The Warning of Relational Autopilot

It’s interesting how over time, our friendships and relationships can get set on autopilot. We start out with new bonds and new dynamics, our hands on the wheel, navigating through unmarked territories of community. But as we progress and move forward, something changes.

Our normalcy in friendship can become very similar to how we treat our daily route to work or the holiday drive back to our childhood home. Once we’re on the road, we know exactly where the speed limit changes, the winding curves, where the gas stations are and which ones are cheaper. We know where the rest stops are located up and down the highway and how far we can make it on a tank of gas.

Our attention wains. Our mind disengages.

We’ve been this way before. We know what we’re doing.

This can be the way of comfortable friendships. We know how they’ll respond to our jokes. We know their faults and they know our failures. As time passes, we know them just as well as we know ourselves and vice versa.

We don’t do this consciously. We don’t choose to get in a groove and set the cruise control.

Friendship, much like an aged wine, should get better over time, growing in richness and flavor.

Intentionality that Grows with Time

The writer of Hebrews actually encourages a different way. Hebrews 10 encourages Christians that as time passes and the years go on, don’t sit back and let the comfort of normalcy win the day in our relationships. Instead, as the days go by and time moves on, we must be more encouraging and more intentional in our relationships.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:23-25

The writer encourages us in our friendships, much like an aged wine, to get better over time and grow in richness and flavor.

Don’t get me wrong, part of the richness is the deep bonds of knowing someone so well. It’s the sweetness of being so deeply connected in our shared experiences. But if you’re anything like me, as you know someone for years and the relationship ages, you lose sight of some of the intentionality that was there at the beginning.

I get lazy.

The people I love the most and the people I have known the longest are most times the people I encourage the least and the people I go out of my to build up with the biblical mandate of intentionality least frequently. If we aren’t careful, novelty can relegate history to the back corner in the realm of friendship. Hebrews says don’t let this happen. Don’t stop spending time with one another. Don’t stop saying life-giving things to one another.

Sure, many people do that as time moves on.

They stop hanging out.

They get busy.

They get sidetracked.

Their focus shifts.

After all, we’ve groomed and cared for certain relationships that after time, the relationships grow on their own without the care that was needed in the beginning.

Hebrews is saying that friendships aren’t like newborn children. There isn’t a time that comes when you don’t need to intentional like you were at the beginning. Sure, the care and intentionality looks different, but it still needs to be there to grow. Hebrews says that friendship should be curious, much like the case of Benjamin Button; we’re getting more intentional with our care, nurturing, and encouragement of one another as time goes on, not less.

This is the joy of friendship.

We all want friends.

We all need friends.

Most importantly, we all need to keep investing in our friendships as the days go on. We need to have dinner, encourage one another and speak into each other’s lives in such a way that waters and brings life to our souls and to theirs.

If we aren’t careful, novelty can relegate history to the back corner in the realm of friendship.

By now, I’m sure most of us have seen the video that features the most excited 4th grader that entered a classroom this year. Boy, was he pumped to be at school and start a new year. But do you remember what his hope was? Do you remember what he wanted at his new school?

He was hoping he’d make a friend. In fact, he said he actually wanted to make more than one.

We all want friends.

And when the Lord brings them to us, may we be encouraged by the word from Hebrews 10, that in our friendships, new or old, we invest more and continue to till the relational soil with constant intentionality as the seasons change and as life moves on. When the Lord brings friends our way, let’s have the garden gloves on and be prepared to keep them on.

Let’s encourage one another more tomorrow than we did today.

Let’s continue to grow closer with one another as we continue to push each other towards Jesus.

Yes, today.

And most importantly tomorrow, too.

Jonathan C. Edwards (@NotThePuritan)

Jonathan (M.Div, Th.M) is the Director of Curriculum for Docent Research Group. He is the author of "Left: The Struggle to Make Sense of Life When a Parent Leaves," available now!

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