Last year, I read the book Bloom, by Kelle Hampton. Twice.
If you haven’t heard of Kelle, the short recap is that she gave birth to a daughter with down syndrome. She and her husband had no idea their little girl would have it, and it is a very gritty, real and painful account of them coming to terms with it and how it has affected their lives. It’s beautifully written, and very poignant.
But there was another theme to the book that I can’t get out of my head. In every aspect of her life, in every trial or in every triumph, Kelle is surrounded by community. Friends. People who love her and support her and her family.
Truth be told, I don’t make friends easily. In fact, it was really only recently that I began to see the value in having friendships with women. I told myself women were catty and mean and spiteful and judgmental and opening myself up to friendships with them would only bring trouble. I never pursued a friendship for fear of rejection. Even to this day, I have a hard time with that – I do much better if someone pursues a friendship with me.
But like we were reminded this past Sunday at church, and many Sundays before – we were created for community. Even the very first Christ followers met together in small groups. We were designed by our creator to love each other, to support each other, to be there for each other.
But how does this look, practically? What does it REALLY mean to be in community or to be a friend to someone? If I meet someone for coffee occasionally, or we send funny texts to each other daily – is that friendship the way God intended it?
I think God intended us for more than that. I think we are supposed to get all up in each others lives and get messy. And this is hard. Because we aren’t perfect. We are sinful and broken and annoying at times. We say hurtful things, we make mistakes. And we’re busy, right? At the end of the day who wants to be an intentional friend? We want to go home, climb under a blanket and watch the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy. What, is that just me?
The term intentional friendship has been bouncing around in my head now for quite some time. Friendship can’t be one sided. You can’t have one person doing all the work – it’s a relationship between two people, and each person must be intentional about it. You have to choose to try, to overlook mistakes, to see past the not so perfect qualities. You have to be willing to be open and honest and to share. To admit that you yourself aren’t so perfect.
I’m so excited that our church is getting ready to kick off another Life Group semester. And even though it’s honestly hard for me to admit it, I know I need this in my life. I know I need a small group of people to get connected with. I need to learn about them, about their lives and families. I need to know their struggles and their triumphs. I need to see them cry and laugh. And even more than that – I need them to do those things for me.
If you attend Next Level – get connected. God intended you to live your life WITH people. If you’re not a church goer – find a few close friends and open up to them. Have them hold you accountable for things in your life. Be there for them. Reach out when they are hurting.
It’s not easy. It’s time consuming and hard work. It will be mentally exhausting at times and you’ll wonder why you bother. But I know the rewards of living in community far outweigh the minor discomforts and annoyances.
My word for 2013 is intentional. Specifically pertaining to friendships and community. I will be intentional about growing relationships and friendships and opening up to people. I will not hide under my blanket and behind Grey’s Anatomy. I will push myself to be uncomfortable because I know God desires more for my life.