The three laws of relationship

Lagen’s Supermarket, originally an IGA, closed in 2014.

“A wise man once said that . . . the three laws of relationship are observation, observation, observation.”- John Ortberg

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.”- Ephesians 3:17-19

For more than fifty years, Lagen’s Supermarket- originally an IGA, served the northeast Evergreen Park, IL community.  Located at 89th and California, the full-service grocer reached almost 20,000 people within a one-mile radius.  And sometime during my teen years, the building doubled in size.  Eventually, though, Lagen’s succumbed to the proliferation of big-box grocery stores, closing in 2014.

Truly, the independent grocery store created a sense of community.  The Henning family lived just a block away.  Since the store employed a butcher, mom bought all her meat there.  In addition, the store’s convenient location allowed mom to purchase any extra items needed during the week.  Dad took the family car to work.  Also, two neighbor ladies, Mrs. Kelly and Mrs. Peterson, worked the manual cash registers there.  I especially prized the foot-long pretzel sticks beckoning at the checkout lanes.

Noted Christian activist Dorothy Day once wrote that “we have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.”  Furthermore, author and pastor John Ortberg stresses that God designed us to flourish in connectedness.  Thus, we must learn to identify the life-giving people around us.  Most importantly, we need to discover how to give the power of connectedness to others.  As a result, John describes five gifts that connectedness brings.

  1. The Gift of Delighting.  As we consider the three laws of relationship, we realize that people who notice us give life to us.  Hence, love for someone grows when we work to truly observe that person.  In the process of our own self-forgetfulness, our own soul flourishes.
  2. The Gift of Commitment.  John notes that “too often, people who need cheers the most get them the least.”  Thus every life needs: an occasional shoulder to lean on, a prayer to lift them up to God, a hugger to wrap some arms around them sometimes.
  3. The Gift of Love.  John urges that every moment presents an opportunity to practice a gesture of love.
  4. The Gift of Joy.  Proverbs 17:22 reads, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
  5. The Gift of Belonging.  The most common designation for Christians is “brother” or “sister.”  Thus, belonging = God’s gift to us.

In conclusion, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ (1881-1955) wrote about this gift of community and relationship:

“Someday, after we have mastered the winds and the waves, the tides and gravity, we will harness for God the energies of love, and then for the second time in the history of the world man will have discovered fire.”

About the author

    Dave Henning

  • Avatar Mickey Watley says:

    It’s so true. We were born for relationship! A newborn won’t survive without physical love, preferably from the mother. I think this propagates throughout. Even if we’re living with abuse, the negative relationship is what we accept because it’s all we have. It’s very important to observe those we have relationship with so that we can give them the kind of love that “speaks” to them.


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