Raewyn Orlich is Associate Pastor for Discipleship and Nurture at the La Sierra University Church in Riverside, California. She and her physician-poet husband, Michael, enjoy raising Eleanor (4), Eric (2), and Desmond (2 months). Born in South Africa, transplanted to Michigan, she's been pastoring with Southeastern California Conference since graduating from La Sierra University in 2004. Her mission is to be an agent of peace through the gift of presence, ministry of the Word, and building a healthy community.
We were at a birthday party, and another little girl toddled towards me, holding onto my knee for balance. My son, Eric, looked at her, grabbed me, and said in a loud and adamant voice, "That's not your Mama; that's my Mama." It's not easy to have a baby brother when you're two. Lately, he's felt the need to establish his place.
His four-year-old sister, Eleanor, communicates her need for attention in other ways. "No one in my family loves me," she says after I pull her aside to stop her from grabbing a toy from Eric and teasing him. That's enough to pierce any parent's heart. I know what she needs. They say love is a four-letter-word spelled "T-I-M-E."
Having one-on-one time with the kids is hard when we're two on three. Before Desmond was born, we had started one-on-ones with each child every month. I would do something special for an afternoon with Eleanor, then with Eric, in May. Mike would do something with them separately in June, for example. Eleanor always wants to do the same thing, ice cream, and the playground. Eric's desires are simpler. He just wanted to go on a walk down the hill next to our house.
Sitting with Eleanor, eating our ice cream, I asked her how she felt about having a baby brother. She said, "My favorite part is that I love the baby. My least favorite part is that you spend so much time with him. But not this time!" This was our time. Getting back into the car, she said, "A Mama and Nellie date is called a date because it's sweet."
Being one-on-one is sweet. I can count on one hand and one finger the number of nights Mike and I have been away from the kids together. The first one was when Eleanor was 14 months old. Her grandparents were visiting us from Michigan. I journaled, "When I feel guilty leaving her, I have to remember that it's often an excellent opportunity for her to bond with others I want her to have real relationships with."
The second was when she was almost three, and Eric had just turned one. Mike and I spent two nights at Two Harbors, Catalina Island, for our five-year anniversary. It was our first time back to the place we had gotten engaged. It was hard to get there. The ferry we needed was full when we looked for tickets, and we had to change our nights away. Eric got sick. I had things to finish for work. We had to get the kids acclimatized to Grandma and Auntie from Indiana.
But it was so worth it! A truly spiritual retreat. We had time. Time to talk without constant interruptions. Time to remember the best of the past. Time to plan and dream about the future. Time to simply enjoy each other in the present. There is simply nothing like being one-on-one and having the full attention of someone you love and one who loves you.
Every relationship can be strengthened and improved by investing time one-on-one. We may be hesitant to carve out the time and make the request when it's with someone who doesn't appear to love us and is having a hard time loving. At one point in my ministry, I heard a rumor that one of the elders was talking with other elders to see if they could gather enough compatriots to meet with me and let me know they thought it was time for me to move on. A coup attempt, as it were.
I asked the elder out for lunch, one-on-one. After some hesitation and resistance, they accepted. We talked. They denied that what I heard was true. I invited them to bring up any concerns, but then I got defensive. I took a deep breath and determined to listen. When I could let go and be fully present at the moment, it became clear that their concerns were connected with their own autobiography. We both ended up in tears.
I'm reminded of Jesus' words in Matthew 18 when he talks about winning over your brother. In the Message Paraphrase, Eugene Peterson retells it like this. "If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you've made a friend. If he won't listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won't listen, tell the church. If he won't listen to the church, you'll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God's forgiving love." I like Peterson's version of treating him like a tax collector or a sinner.
But why wait for a conflict to develop before winning over your brother or making a friend? Why wait until your four-year-old is teasing your two-year-old, or until you and your spouse feel like two ships that pass in the night? Why wait for that one-on-one?
What about that one-on-one with Jesus?
I'm reminded of a song by Larnelle Harris that has haunted me since childhood. She envisions Jesus sitting in their old familiar spot singing these words to her.
"I miss my time with you
Those moments together
I need to be with you each day
And it hurts Me when you say
You're too busy,
Busy trying to serve Me
But how can you serve Me
When your spirits empty
There's a longing in My heart
Wanting more than just a part of you
It's true, I miss My time with you."
This song used to fill me with guilt, reminding me that I hadn't done the prescribed daily devotional, prayer time, Sabbath School lesson, or journaling for the day. Now, I'm learning to see it more as an expression of God's longing for us, the way I long to spend one-on-one time with someone I love.
Who's been missing time with you lately? Who are you missing? Take a moment to write down any names that the Holy Spirit brings to your mind. These could be family members, ministry leaders, congregation members, friends, or Jesus himself. Choose one person and schedule a time in your calendar that works to connect. Then, schedule with the next person, and the next. You won't regret it.
Author - Jon Ciccarelli
January 28, 2021