I think it’s safe to say that most people deep down really want close relationships. So many things are more enjoyable with a friend than alone – eating out, going to a movie, exercising, celebrating a holiday … we are social beings and we generally like to share special moments with those close to us.
But real, close relationships aren’t always easy to build. We tend to hit a lot of barriers when we try to be close to people – independence, insecurity and fear of rejection, for example, are obstacles that most of us face on a regular basis if we’re really honest with ourselves.
The Bible teaches that what really matters in life is not your achievements, perfection, success or even how people think of you. What really matters is the quality of your relationships – with God and people around you:
… What is important is faith expressing itself in love.
I think most of us would agree with that if we think about what (or who) is really most important to us – like our family, children, and spouse. But in order to have close relationships we have to take a look at ourselves and how we build them. What does the quality of your relationships really say about who you are?
1. Are you independent, or do you make every effort to connect?
But Ruth said, “Don’t beg me to leave you or to stop following you. Where you go, I will go. Where you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.  And where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. I ask the Lord to punish me terribly if I do not keep this promise: Not even death will separate us.”
Ruth 1:16-17 NCV
Ruth and Naomi had to rewrite their relationship. They knew each other, and maybe even considered themselves close before suffering struck their lives. Through hardship, Ruth bonded with her mother-in-law even more than before. Their bond was stronger than the bond Ruth had with her own relatives. Even when Naomi tried to discourage her from staying, Ruth refused to leave her.
How do you handle hardship, suffering, or even daily stresses in life? Do you work to be closer to people around you, or do you isolate yourself and try to handle life alone? Do you tell yourself you don’t have time to talk to people? Are relationships a top priority in your life? When people try to push you away do you persevere?
God can give us the ability to have deep loyal connections with people around us, even if we didn’t grow up with these friendships or didn’t learn how to be close with our immediate family. How strong is your connection to the women around you? How much effort do you make to not be separate and independent?
2. Are you willing to admit needs, or do you try to always be strong?
11 But Naomi said, “My daughters, return to your own homes. Why do you want to go with me? I cannot give birth to more sons to give you new husbands .. 18 When Naomi saw that Ruth had firmly made up her mind to go with her, she stopped arguing with her.
Ruth 1:11,18 NCV
Naomi was used to being the giver and strong one in her relationship with Ruth. When she had nothing to give, she didn’t want anyone to try to be close to her.
Relationships should be give and take, back and forth. What type of relationships do you build? Do you feel like you always need to be the caretaker in a relationship? How comfortable are you being vulnerable and messy with people around you?
3. Do you take responsibility, or blame your circumstances?
Naomi answered the people, “Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very sad.  When I left, I had all I wanted, but now, the Lord has brought me home with nothing. Why should you call me Naomi when the Lord has spoken against me and the Almighty has given me so much trouble?”
Ruth 1:20-21 NCV
It becomes apparent from the scriptures that Naomi was pushing people away because of her bitterness in her relationship with God. Naomi didn’t blame other people for her problems; she saw that she had stuff to work out with God. She took personal responsibility that she was sad because of her own faith.
Do you recognize in yourself and others that when you don’t want to be close the real issue is in your walk with God? Or do you attribute your feelings to the circumstances in your life and the sins of people around you?
Decide to be someone who takes responsibility for your own choices, responses and decisions. This week, take notice whenever you are starting to blame someone else and instead take responsibility. Life is much happier and you will feel more empowered to change when you decide not to blame others.
4. Are you known for your care and love?
Boaz answered her, “I know about all the help you have given your mother-in-law after your husband died. You left your father and mother and your own country to come to a nation where you did not know anyone.
Ruth 2:11 NCV
Love inspires! Ruth’s love influenced Naomi and inspired her change of heart. Ruth’s loyalty and love for her mother-in-law also inspired Boaz, an influential man in the community and eventually Ruth’s future husband.
Ruth worked hard to make sure her & Naomi’s needs were met despite the difficulty they were facing. Whose needs do you take care of? Would someone look at your life and be inspired by the way you serve, care and help people without giving up?
There are so many ways to serve and give to those around us – write a card, drop off a meal, babysit, send an encouraging text, or take someone out to coffee. Or, find ways to serve at home – do the dishes, make a meal for your family or roommates, clean the house, give someone a ride … you get the idea. Usually we already know the ways God wants us to serve people around us. What are some things that have been on your conscience to do for people around you? Take action on something today- no matter how small. Decisions to love – no matter how big or small – go a long way in building close relationships.
5. Do you think you know best, or seek spiritual advice?
Then Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, said to her, “My daughter, I must find a suitable home for you, one that will be good for you. 2 Now Boaz, whose young women you worked with, is our close relative. Tonight he will be working at the threshing floor…5 Then Ruth answered, “I will do everything you say.” 6 So Ruth went down to the threshing floor and did all her mother-in-law told her to do.
Ruth 3:1-2,5-6 NCV
When Ruth got help from her mother-in-law, she trusted and was eager to follow it. Do you ask advice about your life, your finances, your parenting and your decisions? If not, why? Not seeking advice reveals a lot of pride and thinking we know best. Where would Ruth have been if she ignored her mother-in-law’s advice? She could have had a lot of reasons not to listen to Naomi; Naomi was older and from a different generation. Ruth had actually been around Boaz and understood the culture and customs better. Yet she was humble and God blessed her decision to follow advice.
How humble are you with other parents? With your roommates? Do you accept that you need help and advice or trust your own instincts?
A good place to start getting advice is getting it from God in the Bible. Where do you turn for answers? Start working on having a daily walk with God and infusing the Bible into your home; if you take advice from God it will be much easier to trust and take advice from spiritual friends.