“I just need you to show up for me” — I overheard this sentence between friends at a coffee shop not too long ago. It really struck a chord in me and got me thinking: what does it mean to actually show up in our relationships? We live in a society of on-demand deliveries, expedited lines, and automated services — all of which inevitably lead us down a path of little to no human interaction. We are a generation consumed with consumption. And yet, as a millennial living in the ever-so-independent Silicon Valley, I’m here to call a spade a spade: We. Need. People.
In one of the longest longitudinal studies to date on the topic of loneliness, the Harvard Study of Adult Development concluded that our relationships not only affect us psychologically but also physically. Those in the study who had close-knit friendships lived longer and happier lives. This makes complete sense as loneliness is toxic. It wasn’t popularity, money, or fame that kept them happy but simply their satisfaction in their interpersonal relationships.
But there’s the kicker — how do we stay satisfied in our relationships? I believe that one of the biggest steps we can individually take in pursuing deeper, more meaningful relationships is being more intentional with the people around us. That word has definitely had some buzz lately but I think we often miss the true definition. Intentionality is the fact of being deliberate or purposive. In regards to the people around us, it means having a clear intention in how we view them. Do we truly see them and hear them or are our own needs and desires at the top of the agenda?
As Christ-followers we have a perfect example of an intentional God who loves His children with reckless abandon. In Ephesians 3:17, Paul reminds us of this promise that we can hold onto: “…by constantly using your faith, the life of Christ will be released deep inside you, and the resting place of His love will become the very source and root of your life.” With His love as the source and root of our lives, we are equipped to pursue intentionality in our friendships.
Here are just three truths to challenge us as we are reminded of what intentionality practically looks like:
Again, Jesus models this best for us. He made himself nothing to raise us up into something. As women, we can get so caught up in needing friends to fill a certain need in our lives. We often wait to give until we get; we don’t want to be the first to throw out our love unless we know it will be reciprocated. But the beauty of the gospel is the very good news that we have been given a free gift in Him.
I view intentionality with the same lens I view proclaiming my faith: let’s give it freely as Christ loves us freely. We have to come to a place where we put ourselves second and place Christ first. With that, we are able to serve others well. We’re able to love the people in our lives with nothing held back. Because of the love lavished on us through Jesus (1 John 3:1), the love we offer up to others is simply an overflow. One of the most powerful definitions of love I heard in a sermon said: “Love is inconveniencing yourself for the sake of the other.” Mic drop.
Practical takeaway: Make a reminder in your phone with the following: “Who can I encourage today?” You’d be so surprised with how loved it will make someone feel to know you were thinking of them and took the time to love on them, say a prayer over their day, or simply send a hello.
I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” While I believe that wholeheartedly, we need to remember to dig deeper and look at exactly what our comparison is rooted in. Often times it can be envy, and more often than not, it’s rooted in the expectations we place on others.
When we resolve to be intentional in our relationships, we let that purpose breach the expectations we place on others. We choose to love unconditionally with no strings attached. That is how the glory of joy continues to grow within us. We remind ourselves that we love because He first loved us, not because of how others will love us back.
Practical takeaway: Reflect on the following — how can I stop viewing the word “friend” as a noun but as a verb? When we view ourselves in the role of friend, we get so caught up in what we expect others to do for us. Instead, how can we BE a friend to others?
Finally, being intentional with others will inevitably expand our vulnerability. It will force us to love hard and love well. It challenges us to be transparent with one another and therefore step into transformation.
In the book of Hebrews, the author implores us to consider how to spur one another on towards love and good works (Heb. 10:27). I love the use of the word “spur” in this verse. Remember that a spur is a tiny spike at the foot of a rider’s heel, used to gently urge a horse forward. My point? Sometimes loving others will hurt. Sometimes you’ll have to have a crucial conversation. Other times you’ll need to share the truth in love and that will require a whole lot of grace.
As Christians, we’re called to encourage each other and build one another up as iron sharpens iron. This intentionality challenges us to go to a deeper place in love that exceeds the counterfeit we see on social media. This reciprocal, Biblically-rooted type of love is what grows us in our vulnerability and our identity as daughters of Christ.
Practical takeaway: Reflect on the following — how can I practice being more vulnerable in my relationships? Who do I need to open up to more? Who do I need to “spur on”?
Naseem Khalili is a true Bay Area native, born and bred. She started her own wedding/event planning business in 2016 and simultaneously works as the Connections Director at Awakening Church. Her mission is to connect people from their first front door experience and make them feel like family. In addition to freelance writing, Naseem loves teaching, empowering women, movies, and nerding out on the Enneagram. She's a 2W3. You can follow her on Instagram.