If you want to get to know someone, you have to invest time with that person. Some of the most beautiful relationships we can think of have been forged over long periods, like a couple celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary, friends who met in diapers and served in each other’s weddings, and family friends who are called “aunt” or “uncle” only because they’ve been around forever. In the age of FaceTime, texting, and overnight shipping, that investment might not ever even be in person, but it still requires time.
I have found the longer I have been away from my hometown, however, that the inverse is not necessarily true. The time spent with someone does not always equate to knowing that person better. If I spend every Sunday in the same pew but never meaningfully engage with that person who always sits beside me, or ever only say “hello” to the same cashier at Kroger every week, our relationship isn’t getting more meaningful. I’m learning more and more that intimacy in our relationships with God, with our families and spouses, with our community, and with the Church has to be sought after intentionally – and what more perfect time to start thinking about this than the present (and not just because it’s January!).
People connect through stories. We have Scripture and epic novels and fairy tales and coffee dates where we catch up with friends we haven’t seen in a while. All good stories have conflict, complicated plots, broken/beautifully complex characters, minor resolutions…the list goes on. If you think about your typical day, and how complex the story of each person you interact with, and how many people that person interacts with, that’s a great moment of awe at the greatness of our God. He is intimately involved in all of it. It’s sort of mind boggling. In all this complexity though, there is a lot of brokenness.
I think this is where I (we? you?) get stuck many times. We live in a culture of niceties (“Hi, how are you? Doing well, thanks. How are you?” I don’t know how many hundreds of times I have said that exact thing. Exactly like that.) but where the beauty is forged is the sharing of the mess. God is pleased when we come to him. When we are vulnerable, embarrassing, and honest, we gain a sense of identification and trust with people, from them to us, and us to them. Someone can identify with having issues. We all have them and need to be reminded that we’re not alone in them. There is value in the intercession of others in prayer, in counseling, and in receiving advice and support, but if we’re not willing to share the broken, those gifts are unavailable to us.
So here’s the invitation. My goal for this year (which I wouldn’t really call a resolution, since those don’t usually work…) is to learn more of this. I want to see what happens when I genuinely engage the people around me more meaningfully. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses from whom we are so able to learn and to whom we can offer our own prayer and support. It is scary sometimes, but to discern with whom in my life to share my story, and then actually go for it, might make this the best year of learning yet. My prayer is that other people (you) are heartened to join in, and that they (you) begin this endeavor first with our Father in heaven and then continue onto the other people in their (your) lives.