What a drive-thru teaches us about relationships
Daniel K. Eng & Tim St. John | JULY 9, 2019 | 2 MIN READ
A fast food drive-thru can be an opportunity to think about how we approach our relationships. Here are some “fast food” thoughts that can (ironically) result in better health for marriages, families, and church communities.
Relationships Require Intentionality
To take your order, restaurant employees are trained to listen well and make sure your order is correct. In a marriage, family, or a church community, positive results in relationships come from listening to each other well.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3)
This intentional listening helps relationships because it counts others "more significant than yourself." When we simply listen to understand, rather than to defend or offer another opinion, we are honoring Christ and demonstrating his humble love.
It may even help to get some training for listening. If we listen well, we have the opportunity to communicate God’s love and grace to someone.
Sometimes we don’t get it right
Me: “I’d like a cheeseburger, fries, and Coke, please. No onions.”
The Box: “you’d like a hamburger, shake, and extra onions?”
Messages get misheard and misunderstood all the time. It can be frustrating on both ends. No one is ever going to communicate perfectly or listen perfectly, and we shouldn’t expect one another to do so.
Instead, we should…
Try again until it’s right
Me: “No, I don’t want onions. And I want cheese on the burger. And a Coke, please.”
The Box: “No onions. Diet Coke?”
Me: “Right, no onions. I’d like cheese please. Coke, not Diet.”
The Box: “Cheeseburger, no onions, Coke, and fries. Is that correct?”
Me: “Yes, that’s correct!”
Part of humbly listening to understand is following up by summarizing. Once you have an idea of what you are hearing, ask if you are understanding correctly. This actually protects relationships from further misunderstandings and assumptions.
Are we humble enough in our relationships to say, "I really want to make sure I'm understanding you, it sounds like you are saying ____? Is that right?" This honors Christ and models his "others-oriented" love.
So rather than assuming we understand or offering a smile and a nod to appear as if we’ve heard, it's better to count another person's life as more significant than our own, even if that means revealing that we missed something they shared.
Take a step forward as a family
There is one big difference between Christian relationships and a fast food drive-thru: Only in Christ-centered communities do we talk, follow up, and move toward Christ together. There is no “to-go” option. We stay together through the miscommunications and conflicts.
So if there’s a misunderstanding between people in community, let’s not give up! Relationships take effort, patience, and perseverance from both sides. Sometimes it might take some back-and-forth for us to understand each other. It can be frustrating, but let us continue to strive.
Once we can summarize what someone has said in a way that allows them to feel heard and loved, can we take a step toward Christ with them? What would it look like to summarize what they shared in the form of a prayer? In this way, we serve one another in a Christlike way.
Perhaps you meet visitors on Sunday who are checking out churches. You ask them what the process has been like and you hear about the different challenges and struggles they've faced. Can you take what they shared, summarize it in a way that makes it clear that you want to understand them, and then pray with them in a way that connects your knowledge of the person with the hope available to them in Christ?
As we approach our relationships, let’s remember to be intentional, patient, and persistent. May the relationships entrusted to us be places where Christ’s love is displayed as people feel heard and cared for. Christ’s church is worth the effort.
Daniel K. Eng is a husband, dad, preacher, teacher, and Bible scholar. After a decade of pastoral ministry in California and Texas, he is now pursuing a PhD at the University of Cambridge, researching the epistle of James. He has a Doctor of Ministry in Asian American Ministry (Talbot) and desires to see Asian Americans follow Jesus Christ and make an impact for God's kingdom. Daniel currently lives in the United Kingdom with his wife, Sanjung, and three daughters, Joanna, Josie, and Jessica.
Tim St. John serves as the counseling pastor at Lighthouse Community Church in Torrance, CA. He's a graduate of the Master's Seminary (M.Div, Th.M) and completed counseling certificate training through ACBC and CCEF. Tim's passion is to see the grace of gospel-centered counseling grow and thrive in local churches.