"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil." Ephesians 5:15-16
This verse could well be the theme verse for our series: "The Disciplined Woman ." It's not a verse, however, that we might initially connect with Habit #3: "She focuses on right relational priorities for every season."
Relationships. A highly important topic to us as women, is it not? We are, by nature, relational creatures. We thrive on interaction with others and wither apart from it. Our world is often centered on our family and friends. The people in our lives usually consume a majority of our time and thoughts.
Yet, we are often more passive and receptive than we are intentional and purposeful in our relationships. We may allow people to drift in and out of our lives. We don't usually pause to consider our motives for developing a certain friendship or neglecting another. Emotions and feelings sometimes play far too significant a role in why and how we go about relationships.
Scripture would call us to "look carefully then how you walk" and whom we walk with! We must prayerfully consider our relational priorities in the light of God's priorities. Do our relationships -- the people we choose to interact with, the time we spend, the content of our interactions -- bring glory to God?
Over the years, I have used a simple exercise to help me evaluate my own relationships. Approximately twice a year I set aside time for planning and evaluation (we'll talk more about this when we hit habit #4). Among many other topics, I consider my relationships.
It's pretty straightforward really. I make a list of all the people in my life at present. Beginning with my husband, I list all the members of my family. After family, I write out the names of the people in my small group at church, followed by other friendships, both local and out of town. Finally, I consider and list those people who I am seeking to reach out to for the purpose of evangelism.
When I've finished my relational catalog, I begin by thanking God for the many people who are such a blessing in my life. I don't deserve family and friends like this! But thanking God for the blessing of relationships is only the first step.
Carefully Considering Your List
So you've got your "Relationship List" in hand. Are you ready to proceed with our little exercise?
After we've thanked God for the blessing of family and friends we are ready to evaluate our relationships in light of Scripture.
First of all, let's consider the following two questions:
Is there anyone not on this list who should be?
For example, if we're not cultivating evangelistic relationships (Col. 4:5-6 ), or seeking to encourage younger women ( Titus 2:3), or reaching out to new people ( Heb. 13:2), then God would have us make such relationships a priority.
Is there anyone on this list who should not be?
If, for instance, someone is an ungodly influence, we need to graciously sever that friendship ( 1 Cor. 15:33). Or if there are an excessive number of friends on our list ( Prov. 18:24), then maybe we need to consider focusing our attention on fewer godly relationships.
Priority relationships shouldn't primarily be based on whom we "click with" or enjoy hanging out with the most, or even those who "need" us the most. Rather, our relationships should spring primarily from a desire to grow in godliness, encourage godliness in others, and share the gospel with the lost.
So, after we have the priority people on our list, let's evaluate these relationships a little more closely by considering two more questions:
Does our involvement and investment with each person reflect the priority this relationship should be at present?
Does our relational network indicate that we place the highest value on friendships in the church? ( Gal 6:10)
Do our relational priorities reveal a lifestyle of evangelism? ( Col. 4:5-6)
What specific, practical changes do we need to make in our relationships so that we are involved with and investing in the right people for the right amount of time?
Finally, let me encourage you to show this list to your husband (where applicable) or another godly woman. Let's not assume we can figure this out on our own! And if you are a mother of a teenage girl, carve out some time to take her through this exercise.
Evaluating my relationships on a regular basis, in accordance with God's Word, has never failed to yield insight. I usually become aware of specific changes that reap God-glorifying results as I put them in place.
I pray God will bless you as you seek to bring honor to Him -- not only in the way that you walk, but also with whom you walk!
For a more in-depth read on this topic, check out the Mahaney's newest book: Shopping for Time: How to Do It All and NOT be Overwhelmed (Crossway, 2007)
This article was adapted from "Girl Talk" - a blog kept by Carolyn and her three daughters for women in all seasons of life.
Carolyn Mahaney is a wife, mother, homemaker, and the author of Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother , Girl Talk: Mother-Daughter Conversations on Biblical Womanhood and Shopping for Time: How To Do It All and Not Be Overwhelmed (written with her daughters) due out in July. During her more than 30 years as a pastor's wife, Carolyn has spoken to women in many churches and conferences, including those of Sovereign Grace Ministries, which her husband, C.J., leads. C.J. and Carolyn have three married daughters and one fourteen-year-old son, Chad.
Nicole Whitacre is the oldest daughter of C.J. and Carolyn Mahaney, as well as a wife, mother, and homemaker. She assisted her mother with Feminine Appeal, and is the co-author of Girl Talk . Nicole and her husband Steve--who is a youth pastor at Sovereign Grace Church--have one son Jack, 4 and a newborn daughter Tori.
Kristin Chesemore and her husband Brian are the busy parents of three boys. Andrew is seven, Liam is four, and Owen is three. In the little spare time she does have, Kristin supports Brian in his role as a pastor in Family Life Ministries at Covenant Life Church.
Janelle Bradshaw has been married to her husband Mike for four years and they have a beautiful daughter Caly, 1. Mike serves as a pastor in Children's Ministry at Covenant Life Church.