So how do I cultivate a network of healthy relationships around me to sustain me for the long haul?
In many ways that takes a life time to answer! However, its helpful to look at some principles and guidelines to steer us in the right direction. For me that has meant cultivating the following 5 types of relationships in the following order:
The most foundational relationship of all. I talked about the start of this in my own life in the video Just As I Am. However, as with any relationship, this has to be nurtured and developed on a daily basis. It cannot be rushed. I aim to start each day with time alone in Biblical scripture, both systematically reading Bible passages and also lingering and meditating over specific passages. (For more on this see the cheekily titled post, How To Avoid God and also The Difference Between Talking To Your Heart And Listening To Your Heart).
Across cultures and around the world families were designed to create a refuge where we can experience intimacy and unconditional love. From your own experience I am sure you know that does not come automatically and is certainly not always the case! Families can be the source of great joy or great disappointment and sorrow. No family is perfect and every one has some issue or other that it is dealing with – it is all part of being human.
Just as a scientist has a laboratory where she can experiment, families are meant to be safe places to practice listening, loving, forgiving, and resolving conflict. From that foundation we can then go out into the world with all its challenges and complexities. Although many things about our family relationships are out of our control, and there may be varying levels of pain and disappointment to work through, I still remain responsible for what I can do. It is worth pondering that no external success can ultimately compensate for failure in the home.
There is a lot more that can be said about family. However, one additional principle worth grasping is that the best way to love your children is by loving your spouse.
3. A Paul
Paul was the author of 13 New Testament books. He influenced the spread of the Gospel message through the Roman Empire more than any other person. The impact of his writings have influenced Western thought and the world for centuries. A Paul is a mentor – someone who has travelled further ahead in life than we have and who is able and willing to pass on what they have learned. Mentors come in all sorts of forms and places. Life is too complex for there to be one specific mentor for everything, but in various areas of life we can look to such people. Also because of technology we have access to the wisdom of a huge variety of mentors in practically every area of life. No matter what you are struggling with the principles, wisdom and insight as to what to do, along with practical solutions are available.
4. A Barnabas.
Barnabas was a Jewish leader in the early church and one of those who helped Paul in his ministry. Although Joseph was his real name, he was called Barnabas because of his helpful way with people – the word Barnabas means “son of encouragement.”A Barnabas is a peer and a friend. They are important because they motivate us to keep our commitments to God and to others. They are able to ask us hard questions without embarrassment or fear. They know us well and they love us anyway. We don’t need to hide anything from them and they motivate us to reach our potential.
5. A Timothy.
Timothy was a Jewish Christian leader who worked closely with Paul from about 52AD. Paul wrote two New Testament letters to Timothy and developed such a closeness to him that he described him as “my dear son.” A Timothy is an apprentice – someone who is following you in the journey of life and who you have the privilege of serving and helping. They are someone you have the joy of seeing develop and grow, maybe even beyond you. Far from being a threat or intimidating, you have the satisfaction of seeing them grow and develop, knowing you had some part in their life.
What I love about this model is that it takes my perspective off myself and onto God and those God has put around me. I am inspired to aim higher, to serve and give and to pour into others as well.
So by cultivating a network of healthy relationships around me I am not only protected, but can also grow and develop in a healthy manner.
What do you need to do to cultivate a network of healthy relationships around you? It would be helpful to have your comments and suggestions.
(For more on this theme also see The Power of Human Connection; Who Are You Allowing To Get Close To You; What Kinds Of People Are Drawn To You? and Why Do I Need To Cultivate A Network Of Healthy Relationships Around Me?)