The depth and maturity of long-term relationships

We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. (1 Thessalonians 2:8)
On September 20th, 1998, a new family arrived at NewLife. They were the Fearons, consisting of a father, Brian; a mother, Laurie; and four children in tow: Arlene, Sarah, Mary, and Brian. Arlene was in high school, and everyone else was in elementary school or younger. I was the youth pastor of NewLife at the time, and Arlene soon became a part of the youth group I was leading. Eventually Sarah joined as well. The first wedding I ever officiated was Arlene’s wedding to Gordon Hood, another youth group graduate. And this past Saturday, June 25th, I had the privilege of officiating Sarah’s wedding to Joel Yudt.
I don’t know much about being a pastor, and I fall short of my goals more often that I succeed. But one thing I know is that I love being part of people’s lives a long time. I love the heart-level trust and familial intimacy that develops over years of hospital visits, family parties, men’s group revelations, lunches shared, weddings, and funerals. And by God’s grace, He has allowed me to be a part of the lives of families like the Fearons for going on 24 years.
We live in a world that is becoming more transient by the day. People change jobs, churches, and sometimes even spouses with much greater frequency than in the past. Everyone has their reasons, and there is often much to be gained by a change of scenery or a fresh perspective. Nevertheless, there is also something about staying in relationships long-term that can be very maturing. Making the choice to work through hard times, learning to speak the truth in love, and making yourself vulnerable to the correction of people who know you are all used by God to sanctify us in a way that leaving when the going gets tough never can.
I thank God for the Fearon family, and I thank God for His mercy and grace that has allowed me to be a part of NewLife in one way or another since 1998. I pray that God might also give you the relational depth and spiritual maturity that can come through long-term relationships.      

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