Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
THE GREAT COMMANDMENTS: WHERE DO YOU STAND?
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27
Jesus said, “We must work the works of Him who sent Me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work.” John 9:4
Good morning Prayer Team!
We’ve probably all had the experience of pulling weeds from a garden in the heat of summer. Isn’t that a pleasant thought on the last day of January? Pulling weeds in the summer sun is not much fun. It’s not something we need to do every day, but it’s something that needs to be done on a regular basis to keep the garden looking good. If we miss a week or two, it means that we’ll have to spend more time pulling weeds. If we go a year without pulling weeds from a garden, the garden will be dead. It won’t matter how many weeds we’ve pulled.
Relationships are a lot like gardens. They require work. Some of that work is hard and stressful. Some is tedious. And some is joyful. There is no reward without work. So, when we do the work, the difficult work and the fun work, the interesting and the mundane, this is how we reap a reward for our work.
In a marriage, I encourage couples to “meet” periodically to discuss the state of their marriage. If meeting just the two of them proves difficult, I suggest going to a counselor, so that a neutral third-party can help the figure out how to iron out problems and have a smooth relationship. Of course, in a marriage, we are supposed to work at the relationship on a daily basis, and not just periodically. To keep a garden pristine, weeds need to be removed on a frequent basis. It is the same in a marriage. It is the same in our relationship with Christ and with one another.
In a relationship with Christ, this “meeting” can take place in the context of confession, where we are able to discuss with a priest how to grow in our relationship with Christ. But we seek to work on the relationship on a daily basis through prayer, and on a weekly basis through worship and listening to a sermon.
One of the mistakes people frequently make in relationships is that they forget to “work” on them. When a relationship starts, people make a concerted effort to talk, to feel out boundaries, to quickly apologize when something goes wrong. Think about your relationship with friends, with co-workers, in a job situation. When you have a new job, you come early, stay late and work hard. After a period of time, some people become complacent in their jobs—they start coming late and leaving early. The “work” to be your best slowly disappears.
People do the same thing in friendships—at the beginning there is great gusto and after a period of time, some of the intensity wanes, sometimes people take a relationship for granted, they stop working and this is when relationships either regresses or falls apart. It is important in all of our important relationships, in marriage, with close friends, in a job situation and most especially in our faith, that we “work” constantly to keep the relationship strong and healthy. This happens when we check in regularly/daily, when we meet periodically, and in times of crisis, bring in another party to help us with the “work.”
Work (from a spiritual perspective)—On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you rank yourself on the following questions: Do I regularly work on my spiritual life? Do I feel like I’m making strides in my spiritual life or just in a holding pattern? Have I been to confession in the past year?
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Write down the areas of your spiritual life that need improvement. Write down ways you can improve on these things.
Work (from a relationship perspective)—Do I work to better my relationships with people, to be a better friend, co-worker, etc.? Have I checked out of any important relationships, like a job, a friendship, a marriage?
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Write down some relationships that could use a little improvement and some ways to improve them. Go the extra mile in at least one relationship today.
Lord, thank You for the many people that are important in my life. (list them) Help me to be a better friend, a better co-worker, (and for those who are married, a better spouse). Bless my relationships with (list friends). Help repair my relationship with (list someone who you want to have a better relationship with). Give me the focus to keep working on all of my relationships, and most especially may I continually work on my relationship with You. Amen.
Go the extra mile in some relationship today!
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