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Life is full of people. We learn to love, to hate, and to prosper with people. We start to spend more time with the people that we have mutual interests with. We then develop what are called relationships. But what really is a relationship, and why do we have them? Why do we love to be with people? As someone who treasures the relationships I have and strives to cultivate them, this is a question I have asked myself often.
I love my alone time, especially after a long day with lots of people. But I do limit my alone time so I do not get too drawn into myself and become so lonely that depression or self doubt steps in. The truth is, lately I have felt incredibly lonely even when I am with people. I have this empty feeling of being completely alone while in a room full of humans. I wonder what someone is thinking about me and who I am, assuming others think ill of me. I get lost in my mind until a friend comes by and pulls me out of my worry. We need good, deep talk-it-out relationships that speak to the hard stuff, to let us get those feelings out in a healthy way or else we can feel that loneliness even when we’re with people.
I think that part of the problem is that we have come to develop hundreds of shallow, surface relationships, where we say, “Hi, how are you?” and move on. We have become okay with not investing in others, with walking away from someone and not remembering what you talked about or having anything to “chew” on. This then leads to the loneliness that I have experienced. What we really crave deep down is a friendship that goes farther, a friendship that says, “I see you are not okay. What’s up?” We need people who see our deep pain and fear, our frustrations and problems, and say, “Okay, what next? How do you want me to help?” Sometimes just having someone with you when you are in a rough patch is enough to help you through, and even better that misplaced words that are intended to be helpful but just aren’t at the time. Jason Gray’s song, “Not Right Now,” explains what I mean here.
God called us to community together, a deep fellowship of believers that care and love for each other. That doesn’t mean saying “hi” with our masks on tight while we continue to walk to our destination in loneliness. Wearing a mask, we feel secure and comfortable, even though it is hard to keep track of all the levers and gears it takes to keep the mask on. Our masks hide what is really going on; they hide the pain and give the illusion of peace and joy when we are really suffering on the inside. C.S. Lewis mentions this in the preface to his book, The Four Loves. “We are born helpless. As soon as we are fully conscious we discover loneliness. We need others physically, emotionally, intellectually; we need them if we are to know anything, even ourselves” (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, pg. 2).
We must take off the masks and hold each other in our arms. We must be able to cry out the pain and receive comfort with God’s guiding hand. He even tells us in Galatians to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2-3, ESV). We do this by loving one another, by caring for each other, and by taking up each other's crosses and walking on toward the light of Christ.
Part of my problem I think has its roots in the sense of “home.” I do not feel at home most places; instead, I see myself as more of a wanderer. This view of myself has given me the excuse to avoid super deep relationships and to instead have lots of more surfacey relationships that move as I move. I do have some deep friendships but not as many as I would like. The thing is, as I work on life and my relationship with God, I have come to realize that the few deep relationships that I do have are what He wants and that I must be content with that. As a Christian, my home should be in the arms of Abba, my Father, regardless of my relationships or what place might feel like home. I am called to follow Him wherever He leads, and in doing so my true home is with Him, not necessarily a physical place. This is a hard pill to swallow some days as I ache for a physical home. I forget that I am already home.
God has been putting my relationships on my heart these last few weeks and months. I have seen through Him that relationships are paramount to being in love with life and all God has to offer us through companionship. Our earthly relationships are a mere taste of what is to come with Christ in heaven. So love God and love people well. Wherever you go and whoever you meet, share His love in the way you love others. Step out from behind the mask of busyness. Get out there and be with people. And last but not least, do not forget how you got to where you are in life. In so doing, be in praise of the One who made the heavens and the earth but still thought you were important enough to give you His companionship.