Intentional Friendship

word-of-the-year

*This is the second post in my series about becoming more intentional in 2016. Read the first post here.

There’s a group of women that gets together monthly in my neighborhood. The week before Christmas, they invited me to come to their White Elephant party. I decided I would go, even though I only knew one of the women going, and the rest of them had been meeting for years.

No one likes being the new girl. I’m not going to lie: I had a knot in my stomach walking up the sidewalk to the party. I talked myself into knocking on the door and the owner of the house–Amanda–greeted me warmly. I flashed a genuine, but nervous smile, and then we exchanged the universal small chat that ALL moms do:

Oh, your son’s in 4th grade; so is my daughter. 

Who’s his teacher? Do you like her?

Actually, I think they’re in Science Olympiad together.

What’s his name again?

Amanda and I walked through the foyer together toward the party, following the sounds of  loud laughter, the kind that old friends do. We stopped at the edge of the kitchen island, arrayed with platters and plates full of delicious, bite-sized party food. Amanda interrupted the conversation to introduce me, and almost all at once, everyone turned their heads to look at me.  The only thing I could think to say was:

Hi, I feel like I’m in middle school.

(Good Grief.)

But then, everyone laughed. 

(How do you spell R-E-L-I-E-F?)

They laughed, because they all knew what is what was like to be me.  To be the new person. To walk into a room full of strangers. To meet new people. To want new friends.

It’s almost as scary as middle school.

via GIPHY

 

 

I’m in my late 30s, and admittedly, it’s nowhere near as hard to meet new people as it was in middle school. (I thought I was going to die every day in 1991). But sometimes I still have to talk myself into it.

Here’s the thing: I want meeting people and making new friends to be organic. I want it to be easy. But, for one thing, our society isn’t set up that way. It’s hard to “do life” together {sadly} because we go to different jobs, live in different neighborhoods, and our kids go to different schools (even if they live in the same neighborhood).  At best, we have friends in each of these circles, but they do not overlap.

Somewhere in my mid-30s, I abandoned this idea of organic relationships. I realized that I could not wait to be on the receiving end of someone else’s invitation, phone call, or text. If I wanted deepening friendships, I realized I needed to replace the word organic with intentional; I needed to pursue friendships instead of waiting for them to come to me.

Around the same time, I met a fellow pastor’s wife who was interested in getting a small group of other pastor’s wives together monthly to talk shop.  She wanted it to be a group that moved past the chit-chat to the real stuff–the hard things–and how Jesus was meeting us with His grace.

By the second week of meeting, we had collaged a summary of our life stories to share with each other. I was very uncomfortable. It felt like too much too soon–certainly NOT organic–although she was very careful in inviting us to share as little or as much as we wanted. But we all decided to take the plunge, to risk being known, possibly more than we wanted to.

It felt like a major turning point for me. As I listened to each of their stories and shared my own, all of them mixed with pain and joy, I began to understand that the foundation of intentional friendship is vulnerability.

intentional-friendship

It’s a risk, or course, to be known exactly as you are. But the older I get, the less interested I am in the ways I think I’m supposed to be for someone to like me. I’m less interested in hiding, and more interested in being known. I’m less interested in waiting around, and more interested in saying, “Hey, let’s be friends.” (Kinda like you did when you were 7.)

C.S. Lewis had some fantastic reflections on friendship. Here’s one of my favorites:

“In friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting–any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.” 

friendship

Intentional steps toward friendship does not negate a God who is mysteriously at work behind the scenes. It’s a step of faith, trusting that the God who created us for relationships, has beauty in store for us when we enter into the lives of others as friends.

That doesn’t mean it won’t hurt sometimes. Others let us down + we let others down (often). But our hope rests, not in what others can do for us, but in our identity in Jesus, who has set us free to love.

So, in 2016, may there be more White Elephant parties with strangers, more invitations for coffee + wine together, more intentional phone calls, and more opportunities to see what God is up to in the people I call friends.

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P.S. I don’t go to the pastor’s wives group anymore. But not because I don’t want to–my family moved last summer.

We moved to Raleigh. But guess what? I’m intentionally meeting monthly with 3 other incredibly beautiful women who God has put in my path, in this place, right now, to reveal the beauty He has in store for us all through friendship.

I can’t wait to see what happens.

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