Four Steps Towards Connection
In my last post, I wrote about feeling alone in my crowded church, and my search for connection. We saw that Paul instructed Titus to teach men and women to pursue intimate, discipleship relationships with other men and women, so that they would adorn the doctrine of God our Savior (Titus 2:10). I confessed that my marriage alone was not filling this need for an intimate connection. Although I have a meaningful relationship with my husband, I still craved more. It was through my prolonged study of Titus that I understood I needed women who would know me and love me well enough to point out when I am wrong, to call me on my insecurity, to encourage me in the gospel, and to pray for me.
We all need these relationships for our good and our growth. But maybe you aren't sure how to get there. There are four things I think are necessary to develop these kinds of friendships.
If you do not currently have these type of relationships, but desire to, first pray. Ask the Lord to open your eyes to one or two women with whom you could develop this kind of relationship. Ask him to help you be on the lookout, and to give you the courage to step outside of yourself and pursue it.
I spent a lot of years sitting in the back of the church and keeping quiet in my Bible Study small group, just waiting. I was waiting for someone else to pursue me for this kind of friendship. I was afraid to ask – it seemed weird. And to be quite honest, I suffered from the false belief that no one would want to know me.
If you are thinking that about yourself, let me tell you that is a lie. You are an image-bearer of God, and you should be known. More so, God has called and empowered you to love others. So, don’t wait for them to come to you. If there is a woman with whom you would like to pursue a deeper friendship with, ask her.
Yes, it might feel awkward. And yes, there will be times when the woman you talk to will respond with a “no,” or “I can’t right now,” or even “yes” but then she doesn’t follow through. That’s okay. Don’t give up! I think you will be surprised how many others are desiring the same deeper connection. But, someone has got to make the first move.
Ask someone if she would meet you for coffee, if she wants to come over and play games with you and your family. Ask if she wants to get together and read 1 John with you.
Once you have taken that initiative, don’t stop there! We are all busy people. We all have things – children, aging parents, work, ministry, laundry –oh my word, the laundry – it never ends! But be intentional about seeking to grow that friendship. Take advantage of technology. Email, texting, and here’s an idea – call them! (Does anyone ever really do that anymore?) Use technology as a supplement to your face-to-face encounters throughout the week, but don’t let that become a substitute for regular face to face time together. Intimacy is not going to be borne out of technology alone.
Be intentional about connecting with multiple ages and stages. We all have someone who is ahead of us on the path -women who have been walking faithfully for years. We also all have women in our lives who are behind us on the path - they have younger children, no children, they are newlyweds, unmarried, college age. We need both. The model in Titus 2 is most certainly an inter-generational one.
Now that you have pursued this relationship, it is time to tear down the walls, throw open the windows, and let them in! Dare to let them see you – warts, weaknesses, and all. We are all perfectionists of some kind and afraid to expose our perceived weaknesses to others. My house is too messy, my kids are too unruly, my life is too chaotic... don't let these fears or excuses get in the way. Your new friend is not coming over to your house to inspect whether you are clean enough to be her friend. She just wants to know you and be known by you. She’s craving real, authentic relationship with you.
A great way to foster this intimacy is to be in the Word together. Of my closest friends, most of them have developed greater intimacy over the study of Scripture. This is easier to do if you are already in a women’s Bible study together. If you aren’t in one, and for some reason you can't join one, commit together to the same reading plan and discuss what you are reading. There are really great ones out there. I am using The Bible Project’s reading plan. Or you can use the book One to One Reading by David Helm. Nothing I have found has the ability to knit together the hearts and minds of women better or stronger than a shared love and pursuit of understanding our God through his Word.
Another way to build intimacy is to pray together. I have tried to make it a regular habit to text my prayers to my closest friends so they can see the words being lifted up on their behalf. One friend is really good at checking in every Monday and asking how she can specifically be praying that week. And she doesn’t just ask for circumstantial requests, but has learned enough about my struggles with sin that she can ask about those as well.
I have, in just a few years of acknowledging the need for these types of friendships, gone from feeling alone in a full room at church, to knowing and being known by some amazing women who love Jesus and desire my growth and maturity in faith. And my craving has changed from craving connection to desiring the same for these women.
So pray, ask, and step outside of yourself. Pursue these relationships. Know and be known.