A great fear I have is reaching the end of my life and feeling unhappy. When we are in the thick of child rearing, new marriages, careers, eating our weight in vegetables and a not-so-mid-life crisis – we try to make all these decisions that will ensure we are happy now and in the long run.
An impressive study was done by Harvard, they followed nearly 300 men for 75 years to measure the level of happiness along their life. Their results show some very insightful points on what results in life happiness. One of their top results is that happiness in life is found when one has good relationships – not necesarily a lot of relationships, but a few real solid ones that you can rely on. Harvard psychiatrist, Dr. George Vaillant, says of the results: “there are two pillars of happiness: One is love. The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away.”
Do you get how big this feels? How God designed us for relationships, for loving Him, for loving others. Do you see how simple it is that we ought to be together, helping, serving, knowing and loving?
But, how do you get these good intimate relationships? Of course the first step is to say ‘yes’ to one another. To be the one making the invite, to be the one accepting the invite. But now that we are elbow to elbow at the table, we realize that it takes more than just showing up and spending time with each other to make this a friendship of lasting value. It takes authenticity. Authenticity is what allows intimacy through the walls we put up around our heart.
We all have those people in our lives who we feel safe with. We also have people we feel are unsafe, they are guarded in some way. They aren’t ‘open’ and definitely not vulnerable, they aren’t ‘authentic’. In the case of our relationships with others being inauthentic may look like people-pleasing, false flattery, avoidance, control, or anger. At the root of it, being inauthentic is a form of manipulation of the people around us, intimacy cannot happen in the limitations of inauthenticity.
We recently attended a local IF Gathering, and when they said we would be doing a confession I glanced to the friends at my side and thought ‘oh no way!’ I mean, aren’t there anonymous online websites for this kind of thing?? Cause if I had to confess my dirty mess to these ladies I would have to find a way to purchase their silence with timeshares and cheese. Confession is an extreme way to bring us together at a deeper level, I’m not saying go and make everyone super uncomfortable with your list of sins. But we need to let our mouths speak more truths to one another, the truths that make us vulnerable. We need to confess ‘me too’…..’this is where I struggle’….. ‘I’m sorry I screwed that up’. We need to be humble and open and willing to let someone fill that dark aching space with love, because God wants to flood us with his love and sometimes he uses those around us to do it.
Growing meaningful relationships takes hard work. Sometimes it means letting your messy side be seen before they show theirs. Sometimes it means confessing to someone you have wronged and asking forgiveness. Sometimes it means being uncomfortable. It always means moving a little deeper.
Another point about intimate relationships, is that they are often pioneered in the community setting. We need to not only open up and invest in our close relationships, but we also need to warm up and break down barriers of getting close in community.
We recently had the pleasure to meet Nicolena of To Gather. She said something I haven’t stopped thinking about, ‘you know how you see someone a dozen times and each time have the same conversation – and think, something has to change?’. How true this can be for how we act in community. We show up but we still keep distance. We dance around small talk and don’t let anyone get too close. We might be polite enough, but without some authenticity in our community and church, we can’t quite show the world God’s intention for genuine Christian community. Authentic love.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. – John 13:34-35
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