Two years ago, we packed up our home and moved our family across the country to attend seminary, which meant saying goodbye to dear family and friends. Having moved many times, I know the pattern; the ebb and flow of changing relationships with life stages. Embracing the next thing God had for us to do, we set out with a sense of adventure for what lay ahead, with the knowledge that my heart would grieve again as we left everything and everyone familiar. During this time, I did the emotional work of discerning where each new and old friendship fit into my heart and life. There’s been several things which helped me in maintaining my valued friendships, while taking the risk, time and energy to invest in much needed new ones as well.
When we anticipate moving, I pray in advance that God would bring a few really good friends into my life. I pray for Him to direct my path to kindred hearts and allow friendships to develop in His time. Sometimes they have come quickly. Other times, I have had to wait a few years before I saw the fruit of my prayers. One season of life was particularly lonely as the pursuit of friendship took much longer than anticipated. It was at this point God provided a lovely and unexpected friendship with a much older sister in Christ. Never think that your friendships only have to be with peers. Some of my deepest friendships have been with those who are either much younger or much older than I.
Know Who You Are
Friendship is a journey of intentionally seeking to know someone else, as well as becoming known. The journey begins with knowing yourself first. Knowing my personality type has given me an understanding of how I work in friendships, what I need, and my limitations. As an introvert, I feel recharged and renewed when I have some alone time each day. This means I may have to say no to some opportunities so that I can stay healthