate the conversation with self Love is eager to hear from others.
Love is not Conceited (v. 4). This comment is parallel to Paul’s comment about boasting. When you boast, you talk about yourself When you are conceited, you focus on yourself But love is concerned about others.
Love does not act improperly (v. 5). Some translations say, “Love is not rude.” At the heart of rudeness or acting improperly is a disregard for others. This lack of love is also a lack of respect for another person.
Love is not Selfish (v. 5). One survey indicated that selfishness is pervasive in many relationships. We rarely heard a spouse say he or she should do more for the other spouse. Movement toward the simple life is not taking place in many relationships because so many look out only for their own needs.
Love is not provoked (v. 5). Sometimes anger is appropriate. Jesus was angry when He saw hardness of heart (see Mark 3:5) and money changers in the temple (see John 2:14-17). But this text speaks to those who are easily angered, hotheaded people whose tempers are ignited over small things. That type of quick anger focuses on self and shows an unwillingness to be patient.
Love does not keep a record of wrongs (v. 5). In the Book of Hosea, God instructed the prophet Hosea to take Gomer as his wife even though she was a promiscuous woman. God then told Hosea to take hack his wife again and again even though she was unfaithful. Hosea received this burden from God to show God’s forgiving love to the unfaithful Israelites.
But that persistent, forgiving love should be part of our lives as well. We often feel more justified when we hold grudges and refuse to forgive. After all, that person wronged us. Why should we even think about forgiving him or her? But the apostle Paul said love keeps no record of wrongs.
Sometimes relationships are hindered because we have an unforgiving spirit, even though we were wronged. That’s tough to remedy But it’s mandatory, and it’s biblical.
Go back and note areas that indicate movement you need to make in your relationships. Spend time in prayer asking God to change your heart to be more loving. Ask Him to forgive your failures in loving others as you should. Identity one thing you can do to express love in your relationships.
Remember Faye from yesterday? She wrote this mission statement about her relationship with her husband:
I will be at better wife to William by giving him at least one compliment for the next 10 days and by not making any critical comments about hint or to /nm du1’in.g those same 10 days.
The key to creating movement toward your relational goal is to make realistic, incremental steps. Faye’s goal of complimenting William once a day was doable. Begin by making a small commitment, as Faye did. Hers was one compliment a day for 10 days. It’s reasonable It’s doable. It’s incremental.
Review your relational mission statement.Identity one step you can take to move toward your goal. We realize that in 7 to 10 days you won’t go from where you are to where you need to be in relationships. But you will make progress. That’s how you have movement toward the simple life. That’s how you begin the steps toward healthier relationships.
Tomorrow we will explore whether the values and actions in your life are well aligned so that you can accomplish your goals.