We never stop making new friends…and I don’t think it ever gets easier.
Well, maybe except for a three-year-old at a playground in a local park. I used to be amazed at my girls (and all three of them did this) and how quickly they could become “best friends” with another little girl on the playground. I would watch them scope out the area and decisively walk toward another child and say, “Wanna play on the swings with me?” There wasn’t any doubt in their sweet hearts that the answer would be “No.” And I don’t think it ever was. But even if it was, that didn’t stop them from going to the next little kid and asking them the same question. They were hardly ever fazed by a ‘no’ answer. And by the time we were ready to leave, the question to me always was, “Can she come to our house to play now?”
Really? You’ve decided in a mere hour of play that you want some stranger to come over to our house? Then came the awkward eye contact with that child’s mother, explaining to our kids that we don’t know each other and maybe we’ll just see them again the next time we go to the park. The sadness that would overtake these new friends as they hugged and parted ways was always astonishing to me. My mother-in-law would always say, “Your girls always seem to make a new best friend every time we go to the park.”
As they all got older, the rush to make a new best friend became a little slower. They learned to gage who was kind and who made them uncomfortable. They learned to bestow friendship on those who shared common interests with them. Sometimes they got burned, sometimes they discovered a great friend, but I think mostly they realized that some friends are here for a season and only a few are meant to create a history with.
It’s just like that with us as adults.
I think the equivalent to the “Wanna play on the swings with me?” is the proverbial, “Would you like to meet up for a coffee sometime?” There’s just something about sitting across from a new friend at a coffee shop that makes it less intense. That steaming mug of coffee or tea is a wonderful prop! Many of my friendships started out this way. Some are mothers of my daughter’s friends’, some are from church, and some were through introductions by mutual friends.
We never stop making new friends…at least we shouldn’t stop.
No matter our age, even when it feels overwhelming, we need those connections in our life.
And guess what, those friendships don’t have to be with someone our own age. In fact, I would recommend that you find those who are both older and younger than you! I promise you it will be one of the most rewarding things you do in your sweet life! And yes, I’m using a lot of exclamation points (to the chagrin of all my grammar loving peeps!) but I’m that passionate about it!
I absolutely admire the young women who speak into my life on a regular basis. The minute you think you have nothing to learn from the younger generation, is the minute you become self-centered. There is always something to learn. When you genuinely show that you care about what that young women is going through or her perspective on what you are going through, friends, let me tell you that is a powerful experience!
The summer of 2018 held one of the handful of life-changing moments in my life. I attended a three-week conference* where I was literally the oldest women in the room at any given time. There might have been one or two others close to my age, but not many. The track that I was in was called Brave Love** and I had never felt so loved and accpeted by 60+ women in my life…and the average age of these women was about 21! I learned so much from them and gained such a heart for the struggles and challenges they face in this world today. God certainly used these young ladies to speak truth and joy into my life and I will never forget it.
Not that all of my endeavors into friendship have always been positive, but I’ve learned so much about myself through all of them…the good…the bad…and the ugly!
It’s so hard when a friendship fizzles out or simply ends. Especially when you are not the one who ended things, it can be quite difficult to move on. That’s when you really have to step back and ask the Lord to help you figure out what to do and how to respond.
Sometimes you have inadvertently done something to hurt the other person.
Sometimes you simply outgrow each other and go down different paths.
There are times you are hurt by the other persons actions or inattentiveness.
There are times you are pursuing what you think is a real friendship only to discover you were simply serving a purpose in their life but not as an actual friend.
Some friendships don’t end but aren’t what they once were and some friendships pop in and out of our life depending on circumstances but feel like you just saw each other.
I’ve run the gamut in all these situations. There are friendships that ended because of my lack of empathy and understanding…those are the hardest to move past. Even after apologies, many times it’s too little too late. When you know you’ve done everything you can, be it a friend or a family member, and the other person puts that boundary gate of “Thou shalt not pass.”, you have to move on for your own mental health.
On the other end of the spectrum are those friends from long ago who come back into our lives. This has recently happened to me with three friends from high school, one of whom was in my wedding. We had not seen each other for 16 years, yet having them and their family in our home to share a meal felt like we had not missed a beat. The other two I haven’t seen pretty much since graduation (and that was way more than 16 years ago!) but it was so easy to settle into conversation.
There is something to be said about shared experiences.
When a friendship ends or becomes less than it once was, the most important thing to remember is that God allowed that friendship to be in your life for a reason. He is not surprised by the changes and He’s completely aware that the enemy will try and make us feel as those we are unworthy of friendship.
There is always a purpose. We were created for friendship and for relationship.
John 10:14-15 says this about God the Father,
“14 I am the Good Shepherd, and I know [without any doubt those who are] My own and My own know Me [and have a deep, personal relationship with Me]— 15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father—and I lay down My [very own] life [sacrificing it] for the benefit of the sheep.“
We are known and seen by God and He desires relationship with us. That is why we crave friendship…to be seen and known by others here on this side of heaven. We are not meant to live a solitary life.
Friendships are great, messy, meaningful, frustrating, significant, and heart-breaking. But they are all intended to bring goodness to our life.
That goodness might look like heart-break, but for whatever reason, God is removing that person from our life. We may never know why, but trusting in God’s goodness is far better than relying on our own perceived wisdom.
Good or bad, friendships are necessary to help us become the person the Lord intends for us to be. Hard moments in friendship reveal something in our character that God is trying to either soften or remove. Sweet moments in friendship are a blessing and salve to the soul and create confidence to go out and continue making new friends.
It might feel scary at the time, but the next time you feel prompted to meet someone new, know that it’s probably the Holy Spirit asking you to step out in faith to reach out to that person. Go make a new friend!
So, step into a version of your 3-year-old self on the playground, and say, “Hey, would you like to go grab a coffee with me?”
* 21 Project via Circuit Riders ~ https://21project.com/
** Brave Love ~ https://bravelovewomen.com