I’ve read a couple of books recently by John C. Maxwell, and one of the things that he suggests is to spend time thinking.  That’s all I’m supposed to do during that time.  This is similar to what Dan Miller suggested in the book he wrote with his son, Jared Anganza, Wisdom Meets Passion.  Dan says, “If you’re feeling stuck, your solution may not be in doing more, but in taking a break from the busyness of life.  Want to be more productive?  Try doing less.  Go sit somewhere a while!”1 Well, I don’t actually take their advice completely, but I have been making it a point to stop for at least 15 minutes a day and think.  Each work day, around 10AM, I take a break, walk outside, and gaze out at the trees and pond that are outside our offices.  I probably look strange to the people who see me do that every day, but honestly, it does help me to refocus.  During that time, I do think, but I also use that time to pray and sometimes just to stand there enjoying the beauty that God created.

Today, when I went outside, it was sprinkling.  It wasn’t really raining, and I wasn’t really getting wet, so I didn’t see the harm in sticking to my plan of going outside to think.  As I stood there gazing at the pond, I noticed the rings the raindrops made as they hit the pond water.  Now, of course it’s not the first time I’ve seen rings in the water, but today, it sparked something in my brain.  Those rings made me think about how people interact and relate to each other.  Allow me to explain.

Some of the rings were tiny.  They didn’t touch any other rings, and they quickly disappeared.  Others, would grow a little, but disappeared as soon as they touched another ring.  Still others, grew, intertwined with other rings, and then eventually became one big ring.  Finally, some of the rings intertwined with other rings, but continued to grow.  People can be like that.

Some people stay small.  They remain in their own personal space, and refuse to grow.  They often complain of being lonely, or they become bitter because they feel that others are getting more out of life than they are.  They are probably correct in that assumption.  However, in most cases, these people choose to stay in their own little ring.  Eventually, they feel so alone, they feel invisible, just like the ring that disappears after a few short moments.

Then there are those who start to grow.  They do well for a while, but then they brush up against others, and for whatever reason, they stop growing.  Perhaps their growth stops due to a hurt they’ve encountered, and can’t seem to heal from.  Or maybe they become afraid, so they withdraw into themselves.  Or maybe someone convinced that person they are not of value to anyone.  Whatever the reason, these people do not grow any further, and eventually, they too begin to feel invisible.

Other people start their growth, and they grow a lot.  Then, they encounter other people, and due to the influences of those people, these people begin to take on the characteristics of those they are spending time with.  While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it can become a bad thing because some people start to act so much like everyone else that they lose themselves.  These people need other people to make them feel important, or validated, or worth something.  Eventually, these people no longer know who they are, and nobody else does either because they end up wearing a mask.

Finally, there are the people who grow.  They encounter others, and they continue to grow.  They interact with others, and they influence others (for good or bad).  They don’t find their worth in others.  They feel validated because of who they are.

This reminds me of the Parable of the Sower, where Jesus explains about the seeds that fall in various soils.  You can find this Parable in three of the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke.2 Each of the seeds fell on different types of soil and had different outcomes.  Some got burned by the sun, some had shallow roots, others started to grow but were killed by weeds, and others grew abundantly.

In our physical and spiritual lives, we each have the ability to learn and to grow.  We have choices.  We can choose to grow, or we can choose to let other things get in the way of our growth.  But no matter what, we each have a choice in how and when we are going to grow.

Not only do we each have a choice to grow, but we each have a choice in how we interact with others.  Those rings in the water reminded me that we each have spheres of influence.  I believe that there are five spheres of influence that we may each have.  Not everyone will have all of these, but each of us will have at least some of them.

Sphere 1: Personal

In this sphere, I only have to deal with myself.  I think about myself and what I want.  This is ok to do, by the way.  There is no reason why we should not think about ourselves.  We are not commanded to ignore ourselves or our wants or our dreams.  Rather, we are admonished not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to.3  We do need to care about ourselves – after all, we’re God’s children, and He wants us to care about what He cares about.  However, we need to be careful (I need to be careful), that we are not putting a higher priority on ourselves than we should.  If we stop here, we miss out on a wealth of opportunities to influence others for good.  This brings me to my next sphere of influence.

Sphere 2: Familial

In this sphere, I think about my family.  I’m speaking mostly of my immediate family – my mother, father, sisters, brothers, children, and/or spouse.  I concern myself with their welfare, and I try to help them when they need it.  I try to teach and admonish my children.  I care about them.  This is a good thing.  We are told to take care of each other in God’s Word.  But we, again, need to be careful that we don’t put a higher priority on this sphere than is healthy.  While all these things are important, Jesus says in Matthew 10:37: “He who loves father and mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of me.” (NASB)  Jesus is not saying that family is not important.  He’s saying that they are not as important and following Him.

Sphere 3: Relational

The third sphere, I call “relational”.  In this sphere, I am referring to extended family, friends, our Church Family.  Anyone we have some sort of relationship with, that is not immediate family.  Some of these people may be closer than others, and some of these may intersect with the next sphere.  In any case, we have the opportunity to influence these people.  Because of the relationship we have with them, we might have a greater chance of influencing them than someone we don’t know well.  Again, this can have good results or bad results because these people also have influence over us.  Hopefully, what we walk away with is the good parts and we neglect the bad, but that isn’t always the case.

Sphere 4: Educational/Occupational

Some of the people in this sphere may overlap with the last sphere.  However, in this sphere, I am specifically speaking about those we meet through school or work.  This could be clients, coworkers, teachers, classmates, etc.  In overlap, some of these people may have great influence over us.  Others, however, only have small influence over us.  However, how we conduct ourselves in our work and school environments determines the type of influence we can have on these people.

Sphere 5: Global

This is the most difficult sphere of influence, and I think probably the one that many of us don’t think about.  But, this is referring to those outside our communities.  Those who we meet in life that we don’t get close to, but we touch in some way, even if it’s just to pass by on the street.  Many of us don’t even realize the impact we can have on each other.  I remember the time I met this elderly lady sitting in the Social Services Office.  I was very young, and I was single, pregnant, and scared.  This kind lady, whose name I will never know, said some of the sweetest things to me.  She saw a scared, hopeless girl, and she breathed hope into me that day.  I will never forget what that lady did for me.  She will never know.  But we each have those opportunities to touch the lives of another, and we may not even realize that we are doing it.

Each of us has the ability to influence others in each of these spheres, for the most part.  It’s up to us to determine what that influence will be.  Will it be positive or negative?  Will I influence others, or will I allow them to influence me?  Will I pull people up or drag them down?

What about you?  What other spheres of influence do you think we might have?  What growth opportunities are you taking advantage of/neglecting?  Will you be the tiny ring that disappears or the ring that grows and intersects the lives of others and continues to grow?

 

 

 

End Notes:

1 Dan Miller, Jared Anganza, Wisdom Meets Passion (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012) 99.

2 Matthew 13:1-22, Mark 4:1-20, Luke 8:4-15

3 Romans 12:3

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