The Struggle to Keep and Maintain Intentional Relationships
Time is a strange thing. It is like a boat that continually moves through the sea leaving behind a wake of memories that both delight us and taunt us. Looking back at this previous year, I am reminded of both the sweet times and the hardships. This last year has definitely been one of the most challenging, and part of the difficulty was building and maintaining strong relationships.
Nashville is infamous for being a melting pot of people from all over the country and world. It’s rare that you meet someone who is a native. People come here with high ambitions and big dreams. That’s how it was for my husband and me when we packed our bags and left our little apartment in Waterford, MI and headed to Music City in March of 2015.
Honestly, it was miserable for me when we first moved here. I had no family, no friends, no job, and no car. I didn’t even have my cats at that point! It was lonely, to say the least. I prayed for friendship and community, and I waited. And waited.
Eight months later, I got a job at a wonderful company, got plugged into a local ministry, and started to find community. But it wasn’t all easy from there. Though I was interacting with people day in and day out at my job, and at the church in the evenings, I found myself still feeling lonely. I realized that though I was around people on a daily basis, I wasn’t building relationships. Though I am grateful for the friends I did make over this last year, I can’t help but wish I was more intentional about reaching out to people, being available, and sustaining those friendships.
The conversations I was having felt stale. I was too distracted and preoccupied with the stresses of my own life to be present in conversations. This resulted in frustration because not only was I failing to give my friend the proper attention and care they deserved, but I was also being misunderstood.
Confession; I often dread half-hearted conversation. I dread talking about the weather, and how busy busy busy we are…It’s not that I don’t care about these things, and I know small talk is often necessary, but I also know there are times where you come to work, school, and church hurting, really hurting, and you don’t have a safe place to just be or a safe person to confide in.
If you don’t see me as that, have I failed you? It makes me wonder if, as a friend and minister, I am truly making myself accessible to the people in my life. It’s not that I did not have opportunities to do so. Sometimes I just didn’t want to.
I’m too tired. I don’t feel like it. I’d rather watch Netflix…The list goes on.
Most of the time I am tired, I don’t feel like it, and I would rather veg. Yet despite being drained at times, I still long for more. I’d often schedule, then re-schedule, and sometimes cancel on friends because of work-life-school overload and feel bad about it afterward. Though I was physically spent, my soul was thirsty to connect with others and spend quality time with them.
Yet, I found that over time friends stopped asking to hangout. It turns out, people take notice when you continually cancel and reschedule. I realized that I have to forego comfort if I want to build these relationships and have these connections. I started to ask myself, “What relationships am I investing in? Am I faithful to my plans?”
People take notice when you continually cancel and reschedule.
It’s a battle of flesh and spirit every day. My flesh says sleep. My flesh says isolation. My spirit says get up. My spirit says to reach out to others. I know that it’s something that I will always have to work at. In a perfect world my life would consist of reading, and writing, and having coffee with friends all day. But I can still have those moments and conversations while being a full-time fill-in-the-blank.
This is so important, friends. We have to make people a priority. We have to love each other well, and that means being intentional with our relationships and faithful to our plans.
Can you relate? If so, please know you’re not alone and that the people in your life are probably just as hungry for intentional relationships as you. It just requires reconstructing our views of relationships. We have to stop viewing people as an inconvenience, and instead, see them as gifts. We must be wary of seeking what we can gain out of relationships, and instead, focus on what we can give.
That is one of my priorities this new year. I want my walls to be broken down. I want to be a haven for the hurting. I want to have eyes that see past plastered smiles, and into the hearts of those I meet. I want to listen before I speak.
Let’s do a better job of loving each other this year.