My friend Jan is a retired soldier, West Point grad, my hero and honorary Gal in Blue. She has forged a path from active duty to stay at home Mom that I admire. I watch how she uses her officer skills every day to manage her family and her interests in the best possible way. What follows is an article she wrote for our church newsletter. No mater what your personal beliefs, I think there is benefit in the personal introspection that she offers.
And Jesus answered, “I am your friend Peter. I just don’t have time for you.” Obviously, this is NOT scripture; but, it is my favorite line from Jesus Video #1, produced by Vintage21 Church, located in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina. In spring 2003, this church created four, satirical videos for an educational series taking a deeper look at Jesus Christ. They used old religious movies as the base and dubbed in new dialogue. It’s a very effective technique for pointing out some of the less-honorable? not good? OK, bad thoughts and patterns of behavior we sometimes get stuck in concerning Jesus and church. They are hilarious! You can find them on YouTube under Vintage 21 Jesus Videos. Jesus Video #3, with a focus on sinning, is my favorite. But enough publicity, let’s get back to Jesus not having time for Peter.
When I first watched the scene play out, it was as if I’d been slapped in the face. Sometimes, this was the way I responded to friends and people around me. I did it to my family also but that can be the subject of a separate article. I had lists full of things to accomplish. I had big and little projects on the front, and back burners. I was running around doing stuff, and organizing material and activities, and planning for the future things. They were all good and necessary and very important things too! Lots of people depended on me. Lots of projects wouldn’t get done if someone didn’t organize them. Who had time for sitting down and chatting with friends? And, why should I put out effort getting to know people better when I could maintain a surface-level acquaintance with most of them? I just had to be friendly, and only, friendly enough. I allowed the occasional coffee or walking date but a sense of guilt would sometimes creep around in the background. What else could I be doing if I didn’t have to stop right now? How could I be both witty and interesting to this same person again and again? Don’t get me wrong: I love people and I love friends. I have some fabulous ones. I love hanging out and love having a great time with folks. But thinking as I did, with an ever pressing need to do stuff and activities, sometimes made the day tight and maintaining friendships, especially new ones, harder than they seemed to be worth. I was skipping past the people who probably needed my help because I was racing to organize something for the people I thought could be helped or who deserved attention.
Then I saw the movie. Wow! That’s not right. That line is funny but only because it is not correct. Jesus made time for people. Always. He taught it was really more about loving God and loving people then about the activities, didn’t he? It’s all about the relationships we have with people and whether we love them because they are our neighbor rather than because they can get us or give us something. It is even about the relationships with people who might not be very loveable. Just today a blog I connect with mentioned that the Gospel of Mark is a great one “to see the portrayal of Jesus’ disciples. They were untrained and uneducated men who often did not listen, seldom fully understood, and sometimes failed miserably. Meanwhile, they debated who was the greatest and fought over the best seats in the kingdom. Still Jesus loved them.” Maybe I could try to do the same? Maybe I could try to follow the example set for me?
Also, I read a few books. Actually, I’ve been reading quite a lot on the subject of being a good friend and neighbor during the last year. If you want to see the list just ask or join me on Goodreads.com. There are some fabulous options out there that help expand our concept of “love your neighbor.” And, throughout this process of reshaping my perspectives, I had a friends in several areas of life and study who were consistent and constant in pushing me to explain my thoughts and actions and who showed me through their actions how to live a life of character and substance. Their support and influence is validation that relationships between people of all ages are critical to growing in our understanding and devotion to God and understanding our purpose in life.
Finally, I realized that I am supposed to love my neighbor – really. I’m supposed to have meaningful relationships with other believers and people who aren’t yet believers. The other things (the events and activities) aren’t so important. Right now I am supposed to be hanging out with people and getting to know them – in the places where I live and operate as a mom of two children. That means school rooms, PTA, sports teams, hobbies, Girl and Boy Scouts, pool time, football games, and all of the other activities that crop up due to our families’ busy schedule in Northern VA. I’m supposed to be getting to know the people I meet in this life as I live this life, listening to their life stories – past and current time, and enjoying it when possible or offering compassion and support when needed. The rest of it just isn’t as important.
I had to change my perspective on what was important before I realized that I have the time for other people and should spend time doing the important things. I’m getting to know new people. I’m noticing what is happening in their lives. As I’m a talker I must constantly work on LISTENING; but, recently, I’ve heard so many funny, interesting, and touching stories from people around me that I know it is worthwhile. And do you know what? I’m much more relaxed now. It’s like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I’m supposed to be with people and get to know them? I’m supposed to be doing the stuff I have to do as a mom and wife and person today and I don’t have to do more things? I can focus on the people around me naturally rather than find new ones through created activities and projects? But I can still work on those things if I want to? Really that’s it? Whooo hooo!! Meet me at Panera, at fencing practice, or on the trail through the woods with my dog and let’s talk about what’s important to us. Let’s talk about life. For those who are searching for purpose and meaning in life, let’s talk about hope! Amen and amen.