“Here is my command. Love each other, just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than the one who gives his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13).
When I was young, I was painfully shy. My mom pinpoints it to a time when she finally lost patience with me constantly hiding from her in the clothes racks in stores. She squatted down to my level, looked me squarely in the eye, and said in a firm voice while pointing to a man nearby, “Do you see that man over there? He could STEAL you, take you away forever!” She tells me that I never got too far away from her in public after that. I don’t know if that was the reason, but I know that from the earliest I can remember it was hard to talk to people who weren’t close friends.
As I started to find success in running, I started to gain confidence and could talk to people more, and by high school I had overcome much of my shyness. However, I still didn’t really know how to make friends. My friends came free; I attended small Christian schools with small classes until high school, and in high school I had a few church friends and friends from my cross country team with whom I became very close. (I still love those girls!) Even in college, it was easy to be friends with the girls in my dorm hall and my cross country team once again. I got married a year after college, and although I didn’t have too many friends my first few years after marriage, I didn’t miss them too much–I was a newlywed, after all! Since then, God blessed me with good friends who pursued me. I was close with those few friends, but if they hadn’t initiated and continued to pursue my friendship, I probably wouldn’t have had any friends at all. I was involved in a small group with those friends, which made our friendship regular and steady, so even if they didn’t pursue, I didn’t really have to do anything to build the friendships.
It was only a few years ago that I realized I was supposed to pursue friends as well as letting them pursue me. I was supposed to call and set up get-togethers, too. I started doing this tentatively, but I did more playdates for my kids’ sakes (after all, I homeschool, and if I didn’t do something proactive to make friends for my kids, they wouldn’t have any).
Then one girl from my small group moved across town where it was harder to see her. Then another moved across the country; then another. All of a sudden, I realized that although I still had two close friends whom I loved dearly and a lot of acquaintances, these girls were busy mothers and weren’t able to talk or get together whenever I wanted. I realized I needed more than two close friends! So I started pursuing friendships as much as a busy homeschooling mom of three can (and thankfully, my small group expanded to include two more sweet girls with whom I wanted to spend more time). These new friendships made moving to Texas even harder, but I can still say it was definitely worth it.
A few days ago I read an article in Parents magazine about how busy mothers may not have a lot of extra time, but how they need friendships anyway and that the time invested would be essential for well-being. While reading that article, I was the choir, the author the preacher. Moving down here to Texas has stripped me of all my nearby friends (unless you count two hours away as nearby). I love the friendship I have with my husband, but sometimes I just need friends of the same gender. I will take the new friendship building skills I started to learn in Knoxville and apply them here. I’m sure it will be slow going, but it’s important to have those friendships for so many reasons: accountability, fun, understanding, sharpening, and support to name a few.
I started this post with this verse: “Here is my command. Love each other, just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than the one who gives his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13). I think someone could make the case that if a person doesn’t develop relationships, he or she can’t fully follow this command. This verse also brings out the fact that we don’t make friends just because we need them for ourselves but because others need our friendship, as well.
How about you? Have you allowed yourself to get so busy that you haven’t been prioritizing your friendships? I know that God and family come first, but I hope you aren’t leaving out this vital part of life just because life is busy right now. In fact, someone who is overly busy might need the friendships all the more. I hope you’ll take the time to text a friend or two and invite them to coffee this week!