I recently heard someone say “evangelism begins with relationships,” and it got me thinking that really, just about everything comes down to relationships. Think of the most important purpose of your life and see if you could replace the word “evangelism” in the motto above with that purpose.
I’ll start – Parenting begins with relationships. Nothing else we do as parents has a chance of being effective if we don’t have good relationships with our children. I can be the best mom in the world according to the best parenting book. I can say just the right words and have just the right behavior charts and just the perfect consequence for every bad choice, making sure of course that I never, ever say that my child is good or bad, just that his choices are good or bad, but, if don’t have a good relationship with my child, I have nothing. Everything I say will fall on deaf ears. Nothing I do will be received as intended if I am not able to relate to my child.
For a computer science and math nerd like me, realizing it all comes down to relationships is tough. You can’t apply a formula to people. You can’t write enough “if then” statements and “for loops” to make sure you’ve got all the possible relationship scenarios covered. Even if you theoretically could somehow figure out how to have a great relationship with one person, what works for one person isn’t what works for all people.
What works for one child isn’t even what works for another child when the children are in the same family. The key to relating to my son is to spend quality time with him, doing activities he enjoys. First, it was trains, then Legos, then drawing pictures, then Super Mario Brothers, and now, it’s Minecraft. I relate to my daughter, on the other hand, not by sharing quality time, but by sharing conversations. She could care less if I play Barbies with her, or sit side by side and write or draw with her. No, she needs to have my ear for at least a half hour a day. She needs me to listen, and she needs me to talk and share with her who I am through our conversations. She also likes cuddling almost as much as I do. Not surprisingly for anyone who knows me, the relationship with my daughter comes pretty easy.
Relating to my son is another story. When my son’s Minecraft obsession took hold, I decided I was out. After all, while I’ve been known to get into a good RTS game and have occasionally played a FPS game to bond with my husband (for those never exposed to the exciting world of gaming, RTS stands for Real Time Strategy, FPS, First Person Shooter), I am usually the person in the game who can’t quite get my bearings. Directions are hard enough in the real world, let alone in a video game world. A game where you just move around and build things, like in Minecraft, really does not interest me. Navigating in Minecraft actually makes me somewhat anxious. Certainly, I could still have a great relationship with my son without having to play it, right?
Wrong! Once I took my “I don’t play Minecraft” stance, my 5 year old became even more attached to Daddy, though I hadn’t thought that possible. When I asked him the leading question “You still really love Mommy too right?” he just looked at me and said innocently and matter-of-factly, “but you don’t even know how to play Minecraft.”
Ouch. Once again I was reminded that to relate with my son, it isn’t enough to just watch him do things. Whether it’s drawing or playing with Legos or playing the dreaded Minecraft, I have to do it with him for it to really count as quality time relating with each other. Since I got over my fears and started building houses, spawning weird creatures and fighting three-headed monsters in Minecraft, my little boy is back to holding Mommy in pretty high esteem. Of course, I still don’t hold a candle to Daddy, but I firmly believe that my ability to impact William in a real, meaningful way has been restored now that I am back in the “knowing how to play Minecraft” category.
What areas in your life rely on your relationships? Are you investing enough in making sure those relationships are solid? Here are a few more examples to help get you started. Good performance at work depends on your relationships with those you work with. Effective writing begins with making sure I know and can relate to my audience. Eating right and exercising begins with an individual’s relationship with himself. I’m sure you can add many more examples.
And, of course, just like everything else, evangelism really does begin with relationships. You see, this isn’t just something I heard in passing, it’s one of the founding principles of the To the Moon Sisterhood organization. I’m thrilled to be part of this group, that brings together women from all walks of life through activities ranging from Bunco to coffee to Girls’ Night Out. Ultimately, the founders, who are all Christian, hope to use the group to share the love of Christ in a new way. Instead of preaching, instead of being exclusive or judgmental, instead of insisting on our way, we are focused first and foremost on establishing and maintaining real relationships, regardless of faith. Because that’s where it all starts.
If you’re interested in learning more about the To the Moon Sisterhood, look out for more details about their biggest event of the year coming up in Tyler, Texas on May 8th.