Relationship Labs

My life has taken an unanticipated turn, and I’m happy about it. I’ve become, of all things, a people collector. In my previous life Cyndi and I had across-the-street neighbors, Frank and Carolyn, who as card-carrying people collectors, would never let me sneak from driveway to front door before they hollered out, “Hey Berry, how are you?” I would try to dash past, the same way I try to run into Office Depot or Walmart without the greeters saying “Hi,” but F&C were too true to their nature to let a mere introvert get the best of them. Sometimes they even walked halfway across the street to get my attention.

What made me think about all that was hearing Diana Krall sing these lyrics through my computer this afternoon: “Faithful friends, who are dear to us, draw near to us once more” (courtesy of Pandora’s Christmas Music station).

cracker barrel breakfastAnd just this morning I drew near to a dozen faithful friends for breakfast. We call our Cracker Barrel meals Relationship Labs, pretending that by calling it a lab we are doing something more constructive than eating and making fun of each other for an hour.

It’s a real-life application of Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds … encouraging one another.” In his book, Strengthening Your Grip, Charles Swindoll wrote: “We are to think about ways to stir up each other so that the result is a deeper love for one another and a greater involvement in doing good things for one another.”

The author of Hebrews did us a favor by beginning his admonition with the phrase “and let us consider how;” he left the details up to us. It’s our job to take care of each other. And not casually - but we’re supposed to consider the issue - think about what to do, and evaluate, and do it.

It took me over forty years to understand that I couldn’t change the world as a hermit. I spent too many years running away from people. They made me uncomfortable and I just didn’t want to bother being sociable. I was content to stay in my cave and read and write, coming out only occasionally to teach a class before retreating back inside. But one day it occurred to me that hermits have very little impact on the people around them regardless of writing skills or teaching insights. People’s lives are changed when they let someone live close to them, and I couldn’t be an agent of change unless I become one of those who got close.

And in fact, I’m giving myself too much credit. I wasn’t smart enough to figure this out on my own. I had several highly social friends who wouldn’t leave me alone. Such as Frank and Carolyn, that I already mentioned, and Mark, who wouldn’t let me eat lunch by myself, or Paul, who wouldn’t let me sneak off and pack boxes by myself, or even Darrell, who made me start publishing.

Well, leave it to a writer to over-intellectualize a simple breakfast with friends. Maybe I should just leave it alone – as in, sometimes food is just food.

But the fact is, my life is richer and deeper than it was a few years ago, and these guys are a big part of the reason for the change. Hanging with them is always fun, always strengthening, and always encouraging. I’m blessed to have so many quality men close to my life sharing the trail.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

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