I came out of the gym yesterday and saw this on the construction site next door:
I stopped and watched for a few minutes as this stories-high crane lifted massive, thick concrete walls into place. After snapping a few pictures, I started to feel like a weird creeper so I climbed into my car. In the stuffy stillness inside my vehicle I heard God whisper that the walls coming up around my heart are just as thick. *Sigh* You’ll have to excuse me. I’m up in my feelings. I’m trying to figure out how to stop the crane before it places any more pieces of this wall in my life. I want others to be able to get in before the fortress is sealed and it takes something catestrophic to knock it down.
The night before I took these photos, my husband, Shelby and I went to a city gathering hosted by our church. The purpose of the get-together was for us to get to know others in our neck of the woods and possibly connect us to life groups (our term for small groups who get together regularly for fellowship, bible study, mission opportunities, or whatever way they choose to do life together). I wasn’t looking forward to the discussion on life groups. I’m feeling rather burned by friendships in general right now. I’ve been a part of 3 different life groups in the past 10 years. The first gave me life while it lasted. Beautiful friendships and challenging bible studies and discussions. It grew so large, however, that we split it and my husband and I agreed to lead one of the splinters. Unfortunately, splintered is what that group became. Due to some issues (that I shouldn’t get into) that went unchecked and ignored – as much as we tried and prayed – the group was so unhealthy that we had to implode it. Still licking my wounds, I joined a ladies only group and tried to make that the right fit. But when some incredibly painful personal circumstances left me unable to share honestly and vulnerably with these precious women, I had to bow out of this group as well.
You might be wondering right now, “What’s the big deal with life groups?” For me, they are a very big deal. God made us for community. First with Him, and then with others. The writer of Hebrews tells us to “…let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” 10:24-25 NIV We need each other. And I’m not talking about some stale Sunday school class. The Message version of this passage says, “Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out…” I’m talking about real friendships – inside the confines of an organized group or not! I’m so hungry for it.
I have some really good old friends from back in the day. They live in different cities and even states. I love them, but “doing life” with them is not a possibility because of proximity. Proverbs 27:17 tells us, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” NIV Some versions even use the word “friend”. Good companionship can make us better friends, better people, better believers. But that kind of sharpening is difficult across a miles wide divide. I need friends I can go to the movies with, grab a bite to eat with or run errands along side. I want others who enjoy spiritual discussions and silly discussions and laughter and games. But lately, I’m feeling left out in the cold (and that’s saying a lot ’cause it’s warming on up in Texas). Not only did my last 2 life group experiences end poorly, but I have received rejection after rejection of late when I have invited friends to do something. Everyone is too busy. Too many kids sporting events, too many other responsibilities, too many other invitations. And if no one is excepting my invitation to cook them a meal or take them out, you can bet no one is inviting me! It’s left me feeling pretty lonely. I’m sorry to dump that on all of you, but I warned you that I was up in my feelings.
I’m not content to remain stuck in this season of walled up isolation, though. The gospel of John tells us that others will know we are Jesus followers if we “love one another”. 13:35 NIV That means love in action. No one will realize I love Susan if I only think it. Or even if I tell her. Others will know I love her when they see us spending time together, pouring into each other’s families and helping each other. And then our relationships become a walking witness to the sweetness of God. I want to be obedient to that. And I want to have fun! Friends are fun! So I’m not giving up. I’m looking outside the boundaries of my current friendships. It’s a little daunting to think about in this stage of life, but I’m on the hunt for new friends (I’m not cutting anyone off, mind you. Anytime a friend decides she has time, I am here. But I can’t continue to sit around and wait for that time to come.) I’m working to expand my circles. I’m being brave enough to invite those I haven’t ever before and praying my family will “click” with some others. Maybe enough to build a life group on. But for now, we’re just taking the first step of inviting. And…I’m planning a trip to see my best friend in Alabama this summer. Because deep connections – like that wall around my heart – aren’t built in a day.
What are you doing to foster genuine community in our crazy busy culture? Comment on this post to share your ideas and join the discussion.