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JOE LAGUARDIA: Bible encourages us to put relationships on priority list

Joe LaGuardia

Joe LaGuardia

I have spent a lot of time in some amazing gardens this year, more time than ever before.

One of them was a large garden — Gibb’s Gardens up in Canton — and the others were gardens cared for by those who attend my church. At church, we have been working on a prayer garden of our own for our 30th anniversary as a congregation.

Each garden I visit, I have to remind myself to slow down, enjoy the view, smell the flowers, and appreciate the beauty and wonder of all that God has created.

The other day, I was visiting Fox McCarthy’s garden. You may know him as the man who ran a Japanese maple nursery in town. He must have upwards of 100 Japanese maple trees on his land right now, and for almost every one of them he stops and says, “Isn’t that the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?”

Before, I would have simply said, “It looks just like the last 99 trees I’ve seen,” but, now, I have learned (and the secret to enjoying a garden is to learn and listen!) to see every tree and every flower as unique and beautiful, a result of Mother Nature’s and God’s duet.

It was during this same trip that Fox and I were remembering some people who passed away this last year. His wife, one-time county commissioner Barbara McCarthy, and my father died within 8 months of each other. (This Saturday would have marked my parent’s 44-year wedding anniversary.)

We recalled the great things we shared with them, and we also recalled all of the people that we’ve met at the different funerals and memorials we attended.

Fox asked a question I won’t easily forget: “At these memorial services, you meet all of the people who were touched by the lives of the deceased. Why haven’t we met half of them before that day?”

In other words, why do we turn out in droves when someone dies and come together as a family only after someone leaves our presence on this earth?

I thought about this more, and I realized that the very same patience with which I enjoyed those gardens is the same patience I need in the relationships I have in my life.

My family should not have to wait for me to die in order for all of us to enjoy the company of good friends and family no matter how much distance separates us.

We need to put our relationships with others back on our top-priority list. If you’re like me, you’ve been working too hard and for too many hours to spend time with loved ones. You make excuses, and you let days or even years pass before you call a cousin or a friend with whom you needed to connect.

Ever since my father’s passing, I have made an intentional commitment to spend more time calling my cousins, siblings, and family or by writing letters to them every so often.

There is something special and intimate when you take time to write or call someone just because you are thinking about them. On holidays, such contact is expected; but, on ordinary days like today or tomorrow, it comes off as a real blessing.

As Fox and I stood in the midst of those uniquely, well-adorned Japanese maples, I realized that I stand in the midst of people whom I have failed to keep in touch with. I have failed to encourage people and remind them of their unique beauty in the Lord too.

The poetic, Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes encourages readers to enjoy one another and let tomorrow worry about itself for “two are better than one … for if they fall, one will lift up the other” (4:9, 10).

As we enjoy all that spring and summer affords us, let us foster the friendships and family relationships that have long been torn asunder by time, distance and seasons of separation.

The Rev. Joe LaGuardia is the senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, 301 Honey Creek Road, Conyers. Email him at trinityassociate@bellsouth.net or visit www.trinityconyers.org.