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Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Social Character


October is Pastor Appreciation Month. Do something special for your minister this week.
Ministers are notably social characters. Today we welcome Pastor Rob Stevenson as our guest blogger on Inkwell Inspirations. Rob is the pastor of Acts 2 Church in Virginia Beach. He is also a former Navy entomologist, middle school science teacher, and aspiring young adult fiction author. He has some great advice to offer on the subject of maintaining healthy relationships that pertain to ministers, churches, and just about every aspect of our lives.
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A social character requires a relationship in his or her life. It's mandatory for this person. Being alone is not an option. Who do you know that fits that description? You? Sure, but every human in the world should fit that description as well.

"Social" from the Merriam Webster Dictionary says- 1: inclined by nature to companionship with others of the same species. 2 a: inclined to seek or enjoy companionship b: marked by or conducive to friendliness or pleasant social relations.

We want to have companionship. I think our human souls strive for that social interaction. As a sixth grader I desired it. She was sitting towards the back, with her friends. Quiet. Coy. Almost shy. She was beautiful! I was a nobody to her, but somehow I would not be deterred. I was in love. I pursued her, and I wooed her, and finally after some change on my part, I won her heart. Seven years later we were married. Thirty-nine years later, I look back with wonder. It was the best decision I could have made regarding a personal and intimate relationship. But love seems so illusive for so many. My love came in like a windstorm, a hurricane, a heart-rendering tornado; and it lasted. That is the surprising thing.
It wasn't surprising then because I was young and naive. My older friends and parents told me I would get over it. They called it "puppy love", inferring it wouldn't last (though loving a puppy is really a powerful kind of love when you think about it). Well, I didn't think I would get over it, and I didn't and I haven't. Bev didn't either. What caused that? Friends come and go. Marriages come and go. Even relatives will separate and go their own ways. However, cycles of social interaction continue. The very people who run away from one relationship, will just as quickly run into another. A conundrum erupts out of this cycle. We can't live with certain relationships, and we can't live without them.

I believe, if we could stand it, sticking with a given relationship would yield unbelievably tremendous benefits. It did for Bev and I. These benefits have tumbled into the next generation with our children. It matters not what kind of relationship. It could be in a marriage, a friendship, or any type of social connection in a church.
So then, let's assume a healthy relationship between two relatively healthy people exists. How do you maintain it? These three factors helped Bev and I in our marriage, and in fostering friendships-----
1) Be selfless. Giving of yourself will always strengthen a relationship, and you. If you wait, and hold back some, expecting to get back what you are putting in, to receive some dividend from your efforts; well, true selflessness doesn’t work that way. You are looking for a payback. You are investing time and energy, and looking for some profit. That is a great business proposition, but for relationship building it stinks. Ideally of course, with two friends both giving, then the dividends will come. The blessings will skyrocket into the heavenlies. Two-fold blessings will result from your giving and also from your receiving. In a worse-case scenario though, you have a one-way blessing, your giving, because it is blessed to give. That is what you have to keep in mind, and go at it full blast, no hesitation, no caution, no misgivings. Just a giving of self that is totally abandoned. You give up control and claim over yourself in favor of giving to a friend. Bev and I were arguing with one another one day (sure we argue, see # 2 below).
“Who do you think is giving the most in this marriage?” I asked her, knowing the answer that would justly make my point.
“Me,” she answered, “You don’t think you do more than me, do you?”
Well, actually, yes, I did think that very thing. It seemed obvious to me. However, I realized that was not the case. What I thought and what she thought were totally opposite. We felt we were both giving that 110% that is expected in marriages. Neither of us thought the other was doing more. It became a matter of perspective. Basically, you just have to give, and give some more. It will make a great difference for you.
2) Forgive. Bev and I have a plaque in our kitchen that says, “A good marriage is made up of two good forgivers.” Let’s remember the premise of these pointers assumes that we are in relationship with a relatively healthy person. We are assuming that we are also relatively healthy. That word “relatively” is a bit tricky. I think we can substantiate that no one is perfect, which drives home the point that some imperfections do exist in us all. In other words, some not-so-healthy parts of our person are present and accounted for. Eventually, we will discover them. That’s when the forgiveness needs to kick in. That flippant exchange of words, that rolling of the eyes over something said, that intended or unintended offense. You have to forgive it. Maybe you need to talk it out. Maybe it is better just shaking it off. Either way, forgive it. If you can forget it, then do that, too.
3) Never give up. Never give up. Never give up. Everything we live for revolves around relationships. In a word: love. We want to love someone, and we want someone to love us. In his book Soul Cravings, Erwin Raphael McManus writes, "It seems humiliating to say it, but we need to be loved. I need to be loved. I feel like I just walked into a twelve-step program. 'Hi, I'm Erwin. I'm a loveaholic.' If you try to ignore it, if you think that you can live your life without love, you're in even worse shape than the person who's desperate to find it. To give up on love is to choose a life that is less than human. To give up on love is to give up on life."
Yes, you are a social character, and the love you experience takes many forms. Be selfless in it. Forgive for it. Never give it up.
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What keys have you discovered for maintaining healthy relationships? Do you apply them to your relationships in church and with your minister? What could be the lasting positive effects of sticking with an imperfect church full of imperfect people?
Today in honor of our theme, I would like to give away a copy of Lady of Milkweed Manor, the story of a young Vicar’s daughter who faces tremendous heartache, but discovers the true meaning of selfless love. Please leave a comment with your email address and include spaces or brackets around the @ for your protection. Remember that every time you enter, you will also be entered in our grand prize drawing at the end of October. Have I mentioned that you’re really going to want to be entered in the grand prize drawing?

