As military women, we are far too familiar with being separated from our loved ones geographically. But Jolynn reminds us in today’s military that geography isn’t what makes intimacy. She gives us some practical advice for fostering healthy communities when you are apart.
Geography Does Not Equal Intimacy
by Jolynn Lee
We have all heard the saying, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” but for anyone who has been separated from their family for any length of time that quote can make the hackles rise up on your emotions! Being separated from the ones you love for any length of time is HARD! We miss those we love with an intensity that gives genuine meaning to the phrase “homesick.”
However, I would remind you that geography does not equal intimacy.
I have known many families who live within what my grandma would call “spitting distance” of one another yet they rarely interact or engage one another on a personal level. We develop intimacy in family relationships through a disciplined choice to be intentional, engaged, and relational regardless of the geography.
Being apart physically does not have to mean being apart relationally.
It is possible to stay connected across the miles.
However, developing close relationships requires all involved to be intentional in connection.
I lived away from my grandparents my whole life – yet despite never having lived in their town for any length of time I called Kentucky home. This grounded sense of belonging and connection developed as a result of my grandparent’s intentional involvement in my life no matter where we lived. They called consistently and regularly. Even when I married the military and continued to transition locations, I could count on both grandmothers calling me every weekend. One would call Saturday night and the other Sunday after church “just to check in.” Their phone calls were something I could depend on and were such a part of my routine that I rarely thought about those calls until they stopped. That consistency and dependability taught me relationships aren’t built on close geography; relationships are built through time, effort, and energy of investment.
In addition to being intentional, you have to choose to be engaged when you are apart as a family.
It is so easy to get busy in your own life and activities, the daily pressures and demands of what is directly in front of you can quickly block out the importance of those things unseen. Engagement matters! Ask your loved ones about what matters to them, follow their interests and activities with enthusiasm. Today’s technological advancements lend such ease to engagement–facetime and watch a sporting event together, or ask to tune in for concerts, birthdays, special events. If you cannot be there physically, strive to still be there in creative ways! Engagement matters. Actively showing them that what is important to them is important to you, even while you are apart, makes a difference and fills the love bucket on both sides of the distance barrier.
Rise Up When You are Apart
Part of being relational means making memories with meaningful moments! Recently my daughter said, “Mom, my kids have everything they really need. For their birthday and Christmas, I would love it if you would make memories with them versus getting them a gift to open.” Is that more challenging when you are geographically separated? Yes, it can be, but stir those creative juices up and meet that challenge head on.
- Record a video or book you can share, let them hear your voice repeatedly.
- Start a journal exchange with a loved one – you can even do that digitally.
- Share your favorite music playlist with a loved one.
- Challenge them to an adventure contest and then share your experiences with each other as you try new things.
- Read a novel together, discussing it as you go, or even better do a Bible study together!
- Most importantly, pray with and over each other often – prayer knows no distance and interceding for and with your loved one can fill the gap like nothing else.
Separation from your family is HARD – whether it’s a spouse deployed, family that is far away because of job placements, kids off to college, or parents/grandparents living in another state. Away is away. And it can often cause us to feel lonely and the distance insurmountable.
Proverbs 13:12 tells us, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”
Build hope within you and your loved ones by taking the steps to overcome the gaps left by separation through relational intentionality. Take the time and invest the energy to be engaged with such consistency and dependability that it becomes routine to their lifestyle and yours. It’s an investment you will never regret and the rewards are priceless!
Dear Father, thank you for creating community for me. Help me to be intentional and engaged as I cultivate intimacy with the people you’ve given me. Amen.