Summer is a great time to invest in others. Life seems simpler and free time more abundant. During this unusual summer, investing in others may not follow a normal path, but even with big gatherings and events canceled, you can still find opportunities to deepen relationships.
Take Time to Pray
I made a big move last August. I left my home state of Michigan, where I’d lived all my life and where most of my family and friends live, and moved to St. Louis. This happens for many seminarians and their wives, as well as many people after undergrad. I worried my connection with my family and friends would fade—that I’d be so busy, and they would be too busy, and that I would start to feel like I didn’t know them anymore. While our relationships have certainly changed over the past year, I’m confident this was not the case.
Why not? We did all become busy, doing different things in different places. I had to be intentional about taking the time. One of the things I deliberately set time to do was reach out to people and see how I could pray for them. I found several helpful tricks to make myself do this. Here are a few that worked for me:
- Set a weekly alarm on your phone to text one friend and ask him or her what needs you can pray for. Then send a personalized written prayer back.
- Find a verse to pray daily for your friends and one for your family. Flip to the Psalms or one of the Pauline Epistles, find a verse that describes what you desire for your family (or friends), and use that verse to start your prayer for them.
- Once a month, connect with one person who doesn’t live near you. By using connect in this case, I mean talk to him or her over the phone or a video chat. The added physical element of hearing his voice or seeing her face makes you feel more connected (no more guessing inflection and intonation).
This summer, you may feel you have more time to be available for others. Remember, you still need to invest that time wisely. You cannot be everything to everyone. (This is hard to learn!) This doesn’t give you a free pass to ignore others and their pain, but it’s helpful to know your boundaries. Family members or friends may come to you with issues, situations, or questions you are not equipped to handle. Know your limits, and guide the person to the proper resources, such as your pastor or a local community organization. You can still invest in the person in many other ways: send Bible verses, snail-mail a handwritten letter, or order delivery for the person from his or her favorite place if you can.
My friend was having a rough week recently. She was starting a new job and had moved to a new city. Our trip to see each other had just been canceled, so, if I’m being honest, it was rough for both of us. I couldn’t do much to change her situation, but instead of sitting in our sadness, I decided to create a virtual girls’ night. I sent her a package with a face mask, press-on nails, and a few goodies to “share” during our video call. This was a fun way to connect and invest from far away without making it all about the video chat. We were doing something we could do in person! I was able to invest time with her without taking on more than I could chew.
In doing all of this, do not neglect your own well-being. Take time for yourself. Even the most extroverted extrovert needs time alone to be filled. Just like the popular saying goes, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” If you invest in others without taking some time for yourself, you may burn out. (Without care, it may not be a question of if, but when.)
The good news is it’s avoidable! Fill up by taking some moments to yourself. By heading to Scripture to read directly from God’s Word or by finding a devotion or podcast to help you consider aspects of Scripture, you can center yourself on the Gospel and go into the world again, ready to love God and serve your neighbor.
You do not have to be perfect at any of this. The biggest thing you can do to invest in others this summer (and always) is to show up in some way, often and imperfectly. Show up with your voice, with biblical wisdom, with experience, and with prayer. You don’t have to be perfect to deepen relationships. Start investing in someone today, and see your relationships thrive.