Relationships are a funny thing. They are kind of like eating an orange, or an apple. An orange is a fruit that, when you peel the cover off, you better eat it right away. It’s messy if you don’t. You don’t peel the skin off an orange and leave the orange sitting on your counter till later. Sameis true for apples. Peel an apple and you’ll watch it turn brown quicker than the sun sets over the Smoky Mountains. So, apples and oranges are meant to be eaten right away following the peeling. I’ll get to the connection between apples and oranges and relationships in a moment. Only because I love how right now you are scratching your head wondering if Mitch has either had too much coffee, or if you know him really well, maybe not enough coffee.
Lately I have had a lot of conversations with pastors. It’s what I do. My ministry, Fruitful Vine Ministry, takes me past the foyer, through the living room into the dining room of the soul. We have conversations together that go to depths rarely experienced by either of us. You see, when I sit with a pastor I do so to engage his soul. It’s easy to talk about the church. Pastors do it all the time. Usually when I gather with a number of them, predictably the conversation centers around his or her church. Now, I look for a way into the heart where deeper conversations can happen, that sort that engages the soul, not just the church.
Talking church is easy. Talking soul is not. It’s true for all of us, whether you are a pastor or not. We keep conversations safe. It’s either because we have never discovered how to go deeper, or we don’t trust people all that much. Most of us live guarded lives. Pastors, because they have been hurt and choose to be more guarded in their next ministry, and others because, well, we just aren’t quite sure if it’s worth the risk of letting someone else in, again. The memories made up of rejection, gossip, rumors, become the mortar blocks to build the wall between us and others. So, we move around others living a mostly superficial life where only a few, if any, are allowed past the living room into the kitchen of our lives.
Case in point. My sister-in-law knows me about as well as anyone. Next to my wife, she is one of the closest person in my life. Twice a week, or more, we spend thirty minutes to an hour on the phone going over much needed editing to my blogs and two novels I am working on. Something about reading and correcting someone’s writing, is you get to know them really well. Add this to thirty years of being married to her sister, and you really get to know someone. My sister-in-law, and my wife for that matter – and I would add my son and daughter, parents and siblings to this list, have every reason to not like me. Around them, my guard has been down often. I am vulnerable around them, and have permission to be. Why? Because I know I will never be rejected, or loved less. It’s funny; to have relationships that are so intimate because others have seen the ugly and rough stuff, and they still like me. That invites depth.
A NOBLE QUEST
I long to have more relationships like this in my life, and thankfully I have enjoyed some. I am on a quest for a way past the peripheral and what’s safe, and risk entry through another door that takes me past the foyer, through the living room into the kitchen where some deep stuff can be shared. (I read this to my wife and she suggested I should refer to the closet as a better metaphor. I told her that sounded weird, so we settled on the kitchen to make my point. Thank you though, Elaine.) In the meantime, I am trusting a few more people who I sense are accepting me for who I am, despite what they hear and see as they get to know me better. Or, I wonder is it because of what they see and hear, that they are going deeper with me? A couple local pastors and a college professor are becoming such friends. I also want to be an influence in others’ lives to see them go to new places in relationships. I have also experienced this depth with my adult son and daughter, who both have seen much of the ugly stuff and my life, and love me for who I am. It was a surprise to my son not many months ago, to find out that his father actually does struggle over some things.
I wonder, too, if we are like this with Jesus. Guarded, I mean. However, when I read the gospels he invites vulnerability. Jesus pierced the hard surfaces of people’s lives, peeled hard, and probed deep. Often it was painful. Nicodemus. Peter. Martha. The Pharisees. Thomas. Paul. Me. You. When Jesus peels the layer, he never recoils from what he sees. It encourages him deeper. I want to be like that. Like eating an apple, or an orange. Once the layer is removed, I want to love what I see, not discard the person, or distance myself from them.
Yes, relationships are like apples and oranges. Peel away the layer, and the best is what is inside. But, you have to be willing to give of yourself to do it. Do you have someone in mind you could begin with? The easy thing to say is, “Yes, I have it with Jesus,” but we need it in relationships. With members of his body. That is how we, “have it with Jesus,” by having it with members of his body. I don’t want to just be close to Jesus, I want to live close to Jesus by living really close with others.