Claudine Phillips

what happens when “get close” to understand

A few years back, my niece was dating a boy who became severely dehydrated. He was listless and unable to clearly communicate. This was enough for her and her dad to take him to be admitted to the hospital to get rehydrated. My niece and her dad stayed close by his side waiting to see what the future held for this young man.

After a good chunk of the night had passed he slowly came to, much to their relief. He began to mumble something over and over again. He seemed like he was wrestling with his words. They weren’t sure what he was saying and as they leaned in and got closer he got louder and they were finally able to make out what he was saying. Half awake and equally out of it,  he belted out:

“You may approach!”

This serious time of their lives quickly became one of our funniest moments as a family. We still talk about it at the dinner table when we gather and laugh (it seems) harder each time the story is told. It just brings us such joy!


Much like this story, I find myself leaning in to understand. Leaning in to understand my husband. My children. My relationships. I actually want to understand them. I want to know these people. I want to see these people. If I see them better, I can serve them better. I can pray for them better. I can just do life with them better.

When I lean into relationships, I see the details of their lives. I see all the good and I see all the bad. It is hard to cover up stuff when we are nose to nose. I see all the stuff we try to hide. I see it all, and that is good.

It is good because I see the pain I can pray over. I see the stories I can relate to and grow from. I see the life changing miracle stories that I may not have seen if I had not leaned in. In turn, I am seen and I pray that the person leaning into my life is equally as blessed.


What happens when we lean in to understand someone and they get out of the way? What if you have “good intentions” and they run for the hills?

This, unfortunately, has happened to me time and time again. I get comfortable with someone and think “I would love to get to know them better.” So I lean in, they lean in, then I lean in a little more, and they do too. We begin to see each other. The closer we get, we see the details and it is beautiful.

Then suddenly, {BOOM!}, they are gone.

I seriously get whip lash. The shock that runs through me surges with doubt. Questions course though my pulsing veins:  What have I done? Did I say something? Did they not like my “ugly” in my life and got out when the gettin was good? Seriously. WHAT HAPPENED!?!?

I reach out gently at first, checking in.

“Is all ok?” “Are we ok?”

“Oh sure, yeah. We are good.”

“Hmmm, are you sure? I am sensing something.”

“Yes, yes. You are imagining things, silly.”

“Ok,” I say. “You know you can talk to me about anything?”

“Yup. We’re good.”

“Ok.” I walk away feeling paranoid and, well to be honest, feeling stupid.


Time passes and I see our relationship slowly fade. Invitations are no longer received, texts not answered, and emails not responded to. All the leaning in is now stalemate. We are passing friends. Facebook friends. The details we were learning about one another fades. My heart has a hole.

As I mentioned, this has happened to me more than once and I used to take it personal, like REAL personal.

I would get mad.

“How dare they take my feelings, my life, my secrets, my story, and just walk away without even a good-bye, I don’t like you anymore….nothing!”

But now I see it when it is happening. I start to see the red flags. I ask the same questions. I feel the same sting, but now I don’t walk away feeling stupid. I walk away praying.


I’m fully aware that I will not be liked by everyone and if the relationship dissolves because they think I am weird, I can handle that. No problem. I’m not for everyone {and I can be pretty weird}. *smirk

One thing I do, however, is I don’t give up. Either way, I leave the relationship open ended. I don’t get mad.  I don’t get “even” and tell my friends to stay away from “that one”.  I get on my knees. I pray for God to continue to examine my heart for any fault, I pray for peace in the relationship, and last I pray for courage for my friend in case they are experiencing fear. I have realized that their walking away could be driven by fear. The fear of someone knowing them, seeing them can send one running scared. I usually can smell this fear miles away. I have walked away, more than once.

Taking the road of fear of being known is a lonely road. I know this first hand. I found myself with lots of friends, but no one close enough to call best friends. I kept everyone at a healthy arms length to protect my heart. To keep me safe from being hurt and rejected.


What changed me, what stopped me from taking one more step down that road to loneliness were the people that had staying power. They saw this fear in me and kept leaning in. They kept loving me. They pulled back a little and gave me space, but stayed in my life just close enough to never give up. They stayed by me and stayed interested {from a distance}. I wasn’t smothered. I just knew they were in the vacinity.

I learned to trust these people. I saw that I was valuable in their eyes. They were Jesus with skin on. Most importantly, however, they directed me to the ultimate friend. The one who will never let me down. Who will never disappoint. Who leans in the most.

God, my redeemer, my friend.

Just like my niece, these people never left my side. And like the deficient young man, they saw that I had trouble forming my words. I had trouble trusting. They just leaned in closer as I wrestled with my words, my trust, and finally was able to order them:

“You may approach.”

I am so very grateful for the “leaning in” people in my life. I pray I can return this incredible, selfless gift to those that tread on the fear road. I pray I don’t make it about me, but make it about Him. Isn’t that what life’s all about? Him.

Much fruit is born when you stay. You get the pass to approach and life suddenly becomes sweeter.



1 Timothy 2:1-2 {NIV}

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.


Did someone come to mind? Are you struggling with a friend that may have created distance in the relationship and you are baffled? Are you the friend that has stepped away and are nervous about engaging deeper? Either way, remember, you woke up today with God waiting for you and loving you already. Step out into faith and see what the Holy Spirit can do in your relationships and in the details of your life.

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