Defining the Relationship

As I write this we’re in London with some of our closest friends, heading to a board meeting where our husbands will work, and the wives will continue to play. We pray for them and drink tea.  Or wine.  It’s an arrangement I’m partial to.  


Anyway, I wrote this post (below) a week or so ago and as I read back over it this morning before hitting “publish”, I think it is true, and hopefully helpful, but like most things, it’s certainly not the whole story.

We are blessed beyond belief with the relationships God has given us.  If they are healthy, they ebb and flow.  We weep together in one season and laugh together in another.  Sometimes those seasons are one and the same.  We give and take, rant and chatter and share vulnerably.  We listen, and pray.  A lot.  We gather around a table or show up to help each other move or we write a note. We are all resourceful, important, trainable, nice, draining people…and somehow in the midst of doing life together we are changed.  We are iron sharpening iron and I am so grateful that God has given us all to each other.

It seems like there’s been a recurring theme in a bunch of my conversations lately.  It’s the DTR theme, and I don’t mean in the dating sense of the word.

John likes to tease that “Life would be great if it weren’t for all the people.”  Most of us are in a plethora ( 🙂 like that word??) of relationships without a plethora of time to devote to all of them.

Sometimes it’s helpful to reflect and Define The Relationships in your life.  Gordon MacDonald wrote years ago about five kinds of people that affect spiritual energy (in his book, Renewing Your Spiritual Passion).  These have been really helpful to me in auditing my time commitment choices.  Here’s what he lays out:

1. VRP – Very Resourceful People.  People who IGNITE our passion: These people always make a positive contribution to our world. They are our role models or mentors.  We look to them for wisdom. We gain energy from their courage and maturity. They are clearly an addition to who we are and what we are doing.

2. VIP – Very important people.  People who SHARE our passion: This is our home-team.  We are bundled together for a purpose and together we stimulate each other for better outcomes.  We recognize that we’re better together.

3. VTP – Very Trainable People.  People who CATCH our passion: These are very trainable people who catch our passion – like those we may mentor. Although this requires energy on our part, we are glad to invest because we sense the possibilities in them. 

4. VNP – Very Nice People.  People who ENJOY our passion: These are very nice people who come in large numbers and it’s nice to have them around. They clap, laugh and build our egos. But they do not add to our passion, nor do they seriously diminish it. They simply enjoy it.

5. VDP – Very Draining People.  People who SAP our passion: These are very draining people who consume our passion relentlessly.  We’re going to have these folks in our lives, but they require us to make some hard choices about boundaries. 

It may seem mercenary to categorize people like this, but it’s a real dynamic we need to pay attention to if we are to serve effectively.  Studies show that in five years we will become like the people we spend the most time with. None of these are an indictment on the value of others, just an honest assessment of the way they impact our energy and our character.  

So as you look at your relationships is there a good balance of learning, collaborating, and investing?  A balance of energizing relationships to balance out the draining ones? 

4 thoughts on “Defining the Relationship

  1. Hi Laura,

    Our mutual friend, Jane Peterson, introduced me to your blog and I have become a subscriber. I enjoy it very much.

    Of course we have met, as my husband Richard was a pastor at CPC before your time, and we were at Hope Pres. for 12 years before moving to Zurich. I think we were both too busy with our churches and families to be able to have the time to cross paths in Minneapolis. I was so pleased you and John settled in so well at CPC, as it was a wonderful time in our lives having young children grow up at that church. Our whole family, even our kids, have feelings of fondness towards the people of CPC. Roger Anderson was a great encourager to us as a young family starting out in ministry. We are forever grateful for his friendship. I feel so many of our friends of the heart are also your friends of the heart. The connection among Christians is deep and wide, a smaller world than I ever imagined.

    I really appreciated your words from Gordon MacDonald. A great reminder of the balance we must have as pastors and wives. Spreading the gospel really is all about friendship and relationships, isn’t it?

    We are spending spring term in a little cottage at Westminster College, Cambridge. It is a remarkable sabbatical program with the reformed church. A break from the usual ministry. So, if you are planning a side trip to Cambridge, please let us know and we can show you around.

    We spent last weekend in London at HTB’s Leadership conference experiencing a profound time of renewal and encouragement. To sit in Royal Albert Hall, singing with 7,000 other leaders was a great blessing. We enjoyed all the speakers, especially Rick and Kay Warren, who were incredibly honest and authentic in speaking of their grief of the past year. We have much gratitude for all the experiences and relationships we have had doing this crazy church/work life. I don’t think we could have ever imagined in our early 20’s what this life would bring to us.

    I will continue to keep in touch with your life by reading your blog and listening to your wisdom.

    Kind Regards, Susan Davis

    12, 2014,


    • So great to hear from you Susan! I love the way God weaves our lives together! Yesterday I connected with my best friend from college who just happened to be in London at the same time as we were. What a crazy world we live in – so, so grateful for the opportunities.

      I would love to get together with you to hear more about your life and swap some “Roger stories”!! Unfortunately I’m with the World Vision board so tied to the group. We’ll be in Oxford tomorrow but don’t think I can get to Cambridge. Your sabbatical sounds amazing!!
      Blessings, Laura


      • Hi Laura,
        We just returned from a YL conference in Barcelona. I hope your time in the UK is wonderful. Maybe we can catch up sometime in Minneapolis. Just in case, if you are traveling anywhere near Milan, we live in Lugano, one hour north. You are very welcome to stay with us anytime.
        P.S. We were in Oxford last weekend. We keep missing you!


      • How blessed we are to have such full lives! I trust we WILL be in the same place at the same time one day! Thank you for your gracious invitation and be sure to let me know if you’re going to be in MN!


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