WORD FROM THE PASTOR: Relationship Maintenance

Our most important, expensive possessions require periodic maintenance.

Our cars, for instance, need regular oil changes.  We also need periodically to change the transmission fluid, to have the cooling system flushed, to rotate the tires.  Failing to perform such maintenance can cause the vehicle to fail and can shorten its life. 

It’s easy to neglect such routine maintenance–but we do so at our peril!  “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” the old saying declares.  When we value something, we want to take care of it, so that we can continue enjoying it in the future.

It’s easy to neglect maintenance on things...but it’s even easier to forget that our relationships need maintenance, too.  On the day I’m writing this, the “Wayside Preacher” (the signboard in front of the church) declares: “The best things in life aren’t things.”  The most precious things we have are not cars and houses...the most precious things are relationships.  And just as we care for our autos and our homes, so also we want to keep the relationships in our lives fresh and new.

Taking those relationships for granted is like going 10,000 miles between oil changes–we take a great risk that damage is going to be done!

The difference between maintaining a piece of property and maintaining a relationship is that you can hire someone to maintain your vehicle or your house.  But maintaining a relationship demands your time, your attention.  You can’t drop your spouse or child or friend off at a shop for a relationship fix!  You’ve got to do it yourself.  (That’s probably why it’s so easy to neglect!)

How do we maintain our relationships?   Ultimately, by spending time with the people God has placed in our lives.  By going to dinner together.  (And may I put in a plug for our adult fellowship Valentine’s Dinner on Feb. 12?)  By going to church together (old cliche, but very true: The family that prays together stays together).  By being available to listen to one another.

I once attended a marriage enrichment weekend at which at each participant was supposed to spend half an hour walking around the grounds to look for a symbolic gift to give their spouse.  (I think I ended up picking up a rock to symbolize faithfulness).  Then the group gathered again for the spouses to give their gifts to one another.  The most moving moment came when a lady took off her watch and handed it to her husband.  “My gift to you,” she said, “is time. I’m going to take more time to show that I love you.”

Now that’s relationship maintenance!

Up to now I’ve been talking about relationships with family and friends.  But there’s another relationship in our lives that requires maintenance–the biggest, most important relationship of all, the one that undergirds all our other relationships.  And that’s our relationship with God.  That relationship needs maintenance, too.

And certainly He maintains it on His side.  Every day He sustains my life, every day He loves me, every day He forgives my sins for Jesus’ sake.  Every day His Holy Spirit lives in my heart to keep my faith alive.  And ultimately, God gave me more than just His time to keep my relationship with Him alive–He gave His very self on the Holy Cross, His own blood.  God is the master of relationship maintenance.

And on my side of the relationship?  I want to give God my time, my attention.  I want to spend time in His presence.  I want to hear His Word, receive the Sacrament that keeps my faith strong.

I can hire someone to change my oil or clean my chimney.  But I can’t hire someone to strengthen my relationship with God.  I need to give Him my own time, my own attention.

The blessed season of Lent is a great opportunity for that.  Lent is a call to more frequent and more fervent prayer, a call to spend more time with God.  A call, in other words, to relationship maintenance!  The Wednesday services we offer at 4 and 7:30 p.m. give us the chance to come into God’s presence in His holy house.  The devotional booklets the church distributes help us to spend private time with the Lord.  We don’t want our relationship with God to grow distant, fragile, frayed–we want to keep it strong!  And Lent is a time for doing maintenance on that relationship! 

There’s a similarity between Lent and Valentine’s Day–a similarity that goes beyond the fact that they both come in February.  Valentine’s Day reminds us: Don’t take your relationships for granted!  And Lent reminds us: Don’t take the central, key relationship of your life for granted!

So February is a month for relationship maintenance.  Remember:  Maintain a car and it will last you for many years.  Maintain a relationship...and it will last you a lifetime (and beyond!).

God loves you and so do I!