A few of the most uncomfortable experiences in my life have occurred outside the doors of young singles Sunday School classrooms. I’ve spent many a Sunday morning sitting in a service, plotting my escape to avoid getting sucked in to yet another singles group activity. It’s exhausting, and super discouraging, to have your idealistic perspective on fun and friendship ripped to shreds with the announcement of another activity that may “result in meeting your future spouse”.
I loved the church I attended in college. It was a great group of people, great music, fabulous teaching, and it felt like home. I remember the feeling of walking in on the first Sunday of college. It was such a comfort to know that I was going to have a home and a family away from home.
I guess you could say I was looking for this feeling after I graduated from college and made the move to the real world. I wanted a group of friends I could call family. I started my journey and quickly realized that the real world was light years different from college. I was overwhelmed by the number of churches, the number of young singles groups and the different personality types of the people I was coming in contact with. God is quite the creative person; it’s amazing how many different types of personalities he’s been able to think up!
In my head, I had decided what type of person I wanted to be friends with, and I didn’t leave much wiggle room. I was looking for people I could make instant connections with. I had this idea in my head that the people I met would instantly become my best friends; we would have everything in common, have dozens of inside jokes, know each other’s secrets and everything would be perfect and simple. I just assumed that we would click and things would be easy.
I spent the first few weeks visiting different churches in my new neighborhood, each time evaluating the pros and cons of who I met, things I observed, what activities they had for people my age, but was never able to feel satisfied enough to make a commitment. The cons list always beat out the pros, sending me to a new church each Sunday. I was determined to find a group of people who were “just like me”.
One night, during a phone conversation with a sweet friend, I felt an aching in my heart. This friend is one of the greatest and most encouraging people I know, and is the walking definition of intentional behavior. I am so blown away and inspired by her honesty, vulnerability, and the way she demonstrates the love of Christ in our friendship. I know that even if I don’t see her for weeks, or don’t talk to her for a few days, she’s praying for me, and that she’s got my back. I found myself aching for this type of connection and for the intentional relationships that I missed so much.
I had so many great girl friends in college, I was surrounded by girls with such a passion for life and for our Savior, and these girls inspired me with their love for others. I had grown so close to these girls and I missed the connection I had with them.
My heart was longing for more intentional relationships. What set these friends apart from the others I had been meeting was that I knew her heart, and she knew mine. Our friendship was based on the love and the beautiful grace of Christ. And these friendships were built over time.
And then it hit me: I’m the reason I’m friendless.
My unrealistic, selfish, judgmental expectations of others were keeping me from connecting with people. Instead of searching for people who looked like the type of person I could be friends with, I should have been getting to know their hearts. Surface level friendships are fun for a short time, but quickly become exhausting. Always trying to impress, always trying to have it all together, always having your guard up, I’m just not good at that kinda thing.
I like to think I’m a pretty open person, that I give people the benefit of the doubt, that I don’t judge immediately based on looks or appearance, but sometimes, I’m not the best version of myself. I should have been taking the time to get to know the hearts of these people, rather than taking a quick survey of the room, making a vain judgment, and bolting out the back door as soon as the teacher said “Amen”.
It breaks my heart to think about the sweet friendships I have walked away from because of vain judgments. And so now, I make this my prayer: that God would give me the strength and patience to learn the hearts of the young people I am blessed to meet.
Real life is busy, and it is impossible and exhausting to try and become everyone’s new best friend. Building a real friendship takes work, and it requires intentional behaviors and actions. It also takes a lot of time. True, real, friendships must be based on intentional behavior, honesty, trust, and the love of Christ, because without him, it’s just not worth it.