Stacked Relationships

My wife and I just returned from an amazing weekend in Kansas City for the last Village Gathering of the year. What is a village gathering? Good question. It's a small gathering of kingdom-minded people who are all learning to walk together in Jesus. That description is so vague it does not do it justice, but then again words fail when talking about Jesus. Anyways, on to the point of this post, stacked relationships. What does that mean? What does that look like? How do I stack my own relationships? I can only give you my thoughts based on experience, so you should definitely take my words with a grain of salt and just pray about what I'm saying. See if God speaks to you more about this on your own time.

What does this mean?

Driving through Kansas, on our way home, we listened to Ben Pasley talking about concentric circles of relationships. (Do yourself a favor and subscribe to his podcast.)

But what I want to focus on here is what we currently believe to be true about relationships; which is they are all flat and one-dimensional. Social networks like like Facebook and Twitter have misled us to believe that we should share everything with everyone and shouldn't leave anybody out. The current mindset is this; "I need to increase my followers/friends because that means I am important and everyone should listen to what I have to say." I know, because I've been there. But this is just nonsense. The more followers/friend you have does not equate to you being more than you already are. You, alone, are awesome. You, alone, are most valued. We need to learn how take back the relational grounds in our life and give them proper order.

What does this look like?

I think Kansas, in all its vast plains of nothingness, is actually the perfect analogy here to help us get a mental image about "flat" relationships. Like Kansas, flat relationships have no depth and no real order. Everyone is on the same basic level. In this environment you can look out and find those you've known for over 10 years on the same plain as those you've known for only about 10 minutes. That doesn't seem to make sense, because you wouldn't say things to a person you just met as you would to a trusted friend of over 10 years. Well, at least you should be guarding your heart from sharing too much information with acquaintances. That's a hard lesson I've learned. The flat land also leaves you open and vulnerable to attacks. There is nowhere to run and hide. The only option would be to go underground.

So if Kansas is the perfect analogy for "flat" relationships, then I would have to say that Colorado, in all its many splendor, makes the perfect analogy for "stacked" relationships. And by "stacked" I am talking about giving proper order to those people in your life. Yes, proper order will involve excluding people from certain "stacks" in your life. But do not be afraid, this is the best way to protect yourself and those you love. Just like a mountain provides caves and crevices to take shelter in, so too does giving proper order to your relationships. But not only will it provide protection, it will also free you up to really invest in those you most care about and love. Remember those toys we played with as kids, the one where you had to stack the circles from largest to smallest? This is the perfect image for what I'm talking about.

circle stacking toy

As you can see from the image, the widest circle goes on the bottom and then you have the smallest circle on top. So too is it in the realm of properly ordered relationships.

How do I stack my own relationships?

This is where you have to roll up your sleeves, dust off your heart and take a really good look at it. You have to be willing to be shockingly honest about people and where they fit into your life. Here is a really practical approach to properly placing people in your life:

1. Write your name (and spouse, if applicable) down in the center of a piece of paper. This is the most "holy of holies" when it comes to relationships. Protect this space at all cost. Then draw a circle around that.

2. Write the names down of people you most trust around that inner circle. This can include, but not limited to, friends, family and pastors. These are people you trust with your heart. These are people you make time for even if you don't have any time to spare. These are the people who you love. Now draw another circle around all these people.

3. Write the names down of people you would call friend. Maybe these are people you like to spend time with on occasion. People you would make plans with to grab a beer, a coffee or dinner. These might be brand new relationships with folks you feel a connection with, or people you've known for a while but don't get much time together with. But you know that your relationship with these people are pretty much surface level. You don't give or expect to get the depth of your journey from these relationships, and that's okay because you've already identified those above. Draw another circles around these people.

4. This is the outer atmosphere. In my life, these are people I know online or may have met once or twice in person. These are people I like to talk with on occasion but our relationship doesn't hold any real weight. It doesn't mean I'm not happy or excited to talk with them, but simply means I don't trust them with the weighty things in my life. I don't open up to them about my personal life and I sure as hell don't trust them to protect me when the storms come. These people are more commonly referred to as acquaintances.

In closing

These are broad brush strokes when it comes to the intricate details of our relationships. And while we may never fully understand how to live together in harmony, there is simply no excuse not to try. I think that's why Hebrews 12:14 tells us to "make every effort to live in peace". I am certain we will mess up. I am certain we will both hurt others and get hurt in the art of building relationships. But we have a secret weapon. Grace! Give it freely.