A couple of weeks ago, I wrote wrote a post about my deep seated desire for authentic friendship and community. You can find it here. I don’t think I’ve written anything that has engendered this much discussion since this piece on special needs and the church. The response I got begged for a follow-up. Honestly, I almost didn’t publish the article because it seemed a little whiny. A little too needy. And who wants to be either of those things? But I sat with it and prayed about it and decided that it was an authentic part of my experience and needed to be shared. I was ill prepared for how great was the need.
I heard from women in my own community and across the country who feel isolated and crave intimate friendships. Based on Instagram and Facebook, I bought the lie that everyone else has an active and fulfilling social life, so I must be a loser. But this conversation has shown me that there are LOTS of losers out there! Hmmm. Maybe there is a better way to say that. An unfulfilled desire for connection is much more common than I previously thought – especially among women around my age and stage of life. I got responses like, “I thought it was just me.” and “It stinks being the perpetual asker.” Wow. To be truly understood in the area felt like a breath of fresh air to me. Almost like I created some community by writing about community!
For most women, friendships are soooooo important. So it is also quite painful when things go awry. I can tell you from my own personal experience that I had a relationship fall out several months ago that I consider the most painful thing I endured in 2017. And I had a cancer diagnosis, chemo and 4 surgeries! You might think I am exaggerating to make a point, but I assure you I’m not. I’m such a relational person that cutting out a friendship was much more traumatic than anything that happened to me in an operating room. Loosing my breasts was just physical. A severed relationship cuts to my very soul. And the absence of significant, intimate friendships can feel as handicapping as a missing limb.
The absence of significant, intimate friendships can feel as handicapping as a missing limb.
After giving this topic some more thought and reading what others have had to say, I have a couple of practical suggestions:
- On busyness. My number one relationship complaint has been that no one has time to offer. And real friendships take time. Not just shooting an occasional text and running into each other at church or kids sporting events, but genuine time. To sit. To talk. To eat a meal together. To come to the aid of someone in need. This is a real problem. Most of us need to find ways to give ourselves more margin for rest, relaxation and relationships. Things that feed us and make us better to be around. But the truth is that we all have responsibilities and commitments that must be fulfilled. Most of us can’t lighten our loads over night. This thought occurred to me as the previous article became a siren call for quality time and a few sweet individuals answered that call. I now have invitations to lunches and coffees in May. Otherwise known as “hell month” for anyone with kids in public school. We have all the events and all the banquets and all the things. So what do we do when we truly ARE busy? How about instead of merely declining an invitation – we look at our calendars and find an alternative. For example, “I have to drive my kiddos to events this evening, but I would love to see you and have Wednesday lunch free. Would that work for you?”
- I stated in the last post that I was “fighting” for community. That I wasn’t going to give up inviting and expanding my current group of friends in the hopes of growing fellowship. And I do think it’s important for me to put myself out there to be open to possibilities. But one wise friend reminded me that I should not neglect asking God for my heart’s desires – especially when the desires line up with his will for us. And we know He wants us to be in fellowship with other believers. In John 16:24, Jesus tells us, “ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.” In my Bible, those words are in red – straight from the mouth of the Man himself. So while I think we should step out in obedience to any invitations or opportunities God is leading toward, I also need to step up my prayers in this area. As one bloggy friend said, “Sometimes the best connections form unexpectedly.”
So here’s to good friends. Tonight is kinda special. Wait…that’s a beer commercial. So here’s wishing you unexpected connections, God surprises and life-giving community.