relationships


I’m sitting in Liquid Planet this Valentine’s morning. Love is in the air. To my left is a family of four. To my right are three couples at various stages. Off to the left the man and woman hardly notice each other. They have two young girls and it seems like Dad is on a triple date. His enamor seems to be focused more on his 3 year-old than his lady. She smiles and coos at the other, younger daughter and tosses her gently in the air.

To my right is a young couple who haven’t stopped groping each other since I started writing this post. The couple straight in front of me look like they are on their first date – she’s all pimped out. They sit far from one another talking casually over croissants. He’s trying to get her to laugh. They might be on a business meeting for all I can tell. The third couple is older. They sit close. They say little. They are comfortable in one another’s silence.

The groping couple get up, give one another a playful hug and then walk out briskly only to return suddenly because she forgot her purse. He looks annoyed. The family of four heads out too – though much more slowly – cleaning up joyfully after the girls and smiling at one another. They are content to bask in each other’s company and enjoy the mess.

Four couples and four different phases of love. I can’t help but think about how all relationships (and community in general) morph over time and go through different stages. Love is organic – it eats, it sleeps, it gets excited, grows and changes. Love is patient for sure, but you also have to be patient with love. Love changes with time – most say it gets better as you get to know each other’s flaws and eccentricities. A married friend told me yesterday about her ex-boyfriend who called her up at age 43 wondering if he should settle down. “Is there still romance after you’ve been married for a while?” “What did he mean by ‘romance’?” I asked. “S-E-X” she said. “What did he mean by ‘sex’?” I inquired further. “Hot and sloppy or scheduled and real?” She laughs in understanding.

It seems to me that real relationships are the ones that stand the test of time – that can handle change. This is true community on the macro level. Can the community stand the tests of time? Can it handle change? Can it embrace and even appreciate the eccentricities and flaws of its members? This is what the Missoula Project is all about. We believe that real community only happens over time. Like a marriage, community needs commitment, hard work and sacrifice to be successful. It’s going to take time to learn one another’s flaws and eccentricities and even more time to learn to appreciate them.

Then I reflect on my own family life. I’m always in a hurry. I always have something else on my mind – something that needs my attention, something urgent. I realize how little I’m home. When I am home my mind is thinking about something else. I am easily annoyed by my wife and my kids. Is life passing me by? I rarely stop to appreciate the mess. I don’t stop to appreciate the flaws and eccentricities of those who tolerate mine. Instead I only get annoyed that these things keep me from comfort, my agenda and the “urgent” matter that is on my mind. I’m as much of a product of this fast-paced, instant gratification culture as anyone else. What is to become of my kids?

The older couple to my immediate right seems to have stood the test of time. As they get up to leave he helps her with his coat and then lets her pass in front of him gently touching the small of her back with his hand. There is a comfort between them as they stroll off together. A comfort that comes with years of sacrifice, hard work and commitment. In an instant gratification culture, they have learned that the true payoff comes with time.

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I can’t believe my little baby boy turned 1 on Friday. It’s been a great year. Click here to see some photos of his first year.

Rachel and I just got back today from our summer vacation. This is only the second real vacation we have taken as a family (in 2005 Rachel, Bridger and I spent a week in Nova Scotia) and it is the first vacation where I actually felt like I got some R & R and didn’t feel more tired when it was over than when it started–this to me is the mark of a great vacation. Here’s what we did…

