Restarting Relationships: Being Brave by Leaning In

By Jennifer J. Howe

God's Brave Women - Jennifer's Story

A voice whispered, “Lean in. Choose the brave thing. Be who I made you to be.”

I couldn’t possibly, could I?

It started with the Q word. I knew what the word meant in the dictionary sense, but I didn’t know anyone who’d experienced it. I remember a mom of several children told me she would be keeping everyone home until the chicken pox made its way through the family. The idea of quarantine was just an idea. Out there. Somewhere. Something other people endured.

And then—the virus.

Patterns Transform

I’m an introvert who thinks and writes about relationship, and the last few months are not lost on me—I’ve learned more about my tendency toward social paralysis under stress, my unspoken core needs, and the relational patterns this quarantine established and etched into life. Add the social unrest in progress, and now I’m thinking about others’ needs more than before. I see people differently, and I’m deeply affected. I’m not sure who wouldn’t be.

The life patterns I’ve become accustomed to created habits, even transformed the way I move about and engage others. An allergy sufferer sheepishly explains a string of sneezes or coughs, and I try to gift a knowing look. A hug or any kind of physical touch is practically banned from personal interactions without expressed permission. Most of the time it just feels awkward. My circles of friends in conversation take up much more space than before. I remember to check for face covering requirements. The latest virus and social news arrests my attention.

These patterns stretched beyond days or weeks. Months make a difference.

Restarting Takes Time and Intentionality

The first time I realized the shift was startling. My church began offering carefully constructed gatherings, but I wasn’t as interested as I thought I’d be. After all this time nursing the wounds of my disconnection, why in the world wouldn’t I run to the in-person opportunities? Leaning into them is the brave thing to do.