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Thinking Out Loud

The Most Important Thing

by Michael Jinkins | Aug 29, 2017

BY DR. ASHLEY HICKS WHITE

Ashley HIcksEditor’s note: Today’s “Thinking Out Loud” blog post is guest-written by Ashley Hicks White, an assistant professor of marriage and family therapy at Louisville Seminary. Ashley is also the seminary’s fall 2017 Convocation speaker. She will deliver her Convocation address, “Toward a Relational Approach to Social Justice,” on Thursday, September 7, 2017, at Caldwell Chapel (1044 Alta Vista Road, Louisville, Ky. 40205). The Convocation service begins at 11:30 a.m. All are welcome.

Over the last year, I have experienced a number of major life milestones and transitions. I finished graduate school, got married, moved to a new city, started a new job, and purchased our first home. All of these new experiences and transitions were good. I looked forward to each of them with joy and excitement, nervousness and fear. Some would say that in the last year I have accomplished a lot. Friends and family talk about how proud they are of all my new accomplishments. And I would agree, that I am excited and grateful to have been blessed to experience all of these things. I count myself very blessed and privileged to have the opportunities that I have. I know that some are not as fortunate as I, and I never want to forget that I carry a measure of privilege and subsequent social responsibility. However, this summer I was reminded that all of these accomplishments are not the most important thing.

This summer I have been reading a book entitled, The Relationship Principles of Jesus by Tom Holladay*. It is a book that I purchased over three years ago but never had the chance to read it until this summer. Holladay’s book reminded me of what the most important thing is in life: RELATIONSHIPS.

In his book Holladay tells the story of how he was reminded of the importance of relationships while reading a book on time management. The quote that stuck out to him and has stuck out to me all summer is this: “God does not demand of me that I accomplish great things. He does demand of me that I strive for excellence in my relationships.” Since reading this quote, I have written this statement on an index card and taped it to my computer monitor on my desk. I read it every day at work, and I come back to it to help ground myself during this busy season of life full of transitions and milestones.

Relationships are the most important thing. I can accomplish wonderful things in this life, but if my relationships are weak, then what is the point?

My training as a marriage and family therapist draws this point home to me even further. As family therapists we are trained to focus on relationships. We think about larger systems and processes, interactions, and patterns. This helps us in the therapy room and it helps in our everyday lives. We live in a world that is becoming more and more divided by difference. Tension is increasing, and some relationships are becoming more explicitly hostile than before. As a therapist I can utilize my skills to help facilitate difficult conversations and repair relationships among individuals, couples, families, students, neighbors, congregations, and communities. As a Christian, I am called to prioritize relationships, first with God and then with others. Sadly, it is easy to forget about relationships in our attempt to accomplish good things or to be good ourselves. I am hopeful however that just as I have been reminded of the importance of relationships this summer, you will be reminded of what is most important.

Ask yourself these questions:
1)    What do I place the highest value on in my life right now?  
a.    If it is not relationships, consider what I might have to shift in order to focus more on relationships.
2)    What is getting in the way of me being all I aspire to be in my relationships?
3)    What can I do right now to become more like my aspirational relational self?

* Holladay, Tom. The Relationship Principles of Jesus. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008.

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