  • Day 1: Woke at 5 AM – hurried to load the kids and our stuff in the car en route to Brookings, SD. We pulled in to Rachel’s parent’s driveway at midnight (total miles driven: 1030 – OUCH!).
  • Days 2-4: Hung out and relaxed with Rachel’s family – several extended family members drove from various places to see us.
  • Day 5: Woke at 6 AM and drove to Sioux Falls (50 miles) to catch an 8:30 plane to Philly. Landed in Philly (900 airmiles) around 1 PM and hung out with friends in the city until about 9 PM before rushing out to the suburbs so I could play pickup basketball with the guys I used to play with – was a great game!
  • Days 6-10: Stayed around Glenside hanging out with various friends, attended Westminster’s graduation, placed 4th in the 3rd annual Moser Birthday Settlers Bash, and found a much needed respite at New Life PCA on Sunday morning. We didn’t realize how spiritually malnourished we’ve been until we were at New Life. After church, we drove down to the Jersey shore to spend a few days relaxing on the beach with our good friends, Amy & David (total miles: 100).
  • Days 10-11: Hung out, drank beer, and went to the beach with David & Amy. Perhaps the highlight of day 10 was sitting around my laptop after the kids were in bed watching clips of “New Zealand’s fourth most popular folk parody” called Flight of the Conchords. This first one is my personal favorite (and Amy’s) called Business Time and the second clip is also quite funny called Think about, Think, Think about it (BTW…for our Philly friends, these guys are playing a show there on June 12th). These clips are from an HBO show they did in 2006. (We ended the day by packing everything up and driving back to Philly (total miles: 100).
  • Day 12: Woke up at 5 AM again and caught an early flight back to Sioux Falls (total airmiles: 900). We made it back around 1 PM – just in time to catch a lunch with our good friends, Steve and Charissa Van Roekel. Steve is currently pastoring a church out in the middle of nowhere in Chancellor, South Dakota. Then we drove back to Brookings (total miles: 50).
  • Days 13-16: These were some of the best days of the whole trip. We lounged around Grandma & Grandpa’s house while they took care of the kids. We caught up on some reading – saw Pirates of the Caribbean III (sorry Cryder’s, but we weren’t impressed with this one either) as well as Shrek the 3rd (also not the greatest, but Bridger liked it).
  • Day 17: We hopped back in the car and drove from Brookings, SD to Billings where we decided to call it a day by staying in a hotel where we could all relax and have fun in the pool (though Bridger would not leave the safety of the third step). Nonetheless it was very relaxing except at bedtime when we realized that our room was right beside the pool door which banged shut every 5 minutes until 11:00 pm and then woke us up at 3:30 am. Miraculously the kids slept through it (total miles: 700)!
  • Day 18: Got out of bed around 6:30 and after packing up, trying to get a discount on our room since we didn’t exactly sleep well, and throwing down a pretty decent continental breakfast, we hopped back in the car and continued our westward bearing. After a 15 minute stop in Bozeman to say hi to my sister (and one unscheduled stop beside the road to show Bridger that I would indeed pull the car over) we arrived home in Missoula. The grass in the backyard was tall, some new flowers were in full bloom, but for the most part everything was exactly as we had left it. Home sweet home (total miles: 345).

It was a great vacation. We saw so many great friends and made some new memories. We realized that we can still drive long distances without killing the kids (though we came close a few times towards the end). The first thing we did when we got back to Missoula was buy Bridger a new car seat since he has pretty much worn his old one out. We logged around 4500 miles total including the flights. If you want to see some pictures of the trip – check out Rachel’s blog (Suther Land). I’m sure she’ll be posting some pics there soon.

Rachel and I had an interesting discussion last week. She pointed out to me that I often say things that sound like I am making a long-term commitment when I’m really only voicing something I desire to happen in my life. This has made it difficult for her to trust some of the things I say. Here’s an example of a recent statement I made,

with you as my witness, I’m going to lose enough weight to fit comfortably into the pants we bought last spring.

What Rachel heard was that I was going to begin maliciously beating my body in order to fit in to those pants by the end of February. When she saw me eating out or coming home with ice cream, she questioned my commitment to my diet. Of course I had no idea what she was talking about because in my mind, I had made no such commitment to a diet. Instead, what I meant when I made the original statement was that I would like to fit into those pants sometime before next spring!

All this to say, thank goodness for my wife who knows me well enough to notice such things. The truth of the matter is that I do make such statements out of a desire to assure her just enough to keep her from nagging at me when deep down I have no desire to put in the work necessary to actually make such a change in my life. I want to give the appearance that I am making a change without actually taking the steps to make such a change. This makes think about what Jesus said in Matthew 5:37:

Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.