Is anybody else tired of the headlines? Is anyone else frustrated with the powers that be, whether it be in Washington or in the NFL or well, wherever?
Some years back, Alan Loy McGinniss wrote a book entitled “The Friendship Factor.” In that book McGinniss described the last days of Howard Hughes, the reclusive billionaire who spent his last years hiding from cameras, paranoid about everyone, including his own staff, and moving from penthouse suite to penthouse suite in one luxury hotel after another, all because of his suspicious nature. McGinniss concludes his discussion about Hughes by making the observation that the world-renowned billionaire loved things, and used people. As much as Hughes is admired for his technological genius, the way in which his life ended, alone in a sterile hotel suite, demonstrates that his RQ (relational quotient) was very low. His “friendship factor” indeed was very weak.
One of the major issues facing America today – and it really does not matter what the subject line says, the issue is the same – is that we have become a nation of Howards Hughes personalities, with very low RQs. In fact, relationships are not important at all if we get what we want when we want it. It could be dealing with the gadgets and gizmos available on Black Friday, or surviving hurricanes and storms any other time of the year, or issues such as patriotism, politics and professional football.
Almost without exception, if we are honest with ourselves, we tend to love things and use people. McGinniss’ conclusion to that matter is that our goals should be just the opposite: Rather than loving things and using people, as Howard Hughes did for most of his life, we should use things and love people.
And loving people deals with relationships. Relationships with others – yes, but even more importantly a relationship, vibrant and growing, with the God who created each one of us. The truth of the Christian life – yes, even life itself – is that God wants more than the work of your hands. He wants the warmth of your heart. He wants your sacrificial action. But He also wants your sincere affection. He wants a relationship – with you.
I am reminded of the story about the dad who used to read to his little girl each and every night her bedtime story. You know the situation. He would read the same story each night and would every so often attempt to skip a page or two, but his little girl would catch him and would make him go back to read the pages he missed.
One day he came up with the bright idea of using a tape recorder. He could carefully and creatively read the story into the recorder and then every evening instead of his reading to her live and in person, she could just sit in her bed and turn on the recorder and play the story before bedtime. And he could relax and read the evening newspaper. So that is exactly what he did. And that evening he gave the recorder to his daughter and showed her how to turn it on and off. He then sat in his favorite recliner, took off his shoes and began to relax with the evening newspaper in front of him. He had not been sitting there for three minutes before he heard the patter of little footsteps coming to his chair and stopping in front of him. As he lowered the paper he saw his daughter standing there with a sad, pouting look on her face.
“What’s the matter, honey? Doesn’t the tape work?” he asked her.
“Oh, Daddy, the tape works fine, but I need a bedtime story with skin on.” She wanted more than cold prerecorded words; she wanted a warm heart as well. Thankfully, the Dad saw the light, put down his paper and read the story to his daughter.
Oftentimes, we look at the Christian life, especially if you are an individual who the world looks at and admires, and you think of your relationship with God as an add-on, something that you will give priority and attention to if you have time. But if the truth were really known (look in your checkbook, Day-Timer, or phone calendar app), God really doesn’t have much of your heart at all. You just never get around to making time for Him. At other times, many of us don’t really want to give God the time of day because we know that He will want us to change – habits, activities, relationships, etc. – and we simply don’t think we will be able to do that on our own. We would rather attempt to streamline our relationship with God, like the Dad attempted to streamline his bedtime story reading with his daughter.
What you and I discover, though, is that a relationship with God cannot be short-circuited. There are no shortcuts or fast routes to Him. He wants a relationship with you – and He wants your whole heart, not just a pre-recorded message.
May I challenge and encourage each of us with the words of the Apostle Paul: “So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him.” (2 Corinthians 5:9)? And when we please Him, we will demonstrate the love of Christ is powerful to those around us and to the world we live in.
Jesus said it best when He said, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:34-35)
God wants us to show His love, no matter where, with skin on.
God bless …
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Times-Gazette and the News Journal. He is also the former pastor of Port William UMC.