Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 2 June 2010
“A man of too many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Prov 18:24)
KEY IDEA: It’s the little things in life that adds it all up.
I am a little discouraged this week. I sense a lack of enthusiasm among church people in terms of outreach. Even among trusted friends, young eager beaver initiatives are more likely to be shot down rather than shored up by older more cynical adults. Maybe it is my perception. Maybe it is a wrong interpretation. On top of that, today I got a rejection letter from a job that I was interested in. Even though applying for that position is a ‘long shot,’ it still hurts to be denied a first interview. It is a moment where realism seems to be the best friend of pessimism. Sigh. These little disappointments certainly make life a little more difficult each day.
Handling bad news is certainly not my forte. I have experienced lots of rejection before. None of them have been easy pills to pop down. In times like these, I hunker toward my spiritual cellar to pause and to recollect whatever optimism I still have. In times like this, it becomes absolutely essential to know that my identify is not defined by what the world thinks, but how God feels about me. Doing so allows God to re-fill my reservoirs of hope. While one should not take snubs too seriously, neither should one treat it overly lightly. It is in moments like these we learn not to carry our burdens alone. My wife and I support each other. Friends support me. God is always there for me.
One thing I have learned is that prior to any big fall is a series of steps or missteps. Like relationships, it is not the big thing that is the main cause of any fallout. It is the small things that are left unmentioned, unnoticed and untreated. In fact, small disappointments can eat away our strongest defenses over time. When left alone, anything can eventually become the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back.
A) Al Gore and Tipper Separates After 40 Years
There is a piece of heart-breaking news this week in the US political scene. Both Al Gore and Tipper his wife have decided to separate. Apparently, after losing the 2000 Presidential election, Al Gore soon poured his focus and attention on climate change. This has reaped huge dividends for Al Gore politically, with environmentalists heralding him for his famous work: “An Inconvenient Truth,” which seeks to increase international awareness about global warming. In 2007, Al Gore won another accolade by winning the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. Then this week, the Gores announce a shocking revelation that they have ‘grown apart.’ These two words look simple, but contains a complicated truth. Relationships are never static. If we do not do anything about it, they will gravitate apart. Many had long considered the Gores an exemplary American family. News reports frequently talks about their public show of affection during the Presidential campaign. I suspect that Al Gore has not really gotten over his failure to win the race for the White House. Both he and his wife appear to have tried to deal with the disappointment in their separate ways. The Huffington Post reports:
“The two of them have been living incredibly separate lives -- their separate schedules took them in different directions," she added. "They said they had just grown apart. Tipper loved life and wanted to have fun, and Al remained a very driven man with a lot of projects and irons in the fire.” (Sandra Westfall, Huffington Post)
B) Growing Apart
All of us will be familiar with saying that life comprises many ups and downs. No one is immune. When it comes to relationships, there are only two options: Growing or NOT growing. There is no middle ground. There is no such thing as staying still. Ask a salmon trying to swim up the river. If it does not swim at all, the waters will wash it downstream. Ask any couple that has not been talking regularly. They can tell you that their relationship is not working out well. The act of taking each other for granted, or each other’s emotions for granted can also be a cause for ‘growing apart.’ Marriage counselors like Les & Leslie Parrott calls such a mood as ‘loving on borrowed time.’ Seeing busyness as a major cause of marital struggles, the Parrotts continue:
“You see, most married couples live and love on borrowed time. They spend their prime time on everything out there, and then scrape together whatever is left over and bank on the time they’re borrowing from the future – saying someday we’ll do this or that, tomorrow we won’t be so busy, eventually things will be different. But will they? Really?” (Les & Leslie Parrott, Your Time-Starved Marriage, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006, 15)
Time is needed for every marriage. Personally, I have heard far too many people, and couples talk about ‘quality time’ to the point that they undermine quantity time. The fact is, relationships is like a car that needs fuel. ‘Time’ is the fuel of a healthy marriage. Without it, a marriage cannot move forward. Marriage counselor David Mace says it well:
“One of the great illusions of our time is that love is self-sustaining. It is not. Love must be fed and nurtured, constantly renewed. That demands ingenuity and consideration, but first and foremost, it demands time.” (David Mace)
Though marriage is not exactly like friendship, if there ever is to be a hierarchy of friends, I believe our spouses should rank at the top.
C) Sharing the Ups and Downs
Sometimes, some couples have a mistaken understanding about happiness. They think that bad news are for themselves to bear, reserving only the good news for their spouse. They could not be more wrong. By thinking that our spouses can only handle good news, we undermine them. Such actions betray our marriage vows that clearly say:
“To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish 'till death do us part.”
With this vow, married couples are saying to each other that they are committed to share ALL of life together, not just a part of it. I think this is a mark of true commitment. We need to learn to share both our ups and our downs with the most significant person in our lives.
D) What About the Unmarried People?
Some of us are not married. That does not mean we cannot have friends that we can share our burdens with. In fact, one of the best ways to determine true friendship is to ask where they are when we are in the most depressing moments of our lives. Are they fair-weathered friends or ALL-weathered friends. May I suggest that we spend more time with the latter group. It is worth it. Better still, be that ALL-weathered friend to your friends. Become that ALL-weathered spouse to your significant other. That is the way to grow our relationships. As we share our deepest moments with friends, remember that we need to be ready to BE to others what we want others to be to us. Any efforts to feedback or rebuke must be done with gentleness. Any act of correction must be done with love and consideration. There is a Chinese proverb that says:
“Do not use a hatchet to remove a fly from your friend’s forehead.”
E) Jesus our Friend
Whether it is our relationship with God, with our spouses or with our friends, remember. Little things adds up. Sixty small seconds add up to one big minute. One hundred pennies add up to one dollar note. The smallest decimal point can determine the difference between one dollar and one million dollars. Time is the fuel of relationships. Time is that small second, that penny or that decimal point we spend with friends and loved ones. Add them all up and we get a huge significant thing called RELATIONSHIP. If we do not spend regular time with the people we love, we will naturally grow apart. Not growing at all equals to ‘growing apart.’
One more thing; Jesus will always be our true friend. After all, He is a most profound example of what true friends are prepared to do. For Jesus died for us.
What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer.
(Joseph Scriven, 1820-1886)
Thought: When was the last time you dated your spouse? When was the last time you had a coffee talk with your best friend? When was the last time you shared with God your deepest joys or sorrows? When was the last time you bother to share that 'little thing?'
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