Last week three men arrived at our home to install a new wood stove. They worked for another man that paid them a salary, of course. I had paid their boss $890 as a deposit on the work and materials. These are all transactions. But what about the men? Do I relate to them as objects or subjects? Do I seek to build “I-it” relationships or “I Thou” relationships?
These three men and I were, apparently, together at my home only for the purpose of completing a transaction. (Do you believe that? Are you certain of that? Isn’t it possible that there is a larger purpose? Do you ever think about why certain people cross your path?)
If our relationships are only transactional, they might not give a royal crap about me as a person; but I would not care! Once they have correctly installed my wood stove, it is possible I would consider it of no consequence if they and their children were to spend eternity in hell. And they might not care that I felt that way. (What do you think about those last two sentences? I am trying to get you to think about what kind of relationships you have with people you just happen to meet along the way.)
Despite the importance of getting quality work from these guys, or maybe partially motivated by that desire, I hung around with them for a while and learned a few things about them; and vice versa. I acted as if I cared, because I do!
They encountered a problem. They couldn’t complete the installation without adding a component that could only be made by a skilled woodworker. “Ah ha!”, they think. “Ken said he does stuff like that.” I do! I complete the project and save hundreds of dollars. And, one of the guys comes into my workshop to see what I am up to. We end up talking about bartering and being good neighbors. He goes home with one of my most unique hand-made cutting boards. I picked up 2 1/2 dozen duck eggs and 2 dozen chicken eggs at his homestead last evening. Two of the duck eggs are currently an ingredient in the four loaves of bread about to come out of my oven. Two of those loaves will go home with the other two guys who at this moment are finishing the installation of our wood stove. It is highly unlikely that I will ever see them again.
What’s next? Who knows? I do know, people are not merely transactions. I never know, before the fact, what God intends. I do know that God is always operating on and around my life. Most of the time I am paying attention. I am always open to the possibility that I will invest more in people than makes sense in a transactional world.
How is that going for you?