My steps slowed as I moved closer towards the door, the laughter and chatter spilling out in waves from behind it. Those were women who sounded like they knew what fun and fellowship meant, though women I didn’t know, and who didn’t know me.
Why am I doing this, again? I thought for the tenth time since I’d left my house.
My family had attended this church for months and I was hungry for real friendships, not just acquaintances. God had made it clear I needed friendships, but this was new territory for me. Over the years, I’d found it easier to focus on projects and goals instead of relationships and people. People were messy; relationships, complicated.
What was easy, I’d learned, was not bothering to engage at all… until God showed me why I was wrong.
The Bible is filled with examples of how Jesus always put relationships and people first. He chose some of the most imperfect people to be His closest companions, and even when His disciples got it wrong, Jesus gave them more chances to get it right. Though He encountered hundreds of messy lives during His earthly ministry, He never turned them away.
No, Jesus never chose projects over people, because projects were never His priority or His passion. God’s people were.
Stepping through the doorway, I took in the scene – cozy comfortable rooms, a beautiful gathering space for women the church had created by refurbishing an old house on the property. I tried hard to work up my courage, trying to trust my hardest that God would help me find new friends.
Bright, bubbly women stood in clusters as groups mingle and visited. I paused, straining to see a familiar face and wondered where I should even start. Standing by myself, though, made me feel even more conspicuous so I quickly moved to the nearest half-circle of talking women and smiled my warmest greeting.
“Hi, I’m Sara, how are you?”
The woman who glanced over at me returned a thin smile and offered a polite “Oh hi, glad you’re here,” before turning back to the ladies behind her.
Another breath. Another step. I willed myself to ignore the pang in my chest while the little bit of courage I’d walked in with fizzled and sagged.
As I walked around the rooms of that little horseshoe-shaped house, I felt like a satellite, moving in my own tiny orbit. The knots of ladies talking and laughing all seemed oblivious as I moved past. Everyone looked so comfortable, so at home. Everyone but me.
I tried, again and again, to find an opening in one of their huddles. I asked questions – “how long have you been at this church?” “A long time.” “Which small group do you go to?” “So-and-so’s.” As quickly as they began, the conversations were over.
Such perfect little circles, I thought, as I made my way out the door I’d entered just seven minutes before. But not one with room for me.
More than ten years have passed since I took that walk around the little house but I’ve never forgotten it, or the lessons I learned from it. If you are reading this and nodding your head, if your heart is hurting from your own perfect circle experiences, please keep reading. There is something from the lessons I’m sharing below that God wants you to apply.
#1 – Always Keep Your Circle Broken
1 Thessalonians 5:11 says “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”
Perfect circles feel right. Secure. Whole. We don’t like broken anything. Yet, all of us are broken in some way. I love the song Casting Crown sings about being Broken Together, from their Thrive album. While the song intentionally focuses on marriages, some of the same thoughts can apply to people in general. We will never be fully complete, we will never “arrive” in our walk with Christ until we enter Heaven with Him, so why do we try so hard sometimes to be or appear more complete than we are?
When we purposely leave our circles broken, we intentionally look for the next friend we can encourage. That young mom who shows up to your Tuesday morning Bible study knowing no one. Your elderly neighbor down the street. The single mom of one of your son’s friends. The woman who just started working in your office.
Keeping my circle broken reminds me never to be content in being comfortable with the friends I already have but to look for ways to be a friend to others who need one.
#2 – Be willing to have different kinds of friends, and friendships.
I hope to write more on this soon, but you probably already know the friendships you have can vary greatly. I think we mistakenly believe that unless every friend or every friendship looks and behaves a certain way, than we’re just fooling ourselves or pretending we have friends when we really don’t. So we don’t try or we stop trying.
One of the beautiful things about keeping your circle broken is you can have a wide variety of friendships that are different in type and stage. It’s unrealistic to think every single friend you have will be a best friend. A best friend is someone who is simply the best. Your best.
That girlfriend of yours you’ve known forever, who gets your quirks, overlooks your flaws and still talks to you anyway. Or that friend you haven’t known long at all, but you seem to finish each other’s sentences. It’s scary, because you’re that much alike – on the same wavelength of your brain kind of scary (because you were convinced there was NO ONE out there who thought the same kind of way as you).
My dear friend Heather is probably my closest friend. We were “best friends” when we were very young, but grew apart as we got older and when I moved away with my family. After my family moved back to southeast Louisiana, we reconnected again and were bridesmaids in each other’s weddings. Since moving back for good five years ago (after my husband of course), Heather has become the one I can turn to when something goes wrong or when I’m disappointed or when I am just being an ugly version of my human self and need to vent and I know I’m being the ugly version and she knows it and she still lets me. And when she needs to do the same, I’m that for her.
She prays for me, and I pray for her. That is a dear friend. But I have only one like that. And it took many, many years to be able to even say that. We don’t always get to hang out or see each other a lot, but we know that we are friends the other can rely on.
So stop fretting when the new friend from church doesn’t text you or appears uninterested in doing anything more than just saying hi and chatting before or after the service. Take a breath instead of taking it personally when you can’t get a friend to meet for coffee or lunch. Stop thinking it’s you. It really just might be them…. struggling with what a lot of us struggle with, when it comes to #3.
Being ok with your imperfections.
Ever have problems with this? Read Part 2 of this post here.
Do you ever struggle with saying hello? Or making new friends? What about reaching out? Tell me in the comments what your struggle or your solution has been and let’s help each other make different choices when it comes to friendships!