Never has our culture been more connected and yet, so terribly isolated at the same time. We have seemingly infinite ways of staying in touch with one another and no inclination to understand each other. The end result is surface relationships and aching loneliness.
Casual relationships and social media contacts can be tons of fun and great ways of staying in touch with lots of people. But they do not replace close, intimate relationships. Ecclesiastes says, “Two are better than one, … If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up.” (Eccles. 4:9-10)
Over the last few years, our family has been the recipient of overwhelming love and care. We could not have survived without the many countless acts of love. On a deeper level though, a few very close friends carried me when I couldn’t carry myself. These friends were my strength, my faith, my courage, and my solace. Soul friendships, established way before the storm clouds showed on the horizon, have shared insight, expressed love, borne unbearable burdens, and been the joy of life for decades now.
It seems I talk to people every day who have many friendships but no one with whom they can share their heart and soul. Men are the worst about this, but I suspect that many women also suffer from superficiality in their varied relationships.
The power of two people choosing to share life on a heart level together defies description. The very best of life is experienced in close relationship. As my years go on, I realize more and more that accomplishments and acquisitions do not satisfy the spirit. No matter how much I want to achieve great things and make a difference in the world, my heart resonates when I am understood and loved for who I am.
All of this is fine and good, but how do we develop these kinds of relationships if we do not already have them? Here are a few suggestions that will move us in the right direction:
- Trust in the value of deep relationship even if it intimidates you.
- Test the waters with one or two people over coffee, lunch or dinner. Have no agenda other than getting to know one another.
- When you sense a compatibility of spirit, take the next step by scheduling a regular time to get together. Outside of a committed regular time, life gets too hectic, and important priorities fall by the wayside.
- Be flexible on agenda. Agendas can be safety mechanisms that help avoid openness. Unexpected honesty comes when there is freedom to talk openly without prescribed plans.
- Risk being vulnerable. Trust takes a while to develop. It usually requires stepping out of your comfort zone.
The choice to venture out into uncharted waters and invest in deep, personal relationships may be the most important decision you make this year, bringing newfound joy for years to come.