Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Intentionality in Relationships

As the years go by I have realized more and more how important it is to be intentional.  Otherwise before I know it I have totally neglected something or someone important.  I really hate when I do this.  I want to be a person who doesn't just think of calling someone and then lets life, as they say, get in the way.  I want to be the one who does call because I believe that the thought that came through my mind regarding that person was put there for a reason.  Why then do I often let those opportunities slip away?  I realize that I will never be able to never miss an opportunity because I am going to fail from time to time.  Still there has to be a better way than the societal norm.  Right?

My husband and I are going through a marriage Bible study right now at church with a small group of other couples.  We read the book we are going through and answer the study guide questions throughout the week and then join the group for a video segment and discussion.  As I pondered my own thoughts and listened to the others share theirs, I realized again just how important it is to be intentional in relationships!  Dare I say that the quality of a relationship comes down to intentionality?

Let me explain.

Intend: To have in mind; plan
Intention: A course of action that one intends to follow.  An aim that guides action; an objective
Intentional: Done deliberately

This is not just true for marriage, but I see the threads of this running throughout every relationship in my life.  My relationship with the Lord, with my husband, with my children, with my family, with my friends, with the lady scanning my groceries at the store, and even with anyone reading this post only grow when I deliberately follow through with my aim, my course of action.

So I guess the first step needed to determine ways I can be intentionally building my relationships is to examine each one and determine my aim.  How do I view this relationship?  What are my actions communicating - Do they show this person that I value him/her and our relationship or do they show this person otherwise?

When I am intentional in my relationship with the Lord, I am sure to make time for studying the Bible, praying, listening to Him, and keeping the communication open and continuous.  The result is then always a greater ability to be intentional in my other relationships, as well.  This is because the Lord is the one who fills my cup, so that His love can overflow onto others.

When I am intentional with my husband, I am more concerned about making his lunch for work the next day than checking my email.  I am more concerned with listening to him talk about his concerns and needs and coming alongside him as his help mate in every way possible.  I am more concerned with showing him how much I love him everyday through usually simple little ways.  This only nourishes and deepens our relationship continually over time.

When I am intentional with my children, I am sure to instill truth into their little hearts by taking time to read and play and teach and laugh and hug and kiss them.  I am more concerned with holding my older daughter when she "just feels sad," or picking up my little one when she just seems to want to lay her head on my shoulder.  I want to hear my children out and show them they truly are a blessing from the Lord (see Psalm 127).  Focusing on being intentional helps me remember this.

When I am intentional with my friendships and family relationships I remember to call them to see how they are doing.  I remember to write a quick email or message on Facebook to say "Hey."  When I am striving to be intentional I am better at thinking about these precious relationships and making plans to get together and invest in them.  Am I doing all of the talking when with others or am I asking them questions and listening more (my husband is SO great at this, and I long to be!)?  As a result, these relationships can grow into deeper and abiding friendships.

When I am intentional in taking time to make even the slightest difference in the life of someone I may only encounter for a few minutes at a time (or ever), I am more likely to not be consumed with only myself.  I am more likely then to think of others, too.  Perhaps even I can be a blessing then to that cashier at the grocery store and see the Lord use my intentionality for eternal purposes.

I even want to be intentional with my relationship with my readers.  This means taking time to think and pray about what I would like to write and discuss with you.  Otherwise, you probably won't come back to visit, and our relationship will not continue for very long.

Without the will and drive to be intentional in my relationships, I end up finding myself feeling alone.  It doesn't usually happen all of a sudden.  No, the withering of relationships happens over time like the withering of a flower.  When we don't water the flower and make sure it has food and good soil, it eventually withers and even dies. 

Some of my relationships have died in the past because of improper care.  Sure, the phone does ring both ways, and they could have reached out to me, as well.  However I can only be responsible for my end.  Furthermore, the point is not to just give up on the withered flower because sometimes flowers can be brought back to being vibrant again with a little tender loving care.

Oh how much I still have to learn, and oh how much I long to implement all of what I just wrote.  It takes time, and...a plan.  So here is my plan:

1. Seek the Lord in prayer first thing in the morning - even if only for a few minutes - and then more throughout the day through prayer and studying the Bible.
2. Have a list and a game plan for the day - allowing for unexpected times that require me to be flexible.
3. List ways I can show my husband and my children how much I love them, and act accordingly with at least one special way each day.  If I don't know, ask them.
4. When I think of someone, write down their name in a little notebook.  Then pray for that person, and take some action to invest in them in some way.
5. Ask questions during conversations with others to learn more about them.  Am I talking too much and not listening enough?    

Communicate with others.  Be real.  Ask for forgiveness and forgive others.

There are many responsibilities each of us have in life.  Those are real, and we don't need to appologize for having them.  However I seem to get an allergic twitch when I hear someone say, "I know you are busy..." to me.  I understand what they mean, but at the same time I don't want to be too busy for relationships.  After all, relationships are the only thing I can take with me into eternity, and my relationship with Jesus is the only reason for that!

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humililty consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Philippians 2:3,4, emphasis mine).

And what about our own interests?  Well that is for another post.


Melissa said...

Love it Kristen! Thanks for sharing your heart.

Brandy @ Afterthoughts said...

This is a good reminder for me, Kristen. As an introvert, I have to admit that being intentional in all of my relationships, all of the time, sounds completely overwhelming! At the same time, I know that I need this sort of prodding sometimes, so thank you.

Recently, Si and I had a giant potluck at our house. There have been a ton of colds/flus going around our area, and we hadn't seen most of our friends since before Thanksgiving! We realized that if we tried to fit in seeing each family individually, it'd take us until summer. Insteand, we threw a potluck, had 30 people over (including children--all of us have a lot of children), and it was great because they had all been missing each other, too. I am realizing that a little goes a long ways, which takes some of the pressure off. :)