Sunday, 25 December 2011

‘Tis the Season for Strengthening Relationships

In this celebratory season many persons are highly motivated to turn to God in prayer and praise. These individuals desire a closer relationship with their maker. Indeed, during this season places of worship are often packed to capacity. That is a good thing! We affirm all persons who make an effort to close the gap they sense between themselves and their heavenly father. However, we would like to add that it is an ideal season to strengthen other relationships. In bolstering the bond in all relationships three adhesives are critical: time, talk, and trust. 

A relationship grows much like any other item in nature; it requires time to grow and develop. Therefore in nurturing a relationship with God time needs to be spent with Him. This time should be time set aside deliberately and intentionally each day that is dedicated to worshiping Him. The individual makes that decision as to how much time and at what points in the day these times are set aside. These times are separate and distinct from those other moments that arise because of felt needs or circumstances that cause the individual to turn to God. During these times that are set aside, a variety of relationship enhancing behaviours may be employed, some of these are prayer, praise in word or song, meditation, study of the Scriptures, fasting, testimony, and witnessing. Hence, time with God is meaningfully spent in coming to worship Him and in coming to a better understanding of Him. It is time in which this understanding is shared with others and He is glorified. The time spent is rich with emotions, thoughts and actions, and the individual moves on to other activities empowered by the experiences with God. Sometimes the periods are short; sometimes they are lengthy because while quality is vital in terms of the wholeness of the experiences, quantity of time spent with God in some instances is critical. 
While time is vital in building a relationship with God, it is also important for building the relationship with family members and friends. During these weeks of celebration we often have added opportunities for spending time with our family members. Several days away from work and school are available. Some of this time ought to be set aside just for nurturing family relationships, spouses who dedicate several periods for being together to go on walks, to sit at sunset or sunrise by the beach, to climb the Blue Mountain Peak, to snorkel in our Caribbean waters, to discover one of our tropical trails, to visit one of our botanical gardens and sit amidst an array of flora on a lush green grass bring healing strengthening of the relational bond. Certainly there are hundreds of other activities that may be pursued to make time spent together well spent. The same may be said of friendships, for it is in this season that friends visit, that friends hold social events, however humble or grand, these convivial moments should strengthen the tie that binds. Some persons play dominoes, others scrabble, uno or simply have a chat among the variety of meaningful interest, what is of greatest importance is not what we do but why we do it. We do these things to build the friendship. Too often we lose sight of that imperative. Therefore, the true test of whether the time was well spent is not about who won the game but how much stronger are the bonds of friendship and this principle underlines all or human relationships. 
Time is the stage upon which action takes place and the most important action in relationships that takes place on that stage is communication. This is what was referred to as talk, but clearly communication is more than just talk for it involves both verbal and non-verbal exchanges between the communicators. In the sharing of our thoughts and feelings with others they have an opportunity to know what we think and how we feel; similarly we get to know what they think and how they feel, but beyond that both parties often gain greater insight into their own thoughts and feelings while expressing them. So that communication is not just about giving and receiving it’s also about self-discovery. For these reasons, and several others, communication is key to building relationships. Some of our holiday communication therefore will centre on spirited religious topics, salient social concerns, hearty health and wellness wishes, fascinating financial projects, puzzling political problems about which we need to pray, satisfying intimate interludes, among others. For these and other reasons we must find time to talk. 
If time is the stage and talk is the action upon it then trust is the foundation upon which both are built. A verse of Scripture implores us to “trust in the lord with all our hearts and lean not to our own understanding”. Trust is a vital element in the warp and woof of the fabric of relationships. It is necessary in our relationship with God, our family, and our friends. Trust is always risk-taking. The stronger the relationship, that is the closer we are to the other person, the greater the proportion of trust we are willing to extend. That is why if trust is to grow we must spend more time and talk in nurturing our interpersonal relationships. Trust is an expression of confidence, reliance, and certainty based on past experiences; that is why, it grows over time. It also grows out of the kept commitments in relationships. This season, we have good reason to build trust in our often neglected relationships. 
“Life”, says the song writer, “is moving faster than it ever has before; what tomorrow brings us isn’t certain anymore”. Therefore, while it is true that we want great relationships they are often compromised as they are caught in the hustle and bustle of our turbulent days and they suffer, parents neglect children and feel guilty, but somehow they find consolation in observing that they are trapped by economic realities and social factors. Spouses drive-off in opposite directions early in the day and meet each other after sunset drained by the daily deluge. Nonetheless, by grace we are strengthened to press on. This season is a season in which we may repair the breach and keep the promises we made to ourselves and others by setting aside time for God, our family and friends during which we enter meaningful experiences that cause us to communicate at a deeper level so that trust may be more firmly entrenched in our hearts. This is the season to strengthen relationships.