When was the last time you had a deep, soul-satisfying conversation?
My guess is you remember it precisely, because meaningful conversation is such a rarity. Not to bash lighthearted banter—because having a fun is one important aspect of relating to others. And it’s not that we are refusing to speak to each other, because in our hyper-connected world, we are actually sharing plenty! As writer Sherry Turkle says, “We are so busy communicating that we often don’t have time to talk to one another about what really matters.”
In today’s deluge of words, however, I’ve found that my soul is often still parched. I crave deep, soul-satisfying conversation that affirms I am not alone in my hopes, fears, dreams and disappointments. Finding the time and space for such conversation is tough for all of us. It used to be that people gathered regularly—daily, even—on front porches, by the hearth, around kitchen tables. Vital information would be shared; stories would be told, time and again, renewed with each telling. Community was being built with shared words, laughter and tears. People knew each other’s stories and knew where they belonged.
Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost the art of storytelling, and with it, we’ve lost our sense of community. Lack of community is devastating because God made us to be in close relationship with others. Even in the perfection of Eden, the one thing God labelled as “not good” was Adam’s aloneness (Gen. 2:18). Community is good because it reflects the perfection of our God who is three-in-one, the perfect fellowship between Father, Son and Spirit. And so God fashioned another human for Adam, so that he would have a human to fellowship with and be known by.
Likewise, we need community and meaningful relationships. Sharing our lives is, in essence, the sharing of stories. We tell each other the episodes and chapters of our lives, and this is the key to restoring community and the building the meaningful relationships we all crave.
As good as that sounds, I often feel at a loss, not really knowing where to begin. How do I, for example, build a deeper friendship with a friend I’ve known for years but only at a surface level? To grow the friendship, I would need to know more of her story. All stories, including those of our lives, follow the basic plot line elements of beginnings, obstacles, hope and future (from Spread Truth’s resource Life as We Know It). To know my friend’s story, I need to get the shape of it by learning about her:
Beginnings: Do I know how her story began? What characters played central roles? The setting and location? Favorite childhood memories?
Obstacles: Do I know the difficulties she has faced? Where has her story taken dark turns? What rough patches has she endured? How have these shaped her approach to life?
Hope: Do I know who or what has brought her hope? When did her story take a turn for the better? What makes her come alive?
Future: Do I know her dreams? What legacy does she want to leave? What does she want to accomplish in life? How does she think this life ends?
Questions like these are countless! Each one will help me know my friend’s story, cutting a path for a deeper relationship and true community.
Pursuing community with the people around us will, of course, take a bit of intentionality. At first, it may feel awkward. But we are simply out of practice! We have to be brave, have courage. Community and connectedness will grow as we purposefully speak about the deeper things that truly matter.