Relationships. We all have them to some extent or another. We cannot avoid them. They are what brought us into this world, what raised us, what continue to shape and influence us every day of our lives. But do we really understand the beautiful blessing of having such a gift?
I have been as guilty as anybody of taking for granted the friendships in my life and totally missing the wonderful thing that having relationships adds to my world. I was blessed to grow up around many loving relationships but didn't fully appreciate their value until some of them began to go away. Through death or growing apart, as these relationships were removed from my life, I regretted so much: the times I should've said how much I loved someone, or could've taken the risk to reach out instead of hiding within myself. How often it is that we don't fully appreciate what we have until it is taken away from us!
I distinctly remember the first time I really allowed myself to open up, in a deeper way, to two relationships that I had enjoyed for years. It was on my birthday a few years ago, and a couple of my close friends were coming over to celebrate. Until recently, relationships (for me) had meant: you have a good time with others but you don't let them in too close. See, I had dealt with insecurity for a long time and was afraid of what others would think were they to see the "real" me. I had hidden behind the mask of my own personality, trusting in my friendly ways and my caring heart to build friendships but not to a deep extent. This birthday was one of the first times I took the mask off and dared myself to receive the unconditional love of my friends - to just try and see how it felt to be fully known but loved in spite of it. Following an evening of dinner, playing games, and being with my two friends, I cried after they left - not because I was sad about anything, but because it signified a huge step for me. I had felt the love that night - had allowed myself to take in the kindness and care of those who were close to me - and something inside of me had changed. I learned a powerful lesson that has transformed my life: journeying alone never works.
We, as human beings, were never made to walk through life alone. Relationships are God's way of providing for some of our basic emotional needs: to be loved, to be accepted, to be known, to be cared for. No matter the age, every person must have these needs fulfilled. Sometimes, these needs drive us to look for their fulfillment in the wrong places, but we know we must have them met nonetheless. But, even though we know this, we seem to want to journey alone. At certain times in life, it seems better to walk by ourselves than to run the risk of having others see us for the way we are. Yet, in doing so, we cause ourselves more grief because there is no one else to share the burdens we bear. There is no one to empathize with us, to hold us close and tell us that they understand our pain. And so, we choose to wander through our own darkness without a friend. It's better than the alternative, we say. But is it really?
In Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, it says,
" Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:
If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has
no one to help him up!"
This is why solid relationships are essential. Without them, we must struggle to get back up when life's challenges knock us down. Without them, we have no arm to lean on except our own sheer will. Journeying alone robs us of the joy and companionship that can carry us through the hard times in life. We end up trying to do it all and exhausting ourselves in the process.
But the most important reason why relationships are so crucial is because they give us a human picture of the greatest relationship we can have: that of a friendship with God. The love and care that others demonstrate toward us is only a fraction of what God demonstrates. Humans will always come up short in everything, thus God's love is the only relationship that is unchanging. When we walk with Him, we never have to journey alone because He is with us continually. He will always be there to comfort, to fulfill all of those needs that we long to have met. And He provides others around us to show us His love on a human level. Relationships are a gift to us from God. What they add to our lives is vital to our personal and emotional well-being.
In looking back, I regret that I didn't realize this sooner, and I have sought to embrace the ones in my life in any even greater way since that birthday celebration a few years back. I can honestly say that I treasure each relationship I have and am grateful every day for what they bring to my life. But even more, I am thankful that my days of journeying alone are in the past. Because God calls me His friend, I know that if I fall, He will lift me up. Because He journeys with me, I never have to face life's uncertainties by myself. Walking at His side, my life is joyful and complete, no matter what each day holds.