At the beginning of March, I attended the memorial service for Dave Morgan. I’ve know Dave for more than 10 years. I knew that he played college football at the University of Kansas. I knew that he was a math teacher at Cedarburg High School. I knew that he had a wonderful wife named Heidi and three or four grown children, although I was not sure of their ages, genders or names. I also knew that Dave lived brilliantly – like a bright light – in a wheel chair with Parkinson’s disease.
Whenever I saw Dave, he would sit up in his wheelchair, wave his arm and light up his whole face with a big smile. He never seemed to feel sorry for himself or allow others to feel sorry for him. I admired Dave and would even admit to having loved him, but as I as sat there at his memorial service, I realized I only knew Dave on the surface. And like most of us do in these situations, I resolved to do better and to go deeper in my relationships.
This past Sunday morning, I walked into church and noticed that the mood was somber for a reason that became clear pretty quickly. Doug Zorn, age 53, husband to Shannon, and father of four children, 3 sons and 1 daughter, had passed away suddenly on Saturday from a massive heart attack. The Zorn family is a huge presence in our church: active, talented, a delightful family to be around. Leading up to Easter, our church presented an interactive experience called “Walk to the Cross” which was envisioned and led by various members of the Zorn family. Doug, with his engineering background, planned and carried out all the technological aspects, diligently, quietly, behind the scenes.
In less than two months, I have experienced the loss of two men in my life that I knew on the surface, from a distance, and not as deeply as I now wish I did.
At this point, you are probably thinking this is a “downer” topic I’ve selected for my blog. But there is nothing like a funeral to bring life into sharper focus, to revaluate the way you are living, and to make a change for the better.
Face it: Life is short. One moment you and all your friends are graduating, starting jobs, getting married and having kids. In the next moment, your kids are graduating, starting jobs, getting married and having kids. Then, the number and frequency of funerals begins to increase. As you can see, I have now entered this phase.
Life is short. We all know this, but very few of us seem to live in the reality of this truth. Each of us has a certain (but unknown) number of days to live in this world, and yet we live most of our days without the end in mind. While nothing can be done to increase the “quantity” of life, we all have the opportunity to increase the “quality.”
More important than long life is an abundant life, a full life. As the Easter season reminds us, the way to abundant life is through loving God and loving others. The question is: How can you love someone you don’t know? And how can you know someone if you don’t spend time with them and converse with them – listening more than talking?
I want to go deeper in my relationships. I want to know more about the people in my life. So what’s stopping me? What’s getting in the way? I can think of several obstacles that need to be overcome:
- What about “busy-ness” and distraction? Are you engaged in lots of lively but meaningless activity? Or “glued” to your personal devices or the latest social media fad? Don’t be “too busy” to invest in deeper relationships.
- What about grudges and unresolved conflicts? Are you holding on to your position, rather than letting go and forgiving? Don’t let “the satisfaction of being right” keep you from having deeper relationships.
- What about different world views and life styles? Are you put off by others who don’t understand or agree with your views? Are you angry with others because you think they may disagree with you? Don’t let “pride” stand in the way of having deeper relationships.
- Finally, there is the seeming enormity of the situation. There are too many people in my life to possibly know at a deeper, intimate, more personal level. Don’t let the enormity of this challenge keep you from having deeper relationships with anyone. Start with one person.
Of course, start with the people closest to you – your spouse, your children, your parents and your siblings. Then, turn to others that God has placed in your life, including colleagues, customers, and your next door neighbors.
We are all selfish by nature, self-focused. Putting God and others ahead of yourself is hard to do. But the only place you end up by focusing on yourself is alone. The recent deaths of Dave and Doug are bringing this reality into sharp focus for me. To honor their lives, I am committed to doing two things: going deeper in my relationships starting now, and encouraging anyone reading this blog to do the same.
As Paul wrote in his letter to the church in Ephesus:
“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16 NIV
We will continue to help our clients to learn and grow and succeed at life by addressing the hard but rewarding work of going deeper in your relationships. If you have ideas or experiences to share on the process of going deeper, please post them so others can benefit.