My dear friend sent this to me and asked me to comment on her situation:
“I have a suggestion for a writing topic-- taking people for granted. My sister was killed in a car accident on July 28th, so I've spent the last 10 days or so doing a lot of thinking on how I could have been a better big sister and friend to her. I have also been thinking about how each day is like a whirlwind -- you wake up, and then you go to sleep, exhausted, and you're not sure what you've done that day. I know God will speak through you about this, and if it can help one person lessen the regrets of their life, it will be worth it.”
I have not been humbled to this extent since I gave my life to the Lord, so many years ago. I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to share in this reader’s recovery. Upon receiving this note and praying over it, the Lord did in fact, show me how He wants this addressed. I bless Him for it. I will communicate His Will regarding how we regard one another. I asked for God to show me scripture that accurately captures what He thinks about this topic. I wasn’t surprised that it didn’t take Him very long. His word is very clear.
“Timothy, I thank God for you. He is the God I serve with a clear conscience, just as my ancestors did. Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. I long to see you again, for I remember your tears as we parted. And I will be filled with joy when we are together again.” (2 Timothy 1:3-4 NLT)
As the Lord walked me through this, He showed me time after amazing time that He molded the Apostle Paul into the king of interpersonal relationships. I won’t go into detail here, but I challenge you to take the time and read his genuine kindness and love toward all the churches he wrote to, even when the news wasn’t great! He never missed an opportunity to “pump up” his audience, but not in a fake, patronizing way. When you read his salutations in any of the epistles, it’s clear that he has genuine regard for them and his only motivation was to edify them to accomplish God’s assignment for their church.
In our hectic, work-a-day lives with deadlines, competing priorities, et al, we have a natural tendency to take for granted those people that are most important to us. We certainly take for granted our spouses, our children, parents, siblings, co-workers, employees, bosses—the list is seemingly endless. I’d like to share a thing or two that may preclude you feeling as our regretful reader does.
I know many of us have experienced sudden tragedy in our lives. From my own personal experience, I know that nothing is so quick to “take the wind out of our sails.” In my own experience, I went to work one routine Tuesday, set about my daily duties and all was normal. Right after I returned from lunch, I received a call from a close friend that I had been stationed with for many years. His voice was shaky. I sensed something was wrong. He tried his best to tell me that a mutual friend, a man we loved and respected for many, many years suddenly died on the basketball court. It turns out; he had the same condition that killed the beloved actor John Ritter.
Sudden death. It’s a term we use to describe decisive endings in sporting events, but this gave it new meaning. Immediately after hanging up the phone I fell into a state of surrealism. Numb. Then denial set in. “Naw,” I thought, “Couldn’t be! Eddie is my age—way too young to die!” Then, as hours pass, the reality of the situation takes hold. He’s really gone. By that evening, I was in full-blown regret, just as our reader is. All the “Why didn’t I’s” flooded my mind. Why didn’t I call him more frequently? Why didn’t I take the time to visit him the last time I was in his area? Why didn’t I tell him how much I loved and valued him? You see the point.
Let’s turn the table inward. We know what God says about this. If we are to be “walking-talking, bible toting, yellow-pen marking, Mark 11:23 quoting Christians” (thank you, Pastor Pearson!), we are commanded to walk in the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 says “But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Here there is no conflict with the law.” So, we all know this is God’s Will for how we treat one another, yet many of us don’t do it as He intends.
Look around your ministry for a moment. Do you personally engage your staff—all of them, with the kind of familiarity and kindness that Paul does? Do you take time every day to stop and just talk with them? Do you know their spouses name? How about kids, hobbies, favorite sports team? These all seem like small, trivial things but I assure you that if you take the time to stop at someone’s desk to just chat about anything non-work related and do it with sincerity and regularity, that person’s self-image will rise, their productivity will to, but I digress, productivity is for another article. I’m speaking of establishing and nurturing healthy interpersonal relationships throughout your ministry.
On a personal level, how would you feel if you came in to work on Monday morning to discover that “Jo in Accounting” had suddenly gone home to be with the Lord? Would you even know her husband’s name? Many of us would say yes, but I know that especially in larger workplaces, we don’t know details like this.
I want to spend the rest of the time today to convince you that you can avoid a lifetime of regret if you will take the first step with those people that are important in your life—and ministry. They all love you. Get to know them—really know them. Offer your friendship and follow through. Sure, you’ll get better employees, but you’ll also get more friends. Who can have too many?
It’s always so sad to learn of tragedy but to me, it’s more sad to know that a friend is hurting because they can’t answer the “Why didn’t I’s.” All it takes is a caring heart, which I know we all have and a willingness to step away from the daily grind for the amount of time it takes to share a Coke with somebody, and just say, “How is everything going?” And really want to hear the answer. Don’t be afraid to share yourself with them, either. Friendship is a two-way street. People innately desire to feel wanted and appreciated. Abraham Maslow describes this as “Belonging.” If people don’t feel they’re important, or “belong,” they won’t be able to progress into the higher level of living that God desires for all of us. Help them reach that level. It’s your duty.
I wish to personally thank the reader who took the time to share during this most difficult of times. We pray blessings for you and your family for a healing that only God can deliver—and He already has—all you have to do is receive it.