22 comments:

  1. My pastor is an Inky writer... That is great :)
    As usual deep insights Rob. Relationships and belongings are deep needs for people. They keep us secure and define who we are. Tell me who your friends are and I can tell who you are.
    Looking forward to reading your bug adventure book Rob.
    God Bless,
    Dani

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  2. Thank you, Rob, for pulling back the pastor robes and revealing a social heart! Love the "Two Forgivers" saying, which echos our Lord's words...something about seventy times seven???!!

    Thanks, Dina, for the post!
    Patti

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  3. Thank you for such a great post, Pastor Rob. And thank you for visiting with us today. I love the story of how you met your wife. Very sweet. And I love the two forgivers idea. So true!

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  4. Excellent advice, Pastor Rob. Very balanced. Cindy

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  5. Just wanted to send a shout out and big thanks to Pastor Rob. He is as warm and transparent in person as he is in his blog. The topic of relationships is one of the key focuses and strengths at Acts 2 Church, so I was very pleased that he chose to write about this subject and bless us with his insights.

    Dina

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  6. Hi Pastor Rob,
    Thanks for sharing with us. I love the fact that you were "a former Navy entomologist." That just conjures up all kind of story ideas I hope you might be writing for young adults.:) Boys and bugs, what fun! Girls and bugs might be even better! And what does a Navy entomologist do, exactly?

    I've been married 28 years and one of the things that's worked best for us is allowing each other to follow our dreams and laugh as often as possible.

    Never give up is right! At church I think it's important to set boundries so that you don't get drained of energy. Especially important for those of us that counsel and minister to others.

    Have a great day!

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  7. Do you all know that on Wikipedia it says,"In Arthur Conan Doyle's story, The Hound of the Baskervilles, the villain is a naturalist who collects butterflies, making him an "evil" entomologist."

    Can you see the writer wheels spinning? I just can't help myself. The Hound of the Baskervilles is one of my favorite stories.

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  8. Thanks for the post Pastor Rob and Dina/Dani for sharing him with us.
    I loved your story of 'true love' and the idea of navy entomology also. In fact it's really bugging me, trying to figure out what you might have done.

    okay, well, back to the point. We need to forgive our pastors for sometimes slipping off the pedestal they didn't ask to be on. That's not a very good sentence I suppose but hey. I'm just so sad to see them taken to task for being human.

    no. I have to ask. How did you use your entomology degree in the navy?

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  9. Thanks for sharing with us today, Pastor Rob! I love the "two good forgivers" saying.

    I recently learned that the clergy divorce rate is almost equal to that of the general population, which saddened me. Thank you for sharing how you make your marriage a priority. In doing so, you aren't only honoring the Lord, your spouse, and your family. You're setting an example for your congregation and the world. God bless you and your wife!

    Thanks again, and yep, I'm curious about the bug thing too.

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  10. Rob's probably still hard at work at his other job as a middle school science teacher, and oh yes, he uses bugs in the classroom.

    Should I tell you all what a navy entolmologist does or can you wait a few hours? After eight years of Rob's sermons, I think I've got it figured out.

    He did a great guest lecture for my kids homeschool class once about bugs and taught them all kinds of nasty and amazing stuff. My children still talk about it. Not many men would be brave enough to explain to third graders how bugs are used in homocide investigations :)

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  11. I am imagining the pandemonium of introducing bugs in a classroom setting and trying to explain how they are used in homocide investigations. He is alot more brave than I am. Got a chuckle just imagining it.

    I think the key thing to any healthy relationship is communication. We you communicate clearly and concisely it helps you to limit the confusion and hurt feelings that happen in any relationship.

    Thanks for another wonderful post.

    cherierj(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  12. Great post. Please enter me. Blessings

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  13. April, could you please leave an email address with spaces or brackets around the @ to protect the address so that I can enter you in the drawing.

    Dina

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  14. Hi Debra. I linked here from Jessica's site where there is the discussion of the male ego! I liked your comment and linked over.

    I appreciate Pastor Rob's article here. He is discussing some of the things I try to do at Family Fountain. This is some very practical and beneficial advice to maintain a relationship. Thanks for running this.

    wb

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  15. Thank you, Pastor Rob! I love the plaque in your kitchen :+} Without forgiveness, we're all kind of up the creek, aren't we?

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  16. "A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers" -- Bev pointed out to me that I had paraphrased it not-so-accurately.

    You don't know what a Navy entomologist does? Don't let it bug you. Haha. I use that all the time. Okay, in the Navy I worked with medically important insects, the kind that spread disease (malaria, encephalitis, dengue, Lyme disease, plague, sleeping sickness, Rock Mt. Spotted Fever, and so on). I always joked that our "bread and butter" was cockroach control on ships. If things got slow, to a ship you could always go. About 20years ago, before CSI was born, I did ID some maggots on a dead Marine reservist in Calif. to find out how long he had been dead. Oh, I have quite a few stories that would make you fidget.

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  17. Good stuff. Great practical advice that everyone should keep mind. We can't go through life without knowing how to deal with relationships.

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  18. Okay, followed my gut instinct and found April's email on the Mary Connealy post. I'm adding it here for my records and to make her official.

    tarenn98[at]yahoo[dot]com

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  19. Pastor Rob, thanks for telling us what a navy entemologist does. I meant to ask this morning, but was running late for work. I've been waiting all day for the answer. I worked at a navy hospital for 9 years, but we didn't have any entemologists there. I think it would have been interesting in a gross kind of way.

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  20. rob @ acts2church.org will work for me

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  21. The winner of Lady of Milkweed Manor was Mark Stevenson on behalf of his lovely wife Rebecca.

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