In our fast-paced, instant gratification society, a relational approach to ministry and to life is a difficult concept to grasp. I blame the drive-thru for this cerebral war.
You sit in a line, in your car for the opportunity to order your food (breakfast, lunch, supper or snacks) and expect it to be ready at not only your beckon call, but also within your timeframe. Some restaurants have even begun to display stopwatch-type clocks that monitor the progress of your food delivery service. If your food is delivered outside of this random pre-determined number, you walk away with a free lunch!!
It's this type of instant living that reeks havoc on any sort of relational pursuit in ministry.
Can you imagine if making friends was as easy as selecting a combo number from a drive-thru menu? Yeah, I'd like to order combo number 3...the one with two guy friends, one gal pal, and a free glow-in-the-dark sticker collection for the bathroom. And can you up-sized my combo to include a random to be determined friend selection at a later date? RIDICULOUS!!
The fact is that relationships take time...and lots of it. I've been married to my wife for a little over 6 years and I'm still learning more about our friendship and marriage each and every day. I've known Bonny for 15 years, but in that time I still don't know everything about her. My relationship keeps growing as I keep investing in it.
Our instant gratification society asks us to produce results immediately. Have you ever stopped to think how you measure growth in any relationship? Outside of the biblical description of the fruit of the spirit from Galatians, I don't know if we can quantify relationship by any sort of numeric value. I remember asking my grandmother how she and my grandfather made it to 50 years of marriage. Her answer surprised me, "I don't know." Does a number like 50 really mean their is significant relationship? I'm not entire convinced of that, but I do know that time does provide us with a greater opportunity for connection.
I think this is why retreats and camps are so popular for youth. Not only do they get to pull away and unplug from the normal routine (which any sane human being craves every once and awhile!!), but they also have the chance to spend a chunk of unbroken time with their peers. Length of time does matter in the development of relationship.
You know what kills a relationship? Unhealthy expectation. We cannot expect to move from A to Z in relational growth without identifying and experiencing all of the letters in between. When we hold unhealthy expectations of what a relationship is about, we doom it from the start. Unless we are willing to invest in relational connections without pre-conceived notions, I don't think we'll ever experience relational growth of any kind.
Let's not fool ourselves, the relational intimacy we crave takes time. Let's avoid the temptation to quantify our connections and allow the pursuit of relationship to be our guide as we attempt to navigate through life while making a difference and feeling valued along the way.