Not long after my wife and I started dating, I moved eight hours away. (Not a move I recommend for people.) This wasn’t by choice. I was in the United States Army and had been assigned to Ft. Bragg, NC, eight hours away from the girl I loved. It stunk with a capital S.
For several years we carried out most of our relationship via letters in the mail, and long-distance phone calls that required a calling card (you youngsters can Google that later). I traveled home on the weekends that I could, though it wasn’t nearly enough. Despite our distance apart—spoiler alert coming—we grew in our relationship together and made it. We got married and had three children. All of this despite the obstacles.
How do you grow closer in relationship with someone? There are several factors in nurturing a growing relationship.
You spend time together.
Time is of great importance for getting to know each other. If you want your relationship with someone to grow, you must plan to spend time with each other.
Another factor is communication.
It’s not enough to spend time together, but it is what you do with that time that determines if you are growing in your relationship. Communication is how this happens. It is through communication that we learn more about each other and grow to understand how the other thinks, what they enjoy, and understand what they are going through.
This is why not everyone who is around each other (say in an office or at school) are close friends. Because communication is how we grow closer.
And it is particularly the kind of communication that determines our closeness. When we keep things at the surface level with people, we will only experience superficial closeness. We may know things about someone, but we won’t have a deep connection with them. Deep connections form through intimate, real communication. When you open up about hurts, fears, dreams, and disappointments, you grow in intimacy. As you share your innermost thoughts, the ones you don’t typically share with others, that’s how you get close to people.
Why is this significant? Because you and I are made for closeness with God. We are made to walk in relationship with God. To know Him is the greatest of privileges offered to us, and it extends to us the very real invitation to fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11; John 15:11).
If you want to grow in your relationship with God, and experience the joy of knowing Him more and more, you must commit to it.
Dedicate set time each day. You must spend time with God if you are going to grow in your relationship. If we don’t plan to do this, we are fooling ourselves if we think we’ll stumble into it at some point in our day. The busyness of our day often swallows up all available time. Most people do the things they plan. We go to school, work, to the gym, or spend time with friends because we plan it. We prioritize it.
We must do the same with God. I recommend mornings before the day starts for several reasons. First, we are in need of mercy and grace for the day ahead. Second, we are not in the throes of the chaos of the day’s demands. Get time with God before everyone else is asking for it.
Once we get to that time, communication is the goal. And communication goes two ways. God speaks to us, and we speak to God. God speaks to us through His Word, and we speak to God by prayer.
I recommend beginning your time in prayer. Thank God for your sleep and the gift of a new day. Praise God for His mercy and grace to you, shown through Jesus, to make you His own. Ask God as you begin your time with Him to put your heart at rest from the busyness that’s coming, and the tasks for the day that lie ahead. Ask Him to open your mind and heart to His Word. Pray for your family, friends, church, and responsibilities for the day.
There are many more things you can pray about, but I encourage you not to see this morning time of prayer as your only time to talk with God. You need to communicate with God throughout the day, perhaps setting aside several mini-times of prayer to pray about different things (missions, big decisions, lost friends, something you’re working on, etc.).
After praying, open God’s Word and read. Don’t read in order to say you read, read to hear from God. Read with your heart open to how God wants to reveal Himself or speak to you. Maybe something will encourage you. Perhaps conviction will come. There may be a promise you latch onto that you didn’t even know you needed.
I recommend having a predetermined plan for what you’re going to read, so that you’re not thumbing through the page just looking around. Work a plan, whether it is going through a devotional, a reading plan, or just plowing through one book at a slow pace.
There’s no magical amount of reading that has to be done in order to “count.” The goal is not about how much you read, but hearing from God. This doesn’t mean every time, or even most of the time, is going to feel like a mountaintop experience. The goal is time spent, day-by-day, with God. That’s how we grow. It’s not one time, it’s a successive number of times combined that draw us closer.
Just like with my wife. It wasn’t one phone call that drew us nearer to each other. It was the day-after-day repetition of that time—even when we were tired, irritable, and arguing—that actually made us inseparable. If you want to grow closer to God, the key is in your hand. If you draw near to God, He will draw near to you (James 4:8). We are as close to God right now as we want to be.