Every year as I turn another year older, I make it a habit to write a considered reflection on some part of my life (See here, here, and here. (If you are confused by the dates, I exported blogs in from a previous place so the last one is obviously not posted in my birthday month)). This annual ritual is an opportunity for me to take stock of what has transpired over the last year and to either consider what how I want to change a year from now, or what lessons I want to glean from my past experience. It’s a useful, if not boring, tradition.
This year, as I pondered my birthday blog, I was reflecting on the veracity of a lesson that a good, wise friend once shared with me, and which I have since shared with others. In my field of marketing its important to recognize the costs associated with every action. My friend taught me that the same is true in relationships. Every action is either a deposit or a withdrawal, and its important to make sure that we have a “positive balance” in our relationships. Otherwise, our relationships will get strained and there will be a “deficit” that we incur. (Not to mention some possible overdraft charges. 🙂 ) We need to consider the state of our relationships, just like we consider the state of our finances, and make decisions about how we are going to expend our resources accordingly.
While this has been a helpful lesson, I have discovered that it is perhaps, incomplete. Because unlike a bank account, when you make a deposit in a relationship, there is little guarantee that it will be protected and secured. Relationships instead, may function more like your retirement plan. You make deposits and hope that future interests and returns will reveal that it was a sound investment. However, just as many are discovering with their dwindling 401(k) plans, this investment may end up in disappointment. The investments we make in relationships, as with our retirement, are in anticipation of the future, and the future is often anything but clear.
Yet, in learning this lesson, I have also determined, that we should make the deposits anyway. Sure, it may be that we are disappointed with how certain investments turn out. Maybe we pour our life into a friend only to have them betray us. Maybe we invest in a stranger, only to find that our efforts were rebuffed. But just like any financial planner would tell you that the current market fluctuations shouldn’t deter you from planning for your future, a few unmaterialized relationship investments, shouldn’t mean that we abandon what we’ve been called to do. For Christians, our degree of investment is clear. We should be willing to lay down our life for our friends (John 15:31) and go out of our way to care for a stranger (Luke 10:25-31). And while we may not reap the rewards of this investment immediately, we do have a guaranteed return in Heaven where we can look forward to our Father commending and rewarding us for how we cared for others on Earth. (Matt. 25:34-36).
Investments in retirement plans and investment in relationships are good, sound decisions. However, we need to make these decisions knowing that the immediate outcome is uncertain. Yet from eternity’s perspective, the investment that counts, the investment we make in others, is secured.