This little graphic was from the UCC Stewardship campaign a few years ago. The Scriptural allusion was the parable of the sower. This week, I have been thinking about the kinds of love we sow, and how long it can be before the harvest.
Relational love is built on a thousand moments. A look, a touch, an unexpected act of kindness, a shared laugh; these are the building blocks of loving relationships of all kinds. On an interpersonal level, people in good relationships can usually identify those moments when they knew the other was “the one”.
But those moments are more difficult to identify in groups. One of the hooks of ensemble television shows like NCIS is the love that is built within the team. We all want to be on that team, where there is an all-knowing Gibbs who brings out the best in us. We need a Jesse (Mama) from Code Black who supports us and calls our bluff. There is no doubt that a good team is far more powerful than any single individual could be. We all want to be on the dream team.
But the reality is that many of us are on a bad team, or maybe no team at all. Many workplaces and families seem to operate at the toddler level of “parallel play” rather than team work. Co-workers don’t communicate, managers don’t manage, executives vie for turf rather than productivity, family members evade responsibility. Bad teams are a huge energy drain. Almost everyone has been on a bad team at least once, and it can make you question all your assumptions about humanity and improvement.
So how do we change our dysfunctional groups into dream teams? There is no magic formula to it, no matter what a thousand highly paid motivational consultants will tell you. It’s really simple, and really hard. We need to sow love. Not every seed will grow, and that’s why we get frustrated. How many times have you done something kind for someone and nothing changed? But there is no alternative. We have to keep sowing love; real love, the love that functions like a slap on the back of the head, the love that says that there are rules in Mama’s house, the love that insists on the best, the love that accepts difference. We need to listen to the people around us, especially the annoying ones. We need to keep treating other people with care and respect. Every time we do that, we are sowing seeds of love. Every time we support someone else’s sowing, we are watering those seeds. A thousand little moments every day; some of which will bear fruit, while others die in the ground. The little stick man in the graphic is smiling broadly. We may not always. This is hard work. But if we can have the faith that keeps planting seeds of love, something beautiful will flower.