Longing for connection. Does that description fit you these days? It does me, and I know I’m not alone. Recently I returned from a retreat of about seventy women, and I’d say that “longing for connection” aptly describes the common sentiment of the group after a couple of years of isolation, uncertainty, and so many disruptions in our lives—including all kinds of losses. It was beautiful to see their hunger to connect and to share their stories with one another in small groups, at meals, and during other activities of the retreat.
Of course, this renewed longing for authentic connection is not limited to women. Our church recently started an early morning men’s prayer group, and between fifty and sixty-five men are showing up each week to pray together at 6:30 am. Let that sink in. I’ve heard of men getting up before the sun rises to go the gym, go for a run, or beat the traffic and get a jumpstart on the workday, but only a spiritual longing for relationship with God and one another could motivate that many men to gather weekly at 6:30 am to pray!
Though I’ve been gathering with small groups for decades, the depth of openness and vulnerability I’ve witnessed lately seems to be indicative of an acute desire to be witnessed—to be seen, heard, known, and loved just as we are. Perhaps the isolation of the pandemic has contributed to this phenomenon. Perhaps the struggles and losses we’ve experienced have increased our awareness of our need for deep and meaningful connections. The truth is, we always need deep connection, but often our awareness of this need is dulled by activity and distractions. As a result, we become lulled to “sleep” and accustomed to more superficial relationships and experiences, avoiding the authentic sharing that leads to healing and wholeness.
We always need deep connection, but often our awareness of this need is dulled by activity and distractions.
A significant positive outcome of the last two years is a communal reawakening to the importance of deeper connections—with one another and with God. So often it is a heart-to-heart connection with others that facilitates a deeper connection with God, helping us to experience God’s presence and love in real and tangible ways as we are witnessed, accepted, and loved by others.
Deep down, we all desire to be known as we truly are—to take off the masks we wear and allow others to witness our most authentic selves. This is what drives our longing for connection, and I believe it is our deepest longing as human beings created in the image of God. Being seen and known as we are—loved unconditionally and completely—is how God loves us. So, when we experience this kind of acceptance and love from one another, we are experiencing the love of God. This is why I believe all healing happens in relationship. As we bear witness to one another and accept one another unconditionally, the healing love of God is at work.
We all desire to be known as we truly are—to take off the masks we wear and allow others to witness our most authentic selves.
Who loves you in this way, encouraging you to be yourself, to grow, and to become more and more integrated and whole as you allow God to continue working in you? These individuals welcome you even as you let go of behavior patterns that may be outwardly “pleasant” but are inwardly unhealthy, such as people pleasing, co-dependency, avoidance, or peacekeeping (which is different from peacemaking). With whom do you feel the freedom to share your hopes and dreams, fears and struggles, hurts and disappointments—even when this requires discussing needs or unhealthy issues in the relationship? And to whom are you this kind of friend? Cultivating intimate, authentic relationships requires time and patience and sometimes involves heartbreak—because authenticity requires vulnerability, which can open us to hurt or even rejection. But it’s worth the risk because we cannot have abundant lives without deep connections.
Cultivating intimate, authentic relationships requires time and patience and sometimes involves heartbreak…but it’s worth the risk because we cannot have abundant lives without deep connections.
So, how do we begin? Here are six simple suggestions.
In and through all these suggestions, we can pray, inviting God to help us cultivate deeper connections with others. Then we wait and watch and respond to God's activity—because God is always at work. Because God is the One who has given us the desire for connection—the longing to be seen, known, and loved just as we are—God will be faithful to fulfill this desire as we let go of our own agendas and expectations and join God where God is working. We also can ask God to open our eyes to those people in our lives who are already offering safe, authentic connection and express our gratitude—to God and to them. Best of all, as we seek and cultivate intimate relationships with others, we will come to experience God’s deep and unfailing love for us!
Hi, I'm Sally!
I'm passionate about connecting with God and connecting with people, offering spiritual encouragement and companionship. I'm so grateful to be on the journey with you as we walk with God together.