Summary: Longevity in relationships leads to learning, and as followers of Christ, we are to be learners (disciples)

Thirty Years and Still Learning

TCF Sermon

August 10, 2008

We’re in a season of weddings – have you noticed? Several of our young people have tied the knot in the last year, and some in recent weeks, – and at least two of our, shall we say, older ones, too. And there are still more weddings to come in the coming weeks and months. Having attended many of these weddings, I can’t help but think of my own wedding vows.

Barb and I will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary this month – August 22 to be precise, and what a tremendous 30 years it has been. So many great memories. Thirty years ago, in Kennedy Chapel at ORU, Barb and I stood before Paul King, who performed our wedding, and vowed to stick with one another until death parts us.

I know there are many others here who have been married much longer than us, including Jim and Barb Garrett, who will celebrate their 59th anniversary, just a few days before we mark our 30th – on August 20.

I guess this morning is what you could call one of those milestone messages. That means there won’t be the exegeting of scripture as you might expect, though I believe that my thoughts this morning are biblically based. And this is more of a message on relationships than it is specifically about marriage, so those of you who are younger, or those of you who aren’t married, don’t immediately turn off your attention and think this doesn’t apply to you.

I’m big on milestones. I often think back over the years when I pass an important milestone. My girls often tease me about how, on their birthdays, I’ll tell them, well, this many years ago right now, here’s what we were doing.

I’m big on milestones because I know I need to reflect on things. That’s one way I learn. When I reflect on things, I better internalize the things I’ve learned along the way, and it helps me to remember them more effectively. When I mark milestones, it also reminds me to be thankful for how far I’ve come, and for how much God has been gracious and faithful to me.

There’s something about 30 years of marriage, or 30 years of almost any kind of relationship, that’s especially meaningful. Not particularly because it’s specifically 30 years, but because it represents a longer period of time.

Think about the many relationships you have in your life. Certainly, we can and do have very meaningful relationships with people we’ve only known a shorter period of time. But there are also some things that sometimes result from our relationships at least in part because of the longevity of those relationships. There are things we remember, things we learn, things we experience, that are closely tied not just to the quality of the relationship, but to the quantity of time that relationship spans.

In fact, I think the quality of a relationship can often, not always, but often, be directly tied to the quantity of time of that relationship. I think it’s false reasoning to try to use quality time as an excuse for the lack of quantity time in certain relationships.

Let me give you an example. You may have heard people say something like, “well, I don’t have a lot of time with my children, but the time I have is quality time.” Hogwash. Mule fritters. Cow cookies. You cannot schedule quality.

Quality time happens in the midst of quantity time. It only happens naturally when we’re together a lot – you can’t turn it on and off.

We need time together for relationships to grow, to develop, to be nurtured. Now, certainly there are activities and circumstances which enhance the quality, and maybe even the quantity, of time together more than other activities. I like to call those things microwave relationships.

It reminds me of the old Stephen Wright line. He says, I bought a microwave fireplace, now, I can spend an evening in front of the fireplace in just five minutes.

Relationship building is microwaved when you’re together on a mission or a project, living in a dorm, in a difficult situation, or some shared experience. That’s why BASIC does its Road Kill Weekend many years – same reason for the ski trip – to jump-start and enhance the relationship building which is such a key component of a successful youth group.

Put a bunch of people together in a vehicle for many hours together, and you’re going to build relationships. Or, you’re going to want to kill each other. But the point is, time is non-negotiable in relationships. It’s a critical component to the continuing health and growth of a good relationship.

So, again, the quality of a relationship can often be directly tied to the quantity of time of that relationship. Yet, of course, that’s not always a guarantee of a good relationship, either. There are a few inherent pitfalls in long-term relationships – if not inherent, then at least they are risks.

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