Our technological world has made it so much easier to communicate with one another. Years ago, it was exciting to receive or make a telephone call to someone overseas. Now speaking to someone in another country is as easy as calling our next door neighbor. Also with cell phones someone can reach us wherever we are. Admittedly before the advent of cell phones, it was good to be able to escape from everyone for a while!

Now there are a multiplicity of ways to connect such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Within a few seconds of my posting a photo or comment on Facebook, thousands of people throughout the world can access it. People compete as to how many “friends” they have on social media. Communicating has never been easier. Yet, I am not so sure all of this technology is improving our relationships.

Have I really communicated if I have posted a comment on Facebook or Twitter, or a photo on Instagram? Those of us who are married know that talking is easy, but communicating can be difficult! The message not only has to be sent, but received and understood.

A few months ago, my wife and I were sitting at a table drinking coffee. Next to us were two young women. They sat opposite to each other, but there was no conversation. Instead each of them was glued to their iPhones, presumably texting their “friends.” The opportunity to have a live conversation and deepen their relationship was missed. Instead, they were “communicating” to people miles away!

I am certainly not saying that we should throw away our iPhones (I love mine), but I am saying that in our technologically sophisticated culture, we must take time to develop relationships within our family, work situation, faith communities, and so on. That does take time and effort, and sometimes can be an exercise in frustration!

All of us realize the importance of friendships. Roy Lessin said: “Things are temporary, relationships last forever. Nothing can replace the time we spend investing in the life of another.” We all know people who have many “things”, but have few meaningful relationships. Why is it that many families have fractured relationships? Why is it that people fall out with their fellow employees or their business partners? Why is it that we prefer spending time “communicating” through our iPhones rather than spending time face to face? There is no doubt that relationships can be messy and frustrating.

Yet, one of the greatest joys in life are meaningful and rich relationships. What is better than a husband and wife talking over things as they walk hand in hand on a beach? Or two friends catching up on life after they have been separated for a few months? Or a coach mentoring  young women or men on a sports team? Or a teacher building into the lives of students? Or a pastor spending time with an individual or family going through a heartbreaking situation? Or a little boy throwing his arms around his grandmother? These all result in a deepening of relationships.

If we neglect these and other relationships in our life, we become emotionally stale and stunted. I realize it is sometimes easier to retreat into the safety of our technological cocoons, but we are made in the image of God to relate to one another. From all of eternity God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit relate in a perfect and loving union and communion. While our relationships will never be perfect, let’s give them priority throughout 2017 and spend time investing in the lives of others.

Originally published in South Charlotte Weekly. Visit South Charlotte Weekly on Facebook or Twitter.