[Nathan Grieser, director] Since The Shalom Project’s launch in August, I have been thinking about what it means to live and lead relationally, prioritizing people over tasks and seeking growth in myself and those I walk alongside each day.
As it turns out, this is a challenge. Tasks and deadlines are tangible goals that can be scheduled, accomplished, and set aside. Relationships, however, ask that you give of yourself vulnerably, and they often require attention at seemingly inopportune times.
I see The Shalom Project as a place for participants to intentionally live in a relational way. It’s a unique opportunity to experience shalom by creating a rhythm of life that prioritizes something other than hectic productivity. Our hope is that participants will be able to sustain the rhythms they create, long beyond the year-long experience with The Shalom Project. Creating a healthy rhythm of life allows you to experience shalom and empowers you to extend shalom to others as you prioritize relationships in daily life.
As I grow into my role as director, several learnings are emerging:
First, living relationally begins with a desire for mutual transformation – of others and ourselves. Living in this way requires that I acknowledge my own shortcomings and allow others’ gifts to fill in my gaps. I am transformed in this process. At the same time, I share my gifts freely with others and participate in the transforming work God is doing in their lives.
Second, living relationally asks that I define myself in community. Instead of seeking my own comfort and security, I pursue that which is best for the whole – whatever community that might be. My wholeness and peace are wrapped up in your wholeness and peace, and the entire community’s. This is what God told the Babylonian exiles through Jeremiah: “Work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare” (Jer. 29:7, NLT).
Defining myself in community also means that I risk being present relationally with people on the margins. A community must pay attention to those who are not in the center of power, valuing these members as people created in God’s image, and seeking empowerment by walking alongside them relationally.
Finally, living relationally asks that I distinguish people from projects. If I don’t intentionally prioritize people over tasks, then tasks will always win the majority of my focus and energy. Further, even relational opportunities can too quickly become line items on the to-do list. My messiah complex kicks in and I focus on fixing the needs I see in others without acknowledging the gifts they have to offer. But I am called to practice humanization, seeing others as whole people created in God’s image.
I see our Shalom Project participants living into this relational way of being. They are freely sharing their gifts among refugees, young students, and retirees, while also learning and growing themselves. They are doing the hard work of living in community, in the Shalom house, in local congregations, and in Lancaster City. They are discovering the gifts and needs present in themselves and the people they encounter.
I am grateful for the learning and growth that is happening through The Shalom Project, and for the opportunity to participate in that myself. I look forward to continuing to discover, alongside our participants, what it means to participate in Jesus’ process of renewal, transformation, and restoration in our neighbors and in ourselves.