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.
Oh, i feel,like we are in the same boat but you are being much braver than i in inviting people over. Oh, i need to,somehow develop that braveness
It’s so hard to get out of my comfort zone and risk being burned again, Annette. Pray for me. I’ll say a prayer for you too. Thanks you.
Lauren, thank you for sharing some of your painful experiences and for continuing to fight for community. You are an inspiration. Life groups are an important component of my local church and I am part of a small life group. In addition to meeting every two weeks, we check in with each other at church, and occasionally text or call each other. These sisters-in-Christ, have become dear friends and I am thankful for them. Visiting from FMF.
Oh, Esther, I am praying for this again in my own life. Thank you for the encouragement.
It’s tough when you’re in this stage of life. My BFF from high school and I are going through this right now. She was a young single mom when I was in college doing “college things”. I had kids late and I’m happily buried in kid life right now (sports, dance, piano lessons, family vacations) and she’s an empty nester trying to go back and capture her college days. I’m not judging her but I’ve already done that and I’m just not interested in the things that she wants to do now (clubs, etc). Over the years we went from talking every day to hardly not at all now. It’s weird and sad. I know that we’ll still be there for each other but I do miss her. The key is finding friends in the same stage of life. I have several different social groups I affiliate with (gym friends, dance friends, parents at school, etc.).
Adult friendships are hard! If it helps, my girl from way back and I went through a stage of several years where we barely talked and now we are thick as thieves again. Like you said, we were just in different places. Unfortunately, she’s the one that’s in Alabama so we are pretty limited on seeing each other.
Same. I get this 100%. Wish we lived closer. I’d be so all over your invitations, you’d get tired of me. Praying for God’s perfect plan of community to be found for you, me, and all those searching. ❤️ Hugs!
Yes. Me too Marcella. Thank you for weighing in.
Meghan Weyerbacher says
Lauren you spoke right to my soul with this. I am feeling the same way and actually, God has used the online Christian community to break the mold and reach into my life in more than a few ways. I am currently writing a book about it, because I had my own experience with hopping around trying to “fit in” and getting confused (amongst other stuff) and then going into hiding. I am just so hungry for real friendship that doesn’t compete and doesn’t mind imperfection, but also that spurs one on another on as you said. I joke with a few blogger friends that I might get brave enough and go road tripping to see them to show them just how out-of-the-box I am. Okay well this long, but I felt like you wrote what I was thinking and that doesn’t just happen every day — so I wanted to share that with you! I will be coming back here to read more for sure.
Oh Meghan, thanks for the encouragement and commiseration. I am cheering you on in writing your book and can’t wait to read it when it’s done! And saying a prayer for you now.
I think that most women could relate to your feelings about friendships. They are so important to us, and it can be so painful when things go awry. Keep reaching out. You will fins people who click with you. I made many of my closest friendships with my running friends. Women who run often feel good about themselves, and that makes them fun to be with.
Thank you for the encouragement, Laurie.
Oh for heaven’s sake. I’m a mess now. Community was my word for 2018 and it is slowly beating me down. Community is hard. I worry so much about my daughter (Grace) has she tries so hard to reach out for friendships and is constantly rejected. She desperately craves connection. I have decided I have to back away from fb…those people that reject her are always there with their able peers. I pray her walls will not go up and she will find some true friendships.
Oh Jaclyn, it is so hard. Although Grace has a lot to offer in friendships, Shelby is a different story and it’s hard for me to watch Allie flutter from social event to social event while Shelby sits home with us. But the grace in the situation for us is that Shelby doesn’t understand that she’s excluded and Grace will. I love that girl so much and am praying for her and you in this. Chuck and I are also aware that Shelby poses an interesting dynamic as we try to connect with other families because she’s not a true “peer” for their children so a lot of people don’t quite know what to do with us. Press on sister! Praying for u.
Leigh Ann says
I too have felt the pain of rejection and by the some of the people closest to me. Then my mother-in-law whom I was so close to passed away suddenly of a stroke. The combination of those hurts left me feeling lonely. I too have tried reaching out to others with no reply. You have encouraged me to keep trying and not give up. Thanks!
Leigh Ann I am so sorry for your loss! I am praying for you in your grief and your endeavors to find community.
If only we lived closer! It’s so true, we need community and friendships, and these are not that easy to come by these days. Thanks for sharing, Lauren. Blessings to you.
Thank you for weighing in, Boma!
Emily | To Unearth says
I can completely relate to how difficult it is when you’re the one inviting and nobody seems to care enough to reach out and invite you into their lives. God has taught me to find contentment in Him, but also to ask Him for my heart’s desires. Once I began praying about finding new friendships, within a week I had met multiple people whom I now spend time with regularly! Thanks for sharing your heart. 🙂
That is so encouraging to me Emily. Thank you for commenting.
Michele Morin says
Wow, Lauren, it’s great that you are paying attention to those promptings of the Spirit to pay attention to walls and relationships.
Every once in a while, I just put something on the calendar that is purely social. This Friday, it’s with my adorable grandson. We’re gonna paint and play and make a gift for his mum for Mother’s Day. Soon, it’s going to be a coffee date or a walk in the sunshine with a friend.
This does not come naturally to me, because I could work all the time and be perfectly happy, but it’s not good for my brain or my heart!
Sounds like we both have to step out of our comfort zones to insure community – but in very different ways! Thank you for visiting, Michelle.
Marva | SunSparkleShine says
This friendship connection thing is hard sometimes, isn’t it? Still, I love your heart to keep pressing forward and trusting God to open those doors to community for you. I pray that God will answer your prayers!
Wishing you blessings.
Thank you for the prayers, Marva.
Debbie Kitterman says
Lauren – I think the first step in getting genuine community is be completely transparent and authentic ourselves, which is exactly what you did here in the post. I appreciate you sharing the “tough” conversation and letting the walls come down and letting people in. We are neighbors over at #DestinationInspiration this week has been crazy and I am a little behind my comments, but I wanted to makes sure to stop over for a visit. 🙂
Also, thank you for linking up with me this week at #TuneInTHursday too!
Thank you for the encouragement, Debbie.
Hi Lauren! I love a good life group experience too, but it can be easier said than done. Be encouraged — sometimes the best connections form unexpectedly!
Thank you, Joy. I am not giving up!
Joe Siccardi says
Visiting from FMF. I feel your need, but stop and let the Spirit lead. Sometimes it is to a group setting; other times it points to family and rekindle and nurture those relationships; and still other times, the Spirit leads inward to some quite time. I speak from experience … sometimes my need to be part of a group has left me shorting myself and family.
Thanks for your thoughts, Joe.