by Andrew Cromwell
One of the more popular TV series during the 80s and 90s was Star Trek: The Next Generation. Apart from the great chemistry among the characters and the adventures the crew experienced as they “boldly went where no man had gone before”, there is an image that lives in my mind whenever I think about the series.
In my mind’s eye I see Captain Jean-Luc Picard standing on the bridge of his ship about to utter the single word that would launch both the ship and the episode into action. As he lifted his right hand and in a single motion flicked his wrist forward, pointing in the direction the ship was to go, he would speak the word, “Engage.”
And with that single word, the crew would hurtle forward towards their newest adventure. If you’re not familiar with this scene, a quick trip to youtube with a search for the terms “Picard” and “engage” will cement this reality forever in your mind.
If you were to look up the word “engage” in the dictionary, you would find that one of its definitions is “to participate or to become involved in.” It is an action word that implies movement towards something. When one is engaged, it is clear they have taken ownership of their behavior and are intentionally entering in.
When it comes to relationships, we must engage. Just like Captain Picard and his crew, we too must move forward into the lives of others. Far too often we sit back and passively wait for others to engage with us. But in our relationships, especially the most important relationships in our lives, we cannot afford to wait and see.
Sometimes we fail to engage because we are uncertain or uncomfortable. Perhaps you are uncertain of exactly what to do. Your teenager is acting like teenagers do, and you are uncertain exactly how best to connect. It feels like they are moving away relationally, but how do you begin? Perhaps you are uncomfortable. You and your spouse just haven’t been connecting and you don’t know how to bridge the gap. You want to talk but it is so uncomfortable to start the conversation that you just tend to wait.
At our best, when we are motivated by real love, we refuse to allow our uncertainty and discomfort to determine our level of engagement. For any relationship to continue to grow, it requires engagement! It requires conversation, time, attention, thought, dedication and effort.
My dad once told me about a guy he met during boot camp. This guy wasn’t the best looking guy in the world, as a matter of fact, he had a severe case of acne. He also wasn’t the smoothest or coolest guy around. And yet, whenever the guys on base had leave, this guy always had a date. Always. He had more dates than anyone else. Why? He talked to more girls and asked more times than anyone else. When everyone else was screwing up their courage to talk to that one girl, he had already talked to five. He didn’t allow himself to be discouraged just because someone turned him down, he kept engaging.
We need to take a page from that playbook! When relationships get difficult and distant, instead of walking away with our head hanging low and deciding to nurse our wounds, lets press in. When that teenager is moving away, go ahead and step into their world. And if the first attempt doesn’t work, try something different! When you and your spouse need to have that difficult conversation and you just don’t know how to start, stop waiting for them and dive in!