I have lots of friends. I'm not going to lie. I do. Currently, 1397 on Facebook (oohh!!! I've been defriended recently! Last week it was over 1400! Sorry to whomever I pissed off...) but that's not a fair assessment of what my friend-life is really like. (And I'd like to take this opportunity to tell all you haters to back off. YES, I'm aware I have lots of FB friends. No, I don't keep up with all of them every day. But when you add years of Student Council, church camp, HS friends, college friends, and 12 years of ministry? You get to know a lot of people. Back off.) I am surrounded by people who love (tolerate?) me and whom I love.
But I often feel lonely.
It's hard for someone as social as I am to talk about feeling lonely because it looks like it goes against the obvious. It totally happens. All these 1397 "friends"... and I desire to feel connected.
Since the early 80s when I walked the tightrope of Elementary School "Best Friendships" I've been aware of it. "You were my best friend, but now Mandy is." I remember entering Middle School and being told that I'd "stolen" someone's best friend away from them. Add the glory of these:
... and what was a girl to do but want to be someone's "Be Fri" or "St End"?
I've always had multiple "best friends"... in high school I had my "school" best friend and then my "church" best friend. As I've gotten older I use the term more liberally. I have 4 "best friends" I went to the beach with last week. I have my high school "best friends" I see on a regular basis. I have my college "best friend" who is the only one allowed to bring up the time I cut my bangs before a fake-date with a boy I really liked.
For all those "best" friendships... I am thankful.
But often, I see the world's version of intimacy between friends, and I start to second guess my standing with these women. Jacked up, I know, but it's there. I get jealous of people who get to have regular dates with my gal-pals who are far away. I get jealous of people who get to take big trips with my gal-pals while I sit at home watching PBS-Kids. I get jealous of hearing about times I've missed out on, or connectedness that I've not felt.
Because I am twelve.
I know all the things I *should* feel and think about friendships... I get it, people, I promise. But sometimes my heart feels differently than my head tells it that it should.
That is when I make the choice for community. A wise man once told me that we all desire to know and be known, love and be loved, celebrate and be celebrated, and serve and be served. Here are some of the places I've decided to do all of those things:
* I am involved at my daughter's preschool with the parent's group. It has allowed me to connect with people I would not otherwise know- we don't all live near each other, we don't share a common background, but we share a present- young children- and I dig them. Another day we can talk about how I felt like I didn't fit in when I started said preschool, but I digress...
* I am involved with a MOMS group at my church. I will confess that every Thursday when I go it's not always life-changing. (Especially that teacher from last January who taught "Search for Significance"... zeesh, she talked a LOT.) Sometimes I end up daydreaming about my to-do list or checking out Bobbi's shoes (always so cute.) But I've made a commitment to be there, to get to know new people (and yes, that often means sitting at a table with people I don't know), and being a part of a shared experience.
* Dan and I are part of a Small Group Bible Study on Wednesday nights. Currently our "small" group is not so small... we have over 10 couples. But we make a choice to be authentic with these people. Our sharing with them involves the basic (What does the Bible say about that?) to the complex (How I need help in this area of my life.) This past week I shared with the women my financial frustrations... it allowed me to feel relief after saying it, I know I'm covered in prayer, and now I have a group to share the blessings of how God has provided this week with a new car and Pumpkin Spice Lattes. I will say this about Small Groups: I've been in several in our 7.5 years at ROCC, and a few at HillSong before that. You are not guaranteed to "click" with every group you are in... you are not guaranteed "best friendships"... but you do get out of them what you put in. I feel like for this season we have a really connected group already (3 weeks in!)... and that's because I get the sense that people are willing to share life together.
* We lead the college ministry at our church. And we. Freakin'. Love. It. God called me to college ministry about 10 years ago... and what a ride it's been. It's a neat thing to live life with people that are, well, younger than we are... but that allow us to be part of their lives. We tell them our "real" stuff, and they do the same.
* Weekly, I'm part of a group of 5 women who meet together to study, pray, live life, and maybe go to Nudist Beaches together. This one is one of the neatest parts of my life. (Not the nudie part, but...) Two years ago, 2 of the 5 of us were talking about needing a place to feel connected. We talked about who might benefit from that same sort of group and we... well... just asked them to be our friends. We called each of them and said "I know your life is busy right now, but this feels like what we are missing in our lives, and maybe you'd like it, too?" And, amazingly, they all said yes. We've had a connection that's unreal given that we didn't know each other that well 2 years ago. Since that time we've seen our group through 2 surgeries, multiple family members with cancer, several health scares, parenting issues, marital issues, financial issues, and... FUN. Lots and lots of fun. Because we made a commitment to be real with each other.
All kinds of different community in my life. Some people I know in-and-out, some I just say hi to in passing, but lots of people that I have chosen to be real with- and it's made all the difference. Add that in with neighbors I am blessed to share my home and neighborhood with, a Bunko group I've played with for over 8 years, a Supper Club that gathers monthly for a couple years now, a new Book Club... I am surrounded by community. But it only exists when I let it. It only exists when I choose to be real with people. I only get out of it when I put in. Without opening my life to people, I just have a very busy schedule. But when I allow them in and allow myself to be real, I am part of something greater than myself.
Don't have that kind of connection with people? No worries, it's not for everyone. In fact, even reading all I've written about makes me introvert side start wheezing. (Yes, I have one.) But if you are desiring that kind of connection... make the first step. Join a Small Group. Find people you like and ask them to get together with you regularly. Find a Book Club. Send an email, make a call... it's that easy. You may have success and instant connection, or you may have to try again later.
It's part of the bigger plan for our lives... and it's worth every effort.
It's hard to feel lonely after all.