A Generous Grace

ideas on practical spirituality and loving each other

6 ways to take your relationships deeper in 2016, Part I


My dad, my mom jokes, has two speeds in life: full-throttle, and asleep.

I know this, because I inherited a lot of it. I am nothing if not intentional (if you’re skeptical, click the ideas page). In fact, before it was honed by some maturity and grace, I’m pretty confident I used to scare people off a bit, plunking down my lunch tray in the college cafeteria and asking people what God’s been teaching them lately. Pass the salt, would you?

But while my intensity may have been a little…choking…what I don’t want to miss in 2016 are relationships that convey more than 140 characters. If I’ve learned anything from the African savannah, it’s that when you’re away from your herd, it’s hard to survive. You may even get picked off.

Africa’s also illustrated this in the way it’s made me, well, a little more desperate.

Turns out getting a little more uncomfortable has shown me how much I need to be intimately involved in a community of life-on-life, give and take. It’s revealed a thirst that perhaps my own arrogance had previously concealed: for relationships that love relentlessly and practically—through depression or loss, through seasons where one party might give or pursue more than the other, through meeting each other without makeup in a house with as many Legos on the floor and handprints on the wall as there are dirty dishes on the counter.

I guess I think my relationships can deal with a little less mascara and a little more fingerprints.

Otherwise, I may find myself attempting to accomplish what God intended an entire Body of people to accomplish—and a Body that’s lacking what I’m created to offer.

God knew when He made me that friendships which love intrusively weren’t optional. They were—are— vital.

Wherever you are.


  1. Ask good questions. One of my favorite—though admittedly it can occasionally sound cheeseball—is, “How’s your heart?” Press into how people are really interacting in their soul with the circumstances they’re relaying to you. (I’m excited to be starting a series on questions to take your relationships to the next level!) Of course, this can also be done in a way that sometimes we simply want to be the one to whom people tell stuff; to be The Confidante, The Counselor. But love doesn’t let us get away with always being the Giver in relationships (see John 13:8-10 and Matthew 26:7-11).
  2. Ask how you can pray for them. Praying is one of the most intimate forms of love. I want to fight alongside my friends, for them and the ones they love—and for us to at least get to the level of, “What would you ask God for right now? What matters the most to you that you’re wrestling with? What’s sitting on your heart like a big elephant?” Sometimes, when they’re too weary to pray for themselves, I love that I get that privilege. Who do you know who might not have a lot of people praying on their behalf? Practically speaking, consider texting when you’ve prayed for your friend, calling to check up on how they’re doing, or sending a note in the mail to let them know some of the verses and thoughts you’re praying for them.
  3. Tell the truth. I’m challenged by the simple words of Ephesians 4:25: Let each of you put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Reality is, I have not always treated my friends as if they are members of my own body, communicating like my own body does with itself. I am not always as open with friends as I would like them to be with me. I am not false—not in the intentionally lying sense—but for the sake of “kindness” or my own security, I am not always intentionally truthful.

Sometimes, I am not gentle in a spiritual way: that is to say, I am gentle, but not faithful; not courageous. I know there’s also a temptation to use “telling the truth” as an excuse to lack kindness—but real truth is not only fully truthful, but full of grace (John 1:14).

Catch Part II here!


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  1. Such great ideas, Janel! Just yesterday I was talking to a friend about some of the challenges of moving relationships to a deeper level, but also the great importance of community (especially for those overseas), so this was a timely post. I am looking forward to “Part 2.” Happy New Year to you and your family! 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Ruthie. Ironically my husband even brought up this topic tonight before reading this post–and just how to press in deeper. Love that you’re loving so intentionally here.

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