Thursday, August 22, 2019

Life Is a Collaborative Effort

The older I get, the more convinced I become that we can’t get to where we want to be alone. When we’re in school, teachers help us not only to learn but also encourage us. The best teachers have the discernment to point students in the right direction, in terms of their interests and abilities.

In the workplace, even the most talented individuals must rely on others for help in reaching their goals and objectives. The person who believes, “I got to where I am all by myself,” is self-deluded. Even the one who has reached the top of the corporate ladder still needed someone to build the ladder, and others to hold the ladder while he or she was climbing.

Right now I’m wrapping up work on a book project that I’ve been involved with for more than two years. The writing is finished, but before finalizing the manuscript for publication, we have several sets of eyes on it to proofread and edit. As the adage goes, a writer is his own worst editor. So it’s necessary for others to spot the annoying typos, misspellings, and grammatical and punctuation errors I’ve overlooked. The writer sees what is supposed to be there; the good editor sees what is there and recognizes when changes and corrections are needed.

This applies for any endeavor in life. We just had a badly clogged kitchen sink, and two plumbers came to our rescue to fix the problem. This was not a case of one working and the other watching. They worked collaboratively to locate the pesky clog and get rid of it. It took them together about an hour. One person working alone could have taken all day, and might not have been able to remove the clog at all.

One of my favorite passages in the Bible related to this is Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. I’ve mentioned it in previous posts, but it’s always good to review. It says: 
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Consider parenting and raising a family. Single parents do courageous, incredible jobs, but caring for and nurturing children, along with earning an income and operating a household, is so much easier when both a husband and wife – a mother and father – are present to share in the joys, struggles, decision-making, and daily responsibilities.

It's been this way since the beginning. When God created Eve, it was after He had observed Adam and understood his need for companionship and partnership. So the Lord declared, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). Who knows? Adam might have had a faithful dog to keep him company first, but that was clearly not enough. The first man needed another human to collaborate with him on the adventure we all know as “everyday life.”

The spiritual life also is intended as a collaboration. We each should seek to spend time every day alone with God, in prayer, reading and studying the Scriptures, and meditating on Him and His truth. But as Proverbs 27:17 tells us, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” When I consider what this says, I visualize two pieces of metal clashing against each other, at times generating sparks. The result is not to cause damage, but to hone and sharpen for more effectiveness.

I’m so thankful for the many people the Lord has brought into my life to sharpen me, not only personally and professionally, but also spiritually. I still need people like that. We never outgrow our need for “sharpeners,” and I actively look for people to engage with on a regular basis, trusting that as they are sharpening me, I’m also being used by God to sharpen them. 

We live in an age when more and more people are becoming isolated, even alienated from society. They have replaced genuine relationships with social media “friends” and connections. For them, video games and the Internet have assumed the role activities like tennis, golf, fishing, playing cards, board games, and just casual conversation historically have had in the lives of most of us. They lack someone to look them in the eyes, who cares enough to build them up when they’re feeling down and also to challenge or rebuke them when the need arises. And it always does – for all of us. 

Yes, we can exist without healthy connections with others. But why would we want to do so? Your computer can’t give you a warm hug when you need it; or make eye contact and recognize when you need someone to talk to, laugh with, cry with or pray with. Life is best lived in collaboration with others. As God declared when time began, it is not good to be alone.

Who do you have in your life that is helping to sharpen you? Are you available to be used to sharpen others in their own journey? If there is no one there right now, are you willing to pray and ask the Lord to send someone your way?

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