In my last article I wrote about “Pastoring and Leading”. My goal in that article was to bring some perspective on who and where we invest our time and resources. This article is a “part 2” in respects to dealing with people. I would like to give some attention on understanding the times and seasons that people will be in our lives. As we begin I would like to point out these principles not only apply to the people we lead, but also to those who have led us.
Facebook…what an amazing social tool! The ability to communicate and share life together is a great example of present day life. It has revolutionized organizations and given a new ability to connect with friends new and old. This would include the ability to find people from your past and to follow their present day life. As I have reconnected with people from high school and early days of ministry, there have been a lot of memories flooding back, some good and some bad.
In recent months I have been pondering past relationships, and I’ve recognized different categories of people in my life. It has really brought a few things into perspective. Some people were brought into my life at the appropriate time when I needed them the most. Others have been in my life where I have seen God use me to encourage them during difficult seasons. Then there are some that I just wish our relationship hadn’t grown so distant. In all of my pondering I’ve realized there have been three different seasons of people in my life.
It’s important to recognize these seasons for several reasons. Most importantly is if you do not recognize the season and people in that season, you will find moving forward is very difficult. Why? You will keep hanging on to the past instead of forging into the future. In the remainder of this article I would like to define these three seasons of relationships. I’m confident you will recognize these seasons in your life and relate to the defining of these seasons.
People for a Moment
In the mid-80’s I was in middle school and for about the third time I had to attend summer school. Summer school was designed for those who did not do well enough during the school year to advance. So, if you successfully completed summer school you could advance to your next grade level. This particular year there were a lot of fights and some chaos happening regularly. Regretfully I was in the middle of some of those events. Our school had a Resource Officer (school police) on campus. He was a young guy who related well with young people. Often he would come to me and ask me if I knew of anything brewing (such as fights) that he should be concerned about. As every young and troubled young person would do, I arrogantly would reply, “I’m not a snitch!”
One afternoon he called me into his office and had a very straight talk. He challenged me about the direction I was allowing my life to go. He told me I was better than that and that I should avoid the type of relationships that would bring me down the path of destruction. Well, something clicked, and I realized in that office I wanted something better for my life.
I couldn’t tell you his name to save my life, and I’ve never seen him since that summer. However, the impact he had on my life in that moment brought real change. As I pondered this event in my life I thought of other moments that I had brief encounters with people, an encounter that touched me personally or encounters that God has allowed me to touch others.
We can find a similar type of impact in Acts chapter 9. Saul was sent to Damascus, and he was to wait for God’s man to come and minister to him. In verses 11-12 God is instructing Ananias to be the one to minister to Saul. However, in verse 13 Ananias pleads with God and attempts to inform Him of how bad of a man Saul is. In verse 15-16 you will see that God spells out the plan that God has for Saul, and Ananias obeys.
Then we see the encounter that Ananias has with Saul in only two verses (17-18).
Acts 9:17-18 (NKJV)
17 And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.
We never hear about Ananias again. However, his impact on Saul’s life was the launching point of all that Paul the Apostle would do for the Kingdom of God. His encounter with Ananias was only for a moment, but it bared eternal fruit.
People for a Season
Most of us can immediately recognize people who were placed in our lives for only a season: school teachers, athletic coaches, childhood friends or work companions. These people have come into our lives for only a specific period of time.
As I am writing this I am thankful for several people that were in my life for a season. Some of them were for several years. Others were for only a few months. One in particular was the head coach of my high school basketball team, Coach Leonard Banks. I not only had him as a coach but also as a teacher. His positive attitude and encouraging spirit were just what I needed during that season in my life. He was a man that viewed his profession not as a job but a calling. He pushed us to be better and to dream bigger!
Although he was always an encourager, he also had a strong fatherly presence about him. The fatherly spirit about him would often bring a voice of authority and direction for our lives. I will never forget sitting in his office and sharing with him a life altering decision I made. I could see the disappointment and concern on his face. He looked straight at me and said, “Bill I’m not going to talk to you as a student. I’m going to challenge you as a man.” He continued to share his faith in Jesus and challenged me to reconsider the direction of my life. I pondered that conversation for days. I can honestly say my life once again took a positive and life-changing direction because of his influence. A few years later he gave me an opportunity to serve as a volunteer assistant coach on his coaching staff. I was assigned to work with freshman basketball players. I later served at two other schools coaching basketball. In 2000 I was honored to be part of a coaching staff that made it all the way to the final four in our state. Guess who was watching as we were in the playoffs…Coach Banks! He wasn’t necessarily there for me, but he made a point to come and see me after the game and tell me how proud he was that we made it that far. I remember thinking to myself that I never would have had the desire to coach this game and mentor young men if it was not for his season in my life.
After 24 years we live in two different countries. We are friends on Facebook but very rarely communicate in person. However, Coach Leonard Banks will forever have an impact on my life and be one of the many heroes I look up to.
A good biblical reference to people that is called to your life for a season is Paul and Barnabas. Although their time together was limited, there was not only an impact on their own lives, but also in the lives of others. You can see part of this in Acts 11 when Christians were first called Christians in Antioch.
People for Life
This next category of people will probably be limited to only a few people in our lives. This category of people also includes family members, that is a given. However, I want to focus on those people outside of your immediate family. I am confident that there are people in our lives that God has called for our entire journey called “Life”. They are people that, regardless of geographical location and new directions you might take together, are in a deep level of covenant. You will always do life together!
There are several people I can recognize that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt we are to do life together. Some are the people who really influence me. Others are people we have committed to become their greatest cheerleader. Some of the ones who have impacted me and are still an active part of my life include youth pastors, pastors, and leaders which I know God has assigned to be our counselors and confidants. However, there is also another couple that has forever impacted not only my wife and our children, but also myself.
Mr. and Mrs. Tom and Janet Murphy are the parents of my childhood best friends, Mike and Bryan. To this day I still call them Mr. and Mrs. Murphy, even after their request to be called by their first name. The lessons they have taught me over the years have been invaluable. Much of my parenting has been gleaned from their example. Mr. Murphy was and is a shining example of integrity, and Mrs. Murphy is one of the greatest examples of an encourager I’ve ever known.
To this day we maintain a solid relationship with them. They are a priority visit for us when we are close to their home in Florida. They are truly parental figures in my life. I can honestly say I have no idea where I would be without them.
I’m sure after reading these categories of relationships you have recognized these people in your lives. If you are like me you might find yourself wondering or even regretting that the relationship is not what it once was. However, I hope you can recognize what I recently recognized. Regardless of what season people are in your life, or how long they are in your life, the impact can be great for you and them. We have had to learn to let go and trust God. If we try to hold on to people who were supposed to be in our lives for only a moment or a season, we will never progress to all that God has called us to be. We will continually be holding on to the past. We also need to realize there are those who have been called to a life long journey. You have been assigned to them and they to you. Where would life be without one another?
It’s my genuine prayer that this article clarifies the roles that people play in your life. It is my prayer that you will recognize the role you have to play in others lives not only in the past but also in the days to come.