The Edge of the Inside is a place where I offer thoughts on the intersection of life and faith in a “post-” everything world. Sometimes the thoughts are mine. Others are inspired by an appetite to read. Still others come in video clips, music videos or news stories that by implication mean something to the way of Jesus emerging in the context of a “brave new world.”
Often we identify ourselves by what we do. We may be better understood by our relationships.
Thirty-four years ago I held her hand during a movie in the school auditorium. A few weeks later we attended a Youth Valentine Banquet at my church. My mother later noted she saw Patty and thought, “What did Todd do to get her interested in him?” We did not refer to our girlfriends as “hottie’s” back then but the label sure would have fit. We experienced later adolescence together. Graduated from High School. We married my sophomore year in college. Next March we will celebrate 30 years of marriage. She is my best friend.
Everyone loves presents. Some are given just because. Others come at important moments. God gifted us with two girls. Both were graduation presents. Our oldest came two weeks before I graduated from college – now married living nearby and the mother of Cohen Alan. Our youngest arrived two weeks after I graduated from seminary the first time – now a new mother of Max Nolen. My friend Robert once quipped, “All great men have two girls.” I am not sure that would hold up but I can say the relationships I share with my daughters have made me a better person
Mentors take all shapes and sizes. We likely cannot say we have had just one. In fact, we are learning the reality of reverse-mentoring – those older learn from those younger. Rick entered our family’s life in 1986. We had been married a little more than three years and parents only six months when we moved to Dallas – the first time any distance of note from family. Nine months later we were invited to serve with Rick on staff as Associate Pastor/Youth Minister on a part-time, full-time basis. You know what that means, part-time pay and full-time work. Add in seminary and another part-time job and life was busy and hectic. We learned a great deal from Rick and his family. Relationships are valuable and complicated at the same time. We continue to share a great fondness for one another though hours apart.
We will celebrated 19 years at Snow Hill in July. I have pastored three churches, served on staff at one and volunteered at the church I grew up in. The people at Snow Hill mean more than the “job.” They took a chance on a young fellow who did not meet their “profile” criteria. Often people wonder why I continue to pastor and remain Southern Baptist. Aside from the “spiritual” answers often expected from a pastor, I confess the reason is the relationships. Anything may come to an end, but the reciprocal investments wherein we make one another better Jesus people is worth more than the size of a congregation and the salary offered.
We all have favorite teachers. Mr. Mott from High School. Dr. Soden from college. Dr. Gideon from seminary. Learning is a love, an adventure. A little more than ten years ago I responded to an invitation to learn with a small group of people. We would be privileged to engage the life, minds and experiences of “name” people – many I had read and others I had heard of. Spencer would become a great friend and a pastor to this pastor. Not long after our learning relationship began I was asked to direct the very project to which I had been invited to participate.
Parents go through phases. They are admired, feared, trusted, suspected and on and on. My parents continue to be some of my biggest supporters and encouraging friends.
I could go on and describe other relationships with Paul and Trent my two younger brothers, Mark my consultant friend, Greg my “can you get your mind around that” friend, Nathan my fellow staff person at Snow Hill, Jason my former fellow staff person at Snow Hill. Developing relationships around the Country. Quickly you get the picture painting my conviction. “About me” makes no sense without understanding relationships.