The Importance of Relationships

The Importance of Relationships

The Importance of Relationships
Early on in Scripture we get a hint of what God’s design for creation is: It’s all about relationships. Genesis 2:18 tells us that God made Eve for Adam because, The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Christ himself sums up the entire meaning of the Old Testament with the implores to “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” The bottom line is: We need one another. The truth of this statement is made crystal clear when we lose someone we love. Martha and Leonard Vaughan know all too well about loss.
Martha and Leonard are long time members of Bethel and before they married each other, they were both married, and both of their spouses passed away. Martha was married to a gentleman named Robert for 31 years. One of the worst days of Martha’s life happened on December 27th, 1990. She was 48 years old, she was at work and Robert was at home working in their back yard. Robert was supposed to meet their son later in the day, but Robert never showed up. So their son became concerned and called Martha. Martha called their next door neighbor and they went and checked on him and found Robert lying in the backyard. He died of a massive heart attack. Without warning and without being able to say goodbye, Martha was alone.
 
Leonard’s first wife was, believe it or not, also named Martha. They were married for 34 years before she passed away from a horrible disease called Primary Pulmonary Hypertension. She was 60 years old when she passed. When she was first diagnosed, the doctors told her she had 2 to 5 years to live, she lived just a year and a half.
 
Leonard said when he first learned of his wife’s disease he became angry. He was angry at the situation and angry at the Lord for what his wife was going through. They were nearing retirement and all of their hopes and dreams for retirement began to die. They wanted to travel but found that it became too cumbersome because of the amount of oxygen they’d have to take with them. Over the next year and a half, life was a series of losses and setbacks until finally Martha passed away. Leonard was now alone.
 
Martha and Leonard’s experience with loneliness was different for each of them. Leonard continued to be angry with the Lord. I asked him how he got through that and he said, “I went through a time that I was searching for a lot of different things. Ultimately it was being with family and friends that helped me the most.” There it is again, the importance of relationships.
Martha told me that one of the most difficult things she experienced with her loneliness was going to church by herself. All of a sudden it wasn’t “Martha and Robert,” it was just “Martha.”
 
One might think that the church would have been the best place for her to go, but Martha noticed that people didn’t approach her; perhaps they didn’t know what to say. So she sat alone and she felt alone. She visited several churches and she said that, “You don’t know anyone and you’re really hoping someone would come over and welcome you, or offer to sit by you, but it didn’t happen.” Martha tried two or three churches and she always felt alone. Somehow she made her own way and got to know people because she made the effort. It shouldn’t be that way.
 
What can we take away from Martha and Leonard’s story? Their story shows us that loss comes to us in a variety of ways. For Martha, loss hit her unexpectedly, like a kick to the stomach. For Leonard, there was a series of smaller losses that led to the enormous loss of his wife. In the end, both of them found themselves alone.
 
Here’s where the church can help. If God’s design for us is relationships, then let’s go out of our way to reach out to those who may be alone in our church, in our work places, and neighborhoods. Martha searched for a church that would reach out to her and she wanted someone to take the initiative. Throughout scripture we see that God is a seeking God. God makes an effort and God takes initiative.
 
Let’s get out of our comfort zones, let’s take the initiative to build, nurture and invest in relationships. Let’s offer others the gift of a caring heart and a listening ear. I believe listening is one of highest forms of loving.
 
Second, when we face loss, let’s try to live patiently, prayerfully and in hopeful expectation that God is a good God and God can birth new relationships in our lives. Martha spent almost 10 years as a single person before she met Leonard. During that time Martha made numerous friends.
 
I asked Martha what she learned from this experience and she said, “God has to get you where he wants you. I had to depend on the Lord. It was up to the Lord if He was going to send someone to me. He eventually sent me Leonard but along the way he sent me some wonderful ladies who were going through the same thing I was going through and we’d go out to together and go on trips together. The Lord puts people in your path that you wouldn’t have known otherwise.”
 
The Lord did eventually bring Martha and Leonard together. You may be curious as to how that happened. Leonard’s first wife worked with a lady named Bessie. Bessie also knew Martha and knew of her loss. One Palm Sunday in April, Bessie called Martha and asked her if it would be all right if she gave Martha’s number to Leonard. Martha said that was fine.
 
Martha learned that Leonard was a patient man. He took his sweet time calling as he waited until November to call! Once he called they arranged a date. On one of their early dates Leonard walked Martha to the door and he said, “I have to kiss you.”
 
Martha said, “ You have to kiss me?”
 
He said, “Well, I want to kiss you.”
 
Martha’s reply was priceless. She said, “That’s fine but understand that I haven’t kissed anyone in 9 years!”
 
To which Leonard said, “I thought you dated?”
 
Martha said, “I did, but I didn’t want to kiss any of them!”
 
There was now laughter and companionship in their lives. Martha and Leonard waited patiently and lived hopefully and God blessed them with each other. Thanks be to God. God is good. All the time God is good. May God bless Martha and Leonard Vaughan and may God continue to bless Bethel Church. I write this with love and blessings for each of you. Thank you for reading and thank you for allowing me the blessing of being your pastor.
 
Todd

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