The Beauty of Agenda-Free Relationships

As I reflect back to when the COVID-19 crisis started, it saddens me to realize that the crisis did NOT have a profound impact on my relationships. “Missional Moments” are short, weekly updates sent out during the year by Faculty Commons. As we finish up the academic year, here’s an outstanding recent example by Professor John Chen. If you’d like to begin receiving Missional Moments, you can do so here.

As I reflect back to when the COVID-19 crisis started, it saddens me to realize that the crisis did NOT have a profound impact on my relationships. 

Yes, it impacted the group gatherings I enjoyed. 

I felt intensely the loss of meetings with my church, my small group, the faculty luncheons, and my classroom. 

But that’s not what I am talking about.  

 

Being isolated at home made me acutely aware that my personal relationships are more arms-length than I cared to admit. 

This realization hit me like a lightning bolt.

In the normal course of my life, I video-conference with my co-authors since almost all of them are at other universities.  And I even sometimes video-conference with the co-author sitting two doors down from me. My interactions with most of my acquaintances are largely through texts and emails.  

The COVID-19 crisis had no impact on those relationships.

Yet, Hebrews 10:24-25 admonishes us:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

As the crisis worsened, I noticed something interesting taking shape in me. 

I wondered when was the last time that I had an agenda-free time with someone? 

To just be with them, to fellowship, to minister or be ministered to? 

So I asked God to reveal to me which people to call to say “How are you?”

I tried to forget my pre-crisis protocol of “when would be a good time to connect, three weeks from now at 2:43 for five minutes? Glad we could work it out.”

Now, I am going old-school and just picking up the phone and calling. 

As I write this, I just got off the phone with a friend.  Before we hung up, we both remarked what a deep, rich time we had. I had in my mind maybe a fifteen-minute call. It turned into nearly an hour and a half.

Why in the world did I wait so long to re-connect? 

COVID-19 has provided me the wonderful opportunity to reverse this trend of  “impersonal text preferred, call only if necessary, and avoid meeting in person at all costs.” I’m trusting God that I can be fully present with people, beginning with my family, but also my colleagues, my students, my friends, and extending to those on the fringe of my social circle. 

So why not think of at least three people with whom you rarely interact but know in (or outside) the academy and just call them?

If you feel the need to text or email first, that is OK. In our current situation, they are almost certainly at home, probably free, and, at least with everyone I have called, eager to hear another’s voice given our unprecedented circumstances.

While it took a crisis to awaken me, I pray for transformation towards a new normal where I replace agenda-driven interactions with Spirit-directed conversations to touch another with the love of God.

Dr. John Chen (Management, Warrington College of Business, University of Florida)

 

 

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Faculty Commons: Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.
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