I glanced down at my phone in the middle of another busy day on campus. “Ryan! When are you coming home? I miss you!” The thought dawned on me that I had forgotten to text my younger sister Laura back once again. I set the phone down thinking, “I’ll respond in a minute,” and refocused back on my laptop. Minutes turned into hours. Sometimes hours turned into days. My attention was elsewhere- most likely ferociously typing away on my keyboard, assuming the future of the University of Cincinnati’s student activities were dependent upon me sending out an email to coordinate an event that would be forgotten within days of its happening. Meanwhile my 16-year-old sister sat in her bedroom 20 miles north of campus, awaiting a simple text from her older brother to no avail.
It wasn’t always this way. When I was 4-years-old and word came from the hospital that I had a new baby sister, I ran around the house yelling, “That’s just what I wanted!” From holding her as a baby to late-night talks in each other’s bedrooms all the way up through high school, four and a half years provided the perfect age gap. We were far enough apart that sibling fighting was not worth doing and close enough that we could still relate to one another’s worlds- at least until I went to college. While I moved a mere 30 minute drive down the highway, I may as well have been across the country based on my ability to keep up a relationship.
It’s amazing what the accident did to the way I began to view relationships. For as lousy as I had become at staying in touch with Laura, there she was at my side from the first night in the hospital, smiling and full of joy as always. Upon my release from the hospital, I moved back home with my parents and found myself back down the hall from my sister once again. However, the little girl I’d left behind when I went to college had suddenly become a grown up high-schooler who could drive and had a “boyfriend.” I must’ve missed the memo.
With physical limitations freeing up my schedule, I was now able to be intentional about reclaiming the years I lost out on while I was “too busy” doing little of eternal value. Laura and I have never been closer than we are now. I got to be home with her for her senior prom and when she headed off to college. I had the privilege of celebrating her 21st birthday with her just this past week. We’ve shared countless nights of conversations that would’ve never been possible otherwise, regarding our passions, faith, and the impossible bar I’ve set for any guy that has his eyes set on dating her. Good luck to any dude who wants to try his hand at the interview process that I will take him through.
One of many ways that I have experienced God’s redemptive nature in my current situation is not only through a second chance at being a big brother, but through a renewed awareness of the significance of relational connection with others in general. A few months ago I wrote about loving the one you’re with and how the person in front of you is infinitely more important than the latest technological update. It seems obvious, but we frequently fail to let our actions follow what we say we believe. When it comes to getting something done, it’s often tempting to prioritize the doing rather than the being. When I get so caught up in finishing tasks in the name of productivity, I have a friend who is quick to point out that God created human beings rather than human doers. The task at hand can wait.
This past fall I took part in the all–church journey in Cincinnati that met for six weeks with the intention of experiencing more of God’s kingdom here on earth. Each week, every person would take a card home containing a challenge for the week ahead. One of my cards sits to the left of my computer as a daily reminder of the crucial lesson I’ve learned with Laura: “Put relationship over task.” Rather than a one week fix, I want relationships to always supersede tasks. I want to ensure that I’m focused on the people around me more so than on “what needs to get done.”