We are in the midst of a series called “How do we thrive in this season of uncertainty?” If there is anything that we can be sure of, it’s that we are in a season of uncertainty.
I have spent the last several weeks talking about ways that we can thrive physically in this season.
I want to shift gears this week and talk about our relationships.
How can we thrive relationally in seasons of uncertainty?
I don’t know about you, but I have felt all over the place about my people. I have a great time playing with my kids and then, 30 seconds later, I walk away hoping that I won’t see them again until they are 18. I have never needed more space from my husband, yet I dread the day that he has to go back to the office. I feel a need to see my friends, but the idea of making plans feels exhausting. I deeply want to live in community, yet sometimes when a neighbor knocks on my door I want to hide. I find myself texting all of my friends in one day to check in and then the next day feeling too overwhelmed to respond.
Anyone with me? Is anyone else experiencing this push and pull feeling in their relationships?
I want to assure you that it is normal.
When we are in times of crisis, stress, or anxiety, we do not have the emotional and relational capacity that we normally do.
But here’s the rub.
No matter how emotionally drained we feel, we NEED to be in relationships with other people.
Especially right now.
I have found that I rarely have to convince anyone of the benefits of healthy relationships, but let me share a couple.
Did you know that people who live in community with other people live longer?
Did you know that people who surround themselves with life-giving people heal faster?
Did you know that people who have healthy relationships have less stress and tend to make healthier choices?
Those are only a few of many answers you would find if you googled “What are the benefits of relationships?”
Like I said, most people don’t need convincing that they need to be in relationships. I have found that the question isn’t usually ‘why’ should I have relationships, it’s ‘how?’
How do I engage in relationships, especially right now, when I feel so drained?
We need to make sure that we have the emotional energy we need for the people we love the most.
That can be accomplished in a variety of ways. For me, in order to love Bryan and my kids well, I need to see someone outside of my immediate family every single day. Right away when Minnesota received the Stay At Home order, I started to set up daily walks with my neighbors. We met in the street and kept our distance. Just being in the presence of someone else lifted my spirits and enabled me to love my family better. For my introverted friends, in order to love your family well, you will probably need a different tactic. Adding a lot of outside people to your circle will probably be stressful. You will need alone time to recharge. That means you may need to get up 30 minutes before your kids and go for a walk. You may need to turn the TV off 30 minutes early and enjoy the quiet of the night. We need to figure out what we need to do so we can be at our best with the people we love.
We need to take inventory of our relationships.
We need to take a good look at our relationships. Who in your life is draining your energy right now? Who is bringing you life?
If it helps, make a list. Create a list of people that you see on a regular basis (or would like to) and create two categories. “Challenging” or “Lifegiving”. How balanced are those two lists? Most people at this point would say that if someone is draining, you should stop spending time with them. I disagree. I believe that we need to live in the balance. It is incredibly important that we surround ourselves with people that are lifegiving. Those are the people that are going to fill up our love tanks and give us the energy we need to love well. But we don’t get to stop there. When we only surround ourselves with people who are lifegiving, we become complacent and lose sight of our purpose and God’s purpose. When we are always giving in our relationships, we feel drained and resentful.
We need to strike a balance between having relationships where we give and relationships where we receive. Let’s work on prioritizing our time so that we are spending time with people that are both life giving and challenging.
Some of you reading this might feel like all you do is give and give and give in your relationships. I hear you. I’ve been there.
Creating life giving relationships takes effort.
Most of my mutual, life giving relationships are a result of hard work. I have been known to go up to people and say “There is something that I like about you, I like (blank). Could we get coffee? I would love to be your friend.” I’ve had to work around hectic schedules and push through conflict. I’ve had to ask more than once to set up a time to meet. I’ve had to put myself out there and be vulnerable at times.
But I promise you this, it has always been worth the effort. It’s been worth it because I have developed some incredible life giving relationships. And it’s those relationships that give me the strength I need to navigate those that are tough and give me the energy to love my family well.
Friends, as much as we may be tempted to curl up into a ball and hide until this is all over, it’s a time to engage. It’s time to press in. It’s time to love our people well. But not just our people, the people that cross our path – the hard ones, the easy ones, and everyone in between.
Because there is more,