3 WAYS TO DEEPEN OUR RELATIONSHIPS
One of the greatest pieces of advice I was given by my mom and dad as Steve and I became parents, was to “keep pressing in.” What does that mean? It is a way of relating to our kids (and obviously everyone else, too). It is an attitude of connection and intimacy that we would pursue every single day to stay in tune with who they are and what they are navigating in their own hearts. “Keep pressing in” means don’t give up even when it feels hopeless or too far gone; it means it’s worth the fight, worth the conversation, worth the conflict. Here are the three ways when pressing in are important and the fruit is a deeper relationship:
WHEN SIN OCCURS, PRESS IN. A couple of months ago, one of my kids lied to my face about doing something they actually didn’t do. Ugh. A little lie, right? I, for one, hate lies, so although it was small and a relatively harmless lie, I chose to press in. I took a few minutes to refocus my thoughts after the lie. I took the trash out, talked to Jesus for a sec, and came back in the house to press into the sin. I went straight to my child, looked them in the eyes, and sincerely spoke that I knew they lied, and it would be to their benefit to speak the truth now as well as it being honoring to me. I saw the wrestle behind the eyes, perhaps wanting the lie to continue, and then I saw a break, and then the truth. The truth came rolling out about some silly homework assignment. How easy would it have been for me to just let that go? How nitpicky I could have told myself I was being and excused myself from pressing in. But instead, I communicated that I loved them too much to let them dishonor another and to lie. We all know our kids. We know how long they brush their teeth, we know how long it takes them to read a book, we know their tendencies, their temptations. And we, as their parents, get to choose how we respond to each decision that heads down the wrong path. When the truth came rolling off the tongue for our child, it was like a light hit the conversation, like something meant for destruction and had the potential to disconnect, was redeemed and made beautiful. This is what pressing in instead of looking the other way or excusing yourself from the responsibility of holding our kids accountable does. It redeems, it connects, it honors and it creates depth of relationship and trust that love wins.
WHEN DISCONNECTEDNESS IS FELT, PRESS IN. Sometimes the quiet slip into disconnectedness is easy to miss. Sometimes, the quiet is a nice change from the constant bombardment of the neediness, the want to play pretend, the hundreds of questions a day about the same things. Sometime the quiet slip into disconnect is easier to ignore, and hope will be lifted on its own. And to be honest, it very well could be lifted on its own. It could, but it also could keep going further and further and further down the path of “I don’t even know them anymore.” This is not just in regards to our children, by the way. This could be applied to every relationship, including and definitely worthy of a highlight, your spouse. Ask questions, take time to be with the other. Pray over them, speak life to them, and be generous with encouragement. Being generous with encouragement is something that I’ve totally been noticing a lack of, in regards to my husband. The other day, he worked so hard all weekend from pretty much sunrise to sunset to fix a few things on our home. When Sunday evening came, and he completed what he wanted to complete, he asked the kids to, “Go take a look at what daddy did…” And of course, they were thrilled and pouring over him the kindest words: “Woah dad, you’re the best ever,” and “That looks so awesome,” and “You finished already, you’re fast.” And I found myself holding back the very same sentiments that were flowing so easily out of our kids mouth. I stayed stuck in my “holding back” for about an hour after he finished, and as soon as I opened my mouth to speak words that built him up; that encouraged and brought life, we instantly drew closer. He did do a great job, the timeliness was super impressive, and instead of offering up the encouragement earlier and chose to hold back instead, it brewed the disconnectedness I so always fight against. Pressing in draws you closer to the other. Give to them in a way you know they receive love. Time, gifts, service, touch, words. These are all tangible ways to connect when you feel that disconnect. Don’t wait, don’t let another minute roll on. Press in.
WHEN EMOTIONS ARE HIGH, PRESS IN. And the emotion does not have to be sad, to press in. If the emotion is anger, joy, or excited, the opportunity to press in, is there as well. It allows for you to connect to the heart of the other, where they are at in that moment, and eventually it will build the relationship on top of those investments. There are several avenues that I have experienced in my life that people take in regards to emotion. Don’t shut them up. Don’t try to change the subject, don’t make them laugh and ignore that they are emotional for a reason. The most common thing I see is when emotions show up, the moment someone introduces a change of subject or makes a light joke to change the mood, is when the disconnect occurs. It takes the possibility for intimacy and shuts it down. Validate emotion, don’t cover it up or run from it. Be in the moment of emotion, just be. Don’t try to solve or fix or input, just be and let the emotion breathe, let the other know you’re there to press in with them, to allow them to be wherever they are at in that moment.
I remember one specific time, I was in a conversation with someone, and the conversation became emotional for me. Something we were talking about hit a chord. I immediately started tearing up and then it went beyond. (I typically can’t control a “tearing up” moment from going full blown bawling; it’s ridiculous, I know). My tears were an outward display of something that was going on internally for me, and instead of pressing in to the conversation, I was hushed. And hushing (“shhh, shhh, shhh, don’t cry”), immediately takes me from free and vulnerable to awkward and shut down. The hushing or changing of the subject, or lightening the mood is something that happens all. the. time. Maybe it’s something we’ve been taught? That crying indicates weakness or something to avoid? NOOO. It’s just straight up not, ya’ll. It’s an indicator of life. As Charlotte Bronte said, “Crying does not indicate that you are weak. Since birth, it has been a sign that you are alive.” Let’s retrain our responses to meet others’ tears and their joy and even their anger with less hushing and more pressing in.
The relationships we value will deepen with the choice to press in. I don’t know about you, but my favorite conversations don’t revolve around “how’s the weather?” But instead are the ones that bear the fruit for the future. So, the next time you feel disconnect with your spouse, you see something in your kids that could easily be overlooked, or you ignore or distract from an emotional moment, CHOOSE, INVEST, and PRESS IN.