There is obviously bucket loads of things that can be said about the nuances of developing close relationships. Most people want close relationships, but realize that it is an endeavor that can be easier said than done. Here are some things that are helping me along my journey of learning to love the Master and master His love as I seek to develop close relationships.
Don’t have unhealthy expectations: We should never turn to a human being to meet needs in us that only God can. When we place that kind of pressure on our relationships, we sabotage the very thing we desire to build… close relationships. No person can complete you, make you happy, heal your soul, nor be your sole strength and security. Leaning on others for how we should feel about ourselves is a classic example of where we turn to people to meet needs that only God can and should. For certain, close relationships involve the blessings of giving and receiving as we carry each others burdens and do life together. But understanding the limits of what we should expect and what we can experience in our earthly relationships, and turning to our relationship with Christ first and foremost for our core needs is critical. This enables us, ironically, to be free to love and be loved by another. We don’t try to fix nor be fixed, change, nor be changed, rescue, nor be rescued, complete, nor be completed by another. Rather, we can truly love and receive love. Healthy expectations increase the potential for close relationships.
Discern to Develop: I find it interesting that Jesus had only a handful of people He developed close relationships with. He was friendly and caring to the masses, but only had a handful of close relationships. These relationships took time and investment. We see with Jesus that the essential ingredients of close relationships such as trust, honesty, and honor were developed over time, much of it spent together. Peter, James, and John were among those whom Jesus drew close to Himself. Were any of them perfect? No, hardly. Yet we see in Jesus and the counsel of God’s Word, the value of being discerning of those whom we draw closely and to do so over time.
As an example from my own life, I have found 5 commonalities in the awesome people whom I have close relationships with. I share these with you not to foster a “what’s in it for me” attitude toward developing close relationships. But rather to show the kind of mutually given dynamics that create an atmosphere where close relationships can develop. It’s in giving that we receive.
1) They are careful with my heart: I see in these people the presence of having my best interest at heart. It is truly humbling. They want to see me succeed and care about my well being. When I rejoice, they rejoice, when I mourn, they mourn with me. They do not take advantage, use, manipulate, or disregard. They are not driven by agenda nor see me or our relationship as disposable or transitional. They are not malicious, abrasive, nor shady, but rather humble, gentle, and encouraging.
2) They are open and honest: I see in the people a care about keeping things within the relationship well communicated and resolved. What a deep blessing this is. They assume the best and clear up the unknown. The speak the truth in love and avoid concealing issues in the shadows. They are people who assume the best and are willing to lovingly confront with the worst. They are real people, with real emotions, real faith, real flaws, and real lives. They are direct people who value good conversations where truth and truthfulness can flourish.
3) They freely invest their time and energy into the relationship: I see in these people an undeserved joy in being with me and a sharing of many of my values. This is indeed gold for the soul. I have found that the people I am closest with I spend the most time communicating with. These are people I don’t have to try to pull into my life and get them to take an interest in me, nor keep it. Their energy for me and our relationship is self-fueled.
4) They honor and respect the vision God has for my life: I see in these people the reality that though we may have our differences, they value what God is doing in my life and want to encourage and support what God is doing. How good it is to have spiritual support and encouragement. The people closest to me have a thriving, growing relationship with Jesus and value His presence in our relationship.
5) They stay by my side: I see in these people a knowledge of my strengths and my weaknesses, my failures and my successes, and yet they still desire to remain an intimate part of my life. What a gift from above. For them, the relationship goes beyond what they can do, gain, or accomplish with me or from me, but rather is anchored on the deep value they have placed on simply being together in life; emotionally, physically, and spiritually. These are loyal people, even when I am wrong or faltering. Their interest in me and my life remains in all seasons. They are gracious and forgiving, with an earned mutual trust that our deepest desire is to see God work in each others lives and to encourage and protect that, along with the relationship God has given us.
It suspect it would be rather difficult to develop a close relationship without the 5 things I mentioned above. If you have the sense that a person just isn’t willing to bring one of these 5 things to the table, they may not be a person where drawing close will be met with wholeness. Yet, even more importantly, in creating an relational atmosphere where closeness can develop, it is just as vital (if not more) to give these 5 things as it is to receive them. Do not expect to receive what you are not willing to give. Just as you would do well to look for these 5 aspects within the relationships you seek to draw close, you would do all the more benefit to make sure you are willing and able to give in these areas.
Pour Out Your Life There are always risks involved with relationships. At first, when you are developing closeness with a person, the risks seems to increase. In truth, it actually does. Yet, once closeness is tested and established overtime, the greater risk becomes not making the most of the relationship through your investment. With the people who are closest to me, I feel little risk because I know those relationships are secure. It is indeed a mistake to pour yourself out too soon into a relationship, closeness can’t be rushed nor fabricated. Yet, it is equally a mistake not to pour yourself out to relationships that desire it and will steward it.
God calls us by His example to be the one to initiate this pouring out of our lives into people. We love because God first loved us. Will it always be returned, received, or respected? No. But all the times it is abused, rejected, and disrespected are worth the sacred times when it takes root and grows into a lifeline of intimacy and togetherness imaged by the Trinity itself. Does God want us to be careful with our lives and the sharing of such? Yes, absolutely. However, pouring you life out into people is never a waste for you. Love is it’s own reward. It can only be wasted by others.
Don’t expect to get a relational return without a relational investment. On the right soil, love gives birth to love, trust gives birth to trust, and pouring out gives birth to mutual blessing. Don’t focus on dry ground encounters, rekindle your hope for a harvest. Pour out your life.