This past Sunday I celebrated my first anniversary at church. A year ago I did a hugely scary thing (for me at least) and left the small church I knew and loved to venture out to a much larger place where I knew absolutely no one and absolutely nothing about the church (except every single word they had on the website). The move was for many reasons, but specifically because I wanted to have the opportunity to build friendships with my peers after graduating and realizing everyone I knew conveniently lived at least 45minutes away…
One of my commonly heard quotes this year was “I have, like, no friends,” (like optional). It was often followed up with someone in the near vicinity responding with a list of friends I do have, spurring clarification on my part to “it doesn’t FEEL like I have friends right now.” Why did I feel that way? Because I wanted someone for every second of every day (not realistic) and someone I could talk to any time about anything (again, not realistic. Really I just needed more Jesus. Moving on.)
In the journey of meeting a lot of new people and reflecting on my anniversary Sunday, I’ve had the opportunity for many thoughts about friendship to percolate in my mind. Specifically, I’ve been considering how building friendships in the body should look like, and so I wrote a blog post about it (#obvi).
While I have had my fair share of friends outside “the body” I think friendship amongst believers is something extra special we get to partake in and it’s what I was really looking for after graduating. There is the added aspect of how our spiritual lives are interconnected as we join together and support each other to build a temple for God (Eph 2:19-22). People we never would have met/become friends with suddenly can become some of the deepest friendships we will ever have.My favourite example of friendship in the Bible is David and Jonathan because even though they were from different places and their life trajectories didn’t exactly mesh, their souls were still knit together. (One was born the heir to the throne but the other one was who God decided would be the next king. #awkward)
So without further ado, here are my 5 thoughts on growing friendships in the body (though some of these are applicable outside the body as well):
1. You aren’t the only one looking for a friend
When I started my new church, I literally knew no one. As in not a soul. (Which was actually incredibly freeing, but thats another thought for another time and blog post). I was kind of terrified to meet people – like if someone says hi to you one week do you assume you can talk to them the next week? Does that mean they’re down to be friends? (I still don’t know the answers).
The cool part for me was realizing (and meeting) people who also didn’t have their friend quota filled … or rather people who were willing and looking for more friends. It was surprising to realize people who had been around longer than I had were still looking for friends (even if it didn’t look super apparent from the outside). The important part was realizing that there were lots of people willing to be friends and start building a friendship, which leads me to point #2…
2. It doesn’t happen right away
You aren’t going to become BFFFFFS with someone right away. Like with anything, it takes time to build up a friendship with someone regardless of the intensity of that friendship. Friendship requires time together, and as we get older it gets harder to find regular time to build those friendships. I find it hard because I roll through a 3 week shift rotation so I can’t commit to doing something on a weekly basis/if someone cancels on me I have to wait a pretty long time to make it up. Maybe for you it’s a different reason, but the fact remains that it can take months+++ for a friendship to grow up from the dust of nothingness. Especially if you’re looking for a deep D+J friendship – if we all just shared our deepest secrets with each other right away they wouldn’t be as deep and special, which kind of ruins your vulnerable/intimate aspect (more on that thought another time, too).
3. It requires both parties to want it
I tried asking someone to meet up a few times and eventually I just stopped asking because I was always the only one initiating, and when we did meet up it felt completely one sided as though they owed me asking all the questions because I asked to meet up. I’m 23 and while I still have a lot of life ahead of me, I don’t have time to try and worm my way into people’s lives. There are other people who need friends too and TBH there is enough humanity to go around for us all to have friends. Yes, it’s annoying to try and make friends only to stay acquaintances, but you can’t be good friends with everyone you know. It takes time (sometimes a lot — see point #2), and sometimes we just have to recognize when it ain’t gonna happen, and open up time for other people. As I mentioned before, you really never know who a friendship will spring up with – and besides, as we’ve already discussed, there are tons people down to hang out and make new friends (point #1).
4. There is more than one model of friendship – and that’s ok
Unless you are the afore mentioned human who never moves and whom’s friends also never move and you and your friend posse do literally everything together, you will eventually have friends that don’t live near you anymore. Are they no longer friends if you can’t see them a few times a week? Some of the friends I see rarely are still some of the closer friendships I have, they just look different. They consist more of social media and occasional text messages and maybe a weekend together every year if we’re lucky. As long as both people are willing to invest in the friendship, however it looks, it can be a good and healthy friendship (and still bring both of you closer to Christ).
4. Friendship does not fulfill what we need.
#guilty of thinking friendship would fulfill the lonely places in my life. Friendship parallels the desire for a relationship here — just because you have a bunch of friends doesn’t mean you won’t feel alone sometimes. We were created to be relational beings, yes, but those relationships are a part of something greater. We are longing for things that can’t be filled by our friendships (or relationships), but we will never find full satisfaction in each other. One day we will have those longings and desires met in our creator, but until then we will still have those longings around us. The important thing I’ve found is to use those feelings to bring me closer to God instead of closer to someone else. I’m especially thankful for the friends who remind me about the most important friendship I have and that it too needs to be fed over time.
5. Just because you haven’t seen the messy part of someone’s life doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
When I was younger I would look at other people and think about how great it would be if I was friends with all of them. My life would be sooooo much better if I was friends with them (aka cool kid syndrome). Even when we’re making new friends, we put our best foot forward to impress and draw people in.
Here’s the problem. If we’re making friends, and I’m talking about true, weathering many seasons, brothers-and-sisters-in-Christ, David-and-Jonathan, joined-together friends, we have to remember that we are all sinners. We are all people with messy lives, struggles we don’t tell everyone, and imperfections we like to gloss over. Just because when you’re starting to get to know someone their life seems put together and perfect doesn’t mean it IS. We all have our own personal epic fails where we let people down, totally botch a task, and blow up in each other’s faces. Becoming deeper friends means that we are vulnerable and share those messes with each other. We tell people about our struggles and we let them have the ability to hurt us. And then when they inevitably do, or we hurt them, we forgive and work through it and continue to grow with each other as we point each other back to God.