I love watching the classic Christmas movies like Apocalypse Now, Blade Runner and Saw III, but as uplifting and full of merriment as those are, I think my favorite has to be It’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart. I know, I’m a big wuss. I can’t help it. I just love that movie and even though I have seen it a couple dozen times, I still get a little emotional watching it. I love it when Clarence the angel says, “You see George, you really have had a wonderful life”. George Baily ends up being the richest man in town, not because of money or possessions, that of course would be Mr. Potter. George Baily was the richest man in town because of friendships.
On July 18, I had a party at my house celebrating my years at YS, kind of a reunion of everybody I had worked with over the years. It was a fantastic evening and I was overwhelmed with the love and affection shown by so many friends. That night, and the weeks leading up to it with calls and emails, I was reminded that I am a rich man. I was reminded that I have been blessed with meaningful relationships, with lots of good friends. I am so thankful for the people God has placed in my life. Yes I am one rich dude!
It’s funny, most of us say relationships matter but live much of our lives like they don’t. We spend way too much time “being productive”, “planning”, “strategizing” , “reaching goals”, trying to build our own little kingdoms, scrambling for power, position, wealth, recognition, whatever. We just get caught up. In the end, that stuff just doesn’t really matter as much as we think it does. It’s fool’s gold. I am not saying what we do does not matter, of course it does. I want to do everything with excellence, I want to give my best to my job or calling, I’m just saying often we give too much and we pay a price for that. We KNOW what Jesus says about loving our neighbor. We KNOW, amazingly enough, that Jesus calls us his friends. We KNOW relationships matter to God, yet somehow we get sidetracked and focus on other things.
During the past election we kept hearing the phrase “it’s the economy, stupid” to remind us what some people thought was the only real issue in the election, the only thing worth paying attention to and talking about. Maybe we need to start saying “It’s people, stupid”. People are what matter….pay attention.
One of the unexpected benefits of losing my job at YS, is that I have been so powerfully reminded of just how rich I am. How blessed I am with friends. But I am also aware that I was forgetting that. As I look at my last few years at YS, I am aware of how I was letting relationships go fallow. I was not giving my relationships at YS (and other places) the attention they deserved . I was too “on task” . I was trying to “get things done”. I was spending way too much time in front of my computer and not enough time face to face with the people I cared about. Work was drowning out friendships and if I am honest with myself, I was not as happy, not as fulfilled …I was getting too caught up. In the rear-view mirror I see it a little more clearly.
I guess what I am realizing in a new way, is just how easy it is to take relationships for granted, assuming they will just happen. I’m amazed at how easily I can focus instead on the fool’s gold. If friendships truly make us wealthy, and I believe they do, I want to get rich, filthy rich, obscenely rich. This is the kind of prosperity gospel I can get behind.
PS I will be backpacking and joyfully away from my computer till August 23