We cannot cultivate meaningful relationships if we don’t know the value of them. We were built to experience meaning in our marriages, friendships, and communities. God’s word teaches us that relationships with others are important. God, after creating Adam, acknowledged man’s need for another: “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18). It is apart of our creation story, that we are connected to other people. But in our world today, many of us are not living out fulfilled, life-giving relationships. We may have peers, spouses, and church family that knows us, but may not be truly pouring into our lives. This week’s article provides you with 10 considerations as you learn to cultivate meaningful relationships in your own life.
1. Run with people in your season
Just as God provided Adam with a helper to assist in keeping the garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15), we need people whose current season and purpose is similar to ours. By having them in our life, we share common goals. If you’re a parent, having other friends with similar aged children helps you learn and grow together. When you share your struggle with those in the same season as you, frustrations, tips, and rhythms are much more understood. Prioritizing running with people in your season doesn’t mean you can’t have deep friendships with those whose life looks different, but it ensures you have people in your space who get what you’re going through (because they’re doing it too). Join a mom’s group, start a business group, or simply pursue friendship with someone who you know shares your common season or interest in life. You will feel more understood!
2. Find someone you admire to serve
There is much to learn from those wiser and further along on the journey than us. Like Timothy served Paul’s ministry, who around you can you serve in their family, ministry, business, or vision? Maybe you want to be a musician. Are there worship leaders around you who need childcare while they practice? Identify practical ways to serve mentor-like figures in your life, expressing to them your desire to support through prayer and service their life. When we humble ourselves to help another, we learn to take our eyes off ourselves. Our meaning becomes less egocentric and more selfless.
“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38)
3. Give what you’ve learned to someone else
Just as there is value to helping those you admire, you also have gifts, skills, and talents to pass to someone not quite as far along as you. Find opportunity to pour into those younger than you. Without agenda, just from a heart of love, you can deposit transformational wisdom to others! This might look like making yourself available once a month to meet with someone younger than you. Simple, intentional acts truly add up and encourage you to continue to grow as a mentor.
4. Asses when it’s time to adjust: reason, season, lifetime
Not every relationship is meant for forever. Brian Chalker’s poem explores the purpose of relationships in three categories: friendships for reasons, seasons, or a lifetime. He claims that friendships in your life for specific reasons may feel like a godsend, but often once the need or desire has been met, the connection fades. Those in your life for a season come “because your turn has come to share, grow, or learn”. They are real and valuable relationships, but perhaps only for a season. Lifetime relationships “teach you lifetime lessons; things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation.”
Being able to distinguish the type of connection you have can bring peace and the ability to cultivate meaningful relationships without stress or confusion. At times, it could require time to distinguish the purpose of your relationships, but the peace of God will lead and teach you this!
5. Train yourself to ask connecting questions
Something special happens when we don’t make conversations about us. When we learn how to communicate with intention, conversations reach more organic depth. Whether you’re talking to your spouse of 15 years, or a new friend you met last week, you have the opportunity to inquire about their current interests, thoughts, and desires. Asking the Lord for a heart of His children, you can even begin to view people with His eyes. This helps to cultivate meaningful connection through our relationship with our heavenly father! I can personally attest to the depth and satisfaction in my friendships where we prioritize intention in our conversations.
6. Develop honesty with yourself
Are you hiding? Maybe you’re showing up to the life groups, but not willing to share or open yourself up to others. It will take honesty with yourself and before the Lord to do this. Challenge yourself this week to become more transparent and authentic in your quiet time with God. Let the Holy Spirit tend to your heart and show you the places where you need community and people cheering you on. Own the elements of your story that you’re still growing, so that you can show up aware and present in your relationships.
7. Let God heal any wounds from past relationships
The trauma and triggers of our past can unconsciously influence how we show up with others. Like learning to be honest with yourself and God, healing will naturally bring the fruit of peace and joy in your relationships. A simple prayer to process and begin this journey: “Holy Spirit, I trust you to lead me into all truth. Help me surrender my walls and defenses to your healing touch. Teach me, Jesus, how to walk whole, healed, and delivered, just as you died to give these things to me. Amen.”
8. Rest in your identity as a son or daughter
You are valuable. God made you with purpose and for a reason! There is so much inside of you to offer the world. Reminding yourself of what God says about it is not just vital as you cultivate meaningful relationships, but for your daily life. When you walk out your identity from a place of rest, you aren’t striving for connection with others out of lack or the need to be validated. Rest in your identity means that as you develop connections you are able to give to others from a place of confidence.
9. Evaluate what you have capacity for
It’s not realistic to try to create 5 or 10 super close relationships. Learn to start small. Look at the people in your community or current friend group. Who are you drawn to and connecting with naturally? Decide to invest your time into 1 or 2 friendships. This is when it comes in handy to create relationships with people you’re in the same season as. It’s likely that their schedules or daily life will align better with your capacity. Making space for a few close friends will require time, energy, and effort. But once these relationships are strong and fulfilling, you will be so thankful for the intention invested in them.
10. Know what level of influence your connections should have
In his ministry “Loving on Purpose”, Danny Silk teaches on the different levels of intimacy: the God spot, the most intimate, and closest relationships, and so on. If you’re married, creating meaningful relationships with friends won’t mean that these connections will replace your spouse or your God spot. Instead, you will need to evaluate which spot (and therefore how much influence) your relationships should have. If you’re learning this and realizing some relationships may have been in the wrong “spot”, that’s okay! Mentally adjust and re-frame the purpose of that relationship, and decide what boundaries may be needed to ensure these relationships are corrected placed. When we are totally clear on the purpose and influence of our relationships, our ability to be present and focused increases.