Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Figuring Out Life with Others

I was recently listening to a podcast by a 70 year old man that I have a great deal of respect for. He mentioned during the podcast that in all of his life, he would be happy if he just had two things: Jesus and relationships.

As one who has at times, struggled greatly with relationships, there are a couple of things that I have learned over the past few years.  These are things that have come to shape how I try to approach relationships these days.

Relationships must be a value
For years I was a loner and was content. I have come to realize over the years however, that life is better with others. In order to share life with others though, I must value relationships and the ongoing pursuit of them.

Relationships take time
This one may seem obvious, but time is something that many usually aren't willing to part with. The truth is, it just takes time to get to know other people. 

Relationships take commitment
It's going to get hard at some point so there must be a willingness to work through the tough patches. 

Relationships take money
I understand that some may balk at this one, but sometimes I might need to actually invest -yes, even money - in relationships. Part of developing friendships is having a good time together and some times these things might cost a little bit. 

Relationships must be a priority
If relationships are not a priority and are not intentionally pursued, they will not happen on their own.

Relationships take the ability to shut up and listen
Most people want to be heard, but have difficulty hearing. In order for relationships to work, it has to go both ways.

Relationships only work if both parties get to be right sometimes
Nobody likes to be in a relationship with someone who already knows everything. (I used to be that guy and still can be sometimes. It's not cool). 

Many of us would say we value relationships. The problem is, our lifestyles don't necessarily their importance. Someone once told me, show me your calendar and your checkbook and I'll show you what is really important to you.

Being a loner is easy for me. Intentionality in relationships is a bit harder and more challenging. But in the end, I am hoping that a change in lifestyle early on will lead me to hopefully being 70+ years old one day and though I might not have a lot of things that others might have, I am hoping that I at least have others.

What other things might you add to the list? Or take off of the list?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

It Takes a Village

This past summer, Kristy and I packed up the car, loaded up the boys and headed out of town with two other couples for our annual beach trip. What makes this trip so exciting - sure, we can use that word - is that between our 3 couples we have 11 children - all boys - all under the age of 6.

These are two couples that we are quite intentional about sharing life with. We're to the place where we trust each other with our own kids, allow one another to correct/discipline our kids and actually play a part in raising one another's kids. 

One night on this particular trip, Kristy got into a beautiful conversation with the other two girls. I think us dad's must have all gone to sleep (tired from keeping up with the kids all day, cooking, keeping the condo clean, etc.). The conversation made it's way towards how we are going to train our boys in the ways of God, how we will instill kingdom values in them, and teach them how to live. The question came up at one point, "How will 'I' be able to train my boys to do something or to a choose a particular path that I myself (and/or my husband) might have messed up or not chosen correctly." Another one of the girls replied, "Perhaps, but what if we share in the raising of our boys. Between the three of us, we have all had different experiences and made different choices. So I can give a whole different perspective. This way our kids can learn from all of our stories and lives."

As the girls discussed they came to the conclusion that when we truly invite one another into each other's lives we all bring different things to the table. 

Since then I have thought a lot about the ancient "African" proverb, 'It takes a village to raise a child.' Some believe this proverb originated from the Nigerian Igbo culture and proverb "Ora na azu nwa" which actually means 'it takes the community /village to raise a child.' This tribe went so far as to name their children "Nwa ora" which means 'child of the community.' It has been in existence in Africa for centuries.

Adopting a daughter from a completely different culture (Africa, actually) has led me to thinking this thru at even deeper levels. It's raised a number of questions:

In our context today, what is it that causes us to think that our children are better off only learning from us (their parents)?

Is it possible that our collective experience and wisdom would actually work to make our kids better, not worse?

How does our modern day, individualistic, American culture hinder us from engaging in the centuries old practice of raising children in community?

Do you have a community of people that you share life with and allow to speak into your kid's lives? If not, would you be willing to? If not, why not?

How can we be more intentional about being a part of a 'village' to share life and the raising of our kids?