I think I kind of grew up with this desire deep within me to create community. Maybe we all are in our own ways.
I grew up a connector. Some of my earliest memories included gathering together the children in my surrounding community for a day camp that I had planned and prepared—including a slip and slide, water balloon games, and all kinds of other activities. When family would come and visit, it was my idea of fun to gather my siblings and put together some kind of musical performance for all of our guests. This translated into ministry opportunities as I grew older, leading VBS camps for children for our church, hosting it in our town park so that children from the community who may not be comfortable with church, would be comfortable with gathering together for activities and stories about Jesus. When it came to friends, I was the same. I have always chosen a core group of friends, loved deeply, and hung on to with all my might. In high school, when we all began to plan for prom, I encouraged us to plan a pre-dance dinner party for our dates at a friend’s house, including themed decorations and asking all of our parents to come together to cook the meal for all of us! When I moved on to university, this quality didn't dissipate. I pretty quickly developed a strong group of friends that have remained some of my best friends to this day. These traits have come in handy as a teacher and then as I moved into full-time ministry.
Intentionality isn't always something that comes naturally. In some environments, shyness can overwhelm. In others, the busyness of life might overtake the ability to engage in intentional relationships with others. I look at the current season of my life, overwhelmed with the raising of toddlers and teenagers, and I have little extra left over at the end of the day for real engagement and intentional time with anyone other than my family. I know that this is a season of my life and there will come a day when it will be a bit easier. However, my current season doesn't take away from the potential possibilities of growing friendships and opening my door to being more intentional to those around me.
Recently, I read through a study in the Bible App on "How to Have Intentional Friendships". It had some valuable truths to share and I thought I could share a couple of those here today in hopes to encourage ME to take some steps in my busy season of life, but maybe it would encourage you too!
Be the Inviter
This is something that my husband always reminds me of when I am feeling a bit lonely. I frequently desire people to stop in, say hello, spend some time with me (I'm a quality time person--if you know the love languages), but my husband reminds me that if I don't initiate that, then how would people know that there is a need?
Be a Fearless Befriender
My sister and my friend Yona both have something in common. They are extreme extroverts. I've often joked that these two could make friends with someone in an elevator. Before they reached their destination, they'd have dinner planned or their next adventure with this new friend. As an introvert, I have sometimes desired that trait to find a friend wherever you go. I have seen how it has grown them, and created opportunities for people to feel seen and valued. How can you be a fearless befriended today?
Use the Resources You Have
In this season of my life, my time is limited. But one way that our family has been able to develop relationships with others has been to open our door and welcome others in. Sometimes it is a friend of our teenage boys, coming over for a weekly TV show or lunch together with the boys. Sometimes it is inviting in a volunteer or another staff person for lunch and games on our PS4. These simple ways of engaging relationship don't require much more than what we already do, but allows us to get to know others in a new a fun way. It is my favorite thing to watch my husband dance with our invited guests along with our dancing game on the PS4. The competition comes out and the battle gets really intense, which always leads to laughter and somehow, deeper conversations. Though our resources are limited and sometimes we don't have large amounts of time or space to offer, the resources we do have can provide opportunities to deepen relationships. What resources do you have that you can offer to develop friendships?
Be Intentional In Healing Rifts
Every friendship is bound to have their bumps in the road. Conflict happens, and in fact, if it doesn't happen, you have to question whether that friendship has been through enough to make it grow. Some rifts happen and the friendship disappears, whether just from the lack of curiosity and humility to heal it or it was time for that relationship to end. Some rifts happen and it is our responsibility to step in and speak up. We have to put away fear and be intentional in chasing after that relationship. I remember, very clearly, an argument I got into with a friend. I was upset over something she said to me and I can remember feeling so angry for several days about the words that were exchanged. In the end, I had to realize my own fault in the disagreement, come to her and apologize for my attitude towards her and ask for forgiveness. It was humbling, but it healed the rift and developed a deeper trust. Though it isn't easy, walking a road of humility with friends is a must. Are there any rifts that you need to heal today?
Age Doesn't Matter
When we grow up, we tend to stick close to students our own age as we are in classes with kids our own age all the way through our education. Senior High and university seem to open up a little bit with the possibilities of friendship with people older and younger, but it was in my early adulthood when I began to see my circle of friendships expand. It began when an older woman in our young adults group spent some time with me on a retreat and we grew our friendship into regular hangouts and times of prayer and encouragement together. Then a friendship with a friend's mom began, spending time sharing life, time doing arts and crafts, lunches and breakfasts together. We travelled to Morocco together and she spent time here with me in Ghana once I moved here as well. Some of my dearest friends are older than me--and some of my dearest friends are younger than me--at some point in life, age stops mattering and it is more about the heart and the connection. Do you have the possibility of friendship with others that are older or younger than you?
I hope that you will spend some time reflecting on this study (I've linked it above), and I pray that you will be encouraged and challenged to open the doors to friendships in new and intentional ways. Let's be connectors. Let's dig in deeper and desire more. Let's let loneliness know that it doesn't have a place in our day to day life. Let's be intentional with our friendships and see that change that comes in our lives.