Friendship is hard, rare, and often one-sided. I’m not being cynical, just real. It’s extremely difficult to instill trust into another person who is just as susceptible as you to sin and messing up. And if you think you’re the “best friend ever” you’re probably not. Okay...maybe I am a little cynical, but when it comes to friendships formed at church or having Christian friends overall it can be an emotionally traumatic situation. Sadly, they’re the ones who will betray you the quickest, and may even use God as a scapegoat--"God told me to stay away from you so that you can get through your problems without any distractions"--or use your prayer requests to fuel gossip and rumors. That is one stereotype that is very, very accurate. And because of this, people are reluctant to become vulnerable and some even turn away from the Lord and the church. They just can’t believe a fellow Christian would turn their back on them when they are at their most vulnerable. Aren’t we all supposed to be like Jesus? Some will see that betrayal and won't step foot into a church, let alone become a Christian.
You’re probably wondering, who wants to follow a God who’s people aren’t actively walking in love, compassion, and kindness with their own people? That’s a great question, and my answer is this: people who follow Jesus follow Him because of WHO HE IS, not because of who His people are. Remember, we are ALL sinners, which means we are more than capable of being selfish, self-righteous, self-seeking, self self self self--you catchin’ what I’m throwin’? As humans in a fallen world, all we care about most of the time is ourselves. We cannot be relied on for the kind of spiritual sustenance that can only come from the Lord. The sooner one learns that, the better. I had to learn that the hard way more than once. I was so worried about how my Christian friends perceived me. I looked to them for my value. I wanted them to accept me. I fully expected them to treat me as Jesus would, but, boy, was I sadly mistaken. And that’s not a dig on them, by the way. Sometimes people just don’t know any better, which is where growth needs to happen. However, I needed to focus on my growth, because it's my walk that I can control, not their walk. That’s another thing I had to learn the hard way.
I’ve been served plenty of whole, steaming-hot humble pies throughout this life, and while they burned they also melted away the hard, rough, angry parts of my heart. Because of that, I have learned that in order for me to attract godly friends I had to be a godly friend first. Due to the hurt I experienced from my previous Christian friends, the result, I realized, was that I was completely closing myself off to actual potentially great friendships (specifically at my current home church). I judged, ridiculed, and assumed the worst in everyone I came into contact with at church. I was basically acting exactly like the friends I had been hurt by, maybe even worse. I was a total recluse without the venom (okay, maybe a little venom). I had never experienced true Christian friendship. I had no idea what it meant to fellowship with another person who was my gender, my age, and who was going through some of the same things I was. I didn’t know how to identify sincerity in friendship because I had never seen it. I couldn’t continue my resentment and anger any longer, though, because it was only hurting me. It made me seem arrogant, stand-offish, and just plain disinterested, but I wanted to come off that way because, to be frank, I was disinterested. It was this weird tug-of-war within me. I wanted the connection deep inside but I also didn't want anyone approaching me out of fear of being betrayed again. I wanted to avoid the emotional pain and strain that comes with vulnerability. I had already done that and suffered. But I was missing the whole relying-on-God part. It wasn’t until I had an argument with my husband about my demeanor that I realized I needed to change. He had told me that being at church with me was awkward because of how closed off I was. He is naturally friendly and open to conversation with almost everyone, so when I refused to “say hi to the person next to me” (you know, the most painful church encounter to ever be invented) he wasn’t happy. He knew me and the impact I had on people when I truly cared, but I couldn’t fulfill any kind of calling from the Lord if I coiled up when asked to shake someone’s hand. I needed to change. I needed to let the Lord do a work in my heart. And wouldn’t you know it, the moment I chose to change how I came off to others was the moment I started making friends at church.
I took baby steps--very small, light baby steps. First me and my husband joined our Young Adults ministry at church. I worked on greeting those who greeted me, hugging back, and showing interest. That was a huge struggle. I felt weird, unnatural, and annoyed, but I prayed for God to continue to help let my guard down and trust Him to bring genuine Christian people into my life. Since then, I have asked a few girls to get coffee, had serious heart-to-hearts with others (one of those heart-to-hearts encouraged me to finally start this blog after years of going back and forth on the idea), and joined a small group with my husband and other married couples. And soon after that, I became a leader in our church's high school ministry. All rewarding, all filled with the fellowship I never realized I was missing out on, and all a total blessing. I can now say that I have real Christian friends. I truly didn’t think it was possible but then I remember anything is possible when God’s hand is on it. He was always there ready to bless me with these relationships. I just had to set aside my issues and give them to Him. These friends exemplify Jesus while also remaining honest, gracious, and trustworthy. They love me despite my flaws, because they know they have flaws and need love too, and simply because God first loved us and we must carry that out to others. They are encouraging, funny, and wise-- all traits derived from having had their own fair share of suffering. They don't hide their struggles, they embrace them by giving God the glory for delivering and strengthening them. We can all sit down and relate to one another. How beautiful is that? I am living proof that if you trust God amazing things happen. And this is tiny compared to what He can actually do.
Remember when I said in my last post that God doesn’t force Himself on you? Well, He also doesn’t give you things you aren't ready for. I was not ready for friends like this. I was jaded, cynical, and numb, but the second I let God change me a world of comfort, blessings, and peace opened up. This is why Christian friendships in the church are so important--God shows Himself within them. They glorify Him. The results that come from the fellowship can only be deemed as the Holy Spirit moving. And the change that happens to those who are involved in those friendships (i.e. me!) is a perfect example of God's ability to mold and shape us.
So to wrap this up, I just want to thank you for reading, I love you all, and for any of you who are struggling with what I’ve struggled with, I pray that this post has encouraged you to do some deep diving within your own heart. Admitting it is the first step and self-awareness is key. Do not forget Psalm 37, verse 5: “depend on the Lord, trust in Him, and He will take care of you,” and Psalm 51, verse 10: "create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within it." Claim these scriptures to yourself and have faith that the Lord will do these things. All His promises are yes and amen. You never know what friend you’re missing out on or what friend is missing out on you.
Sincerely + with love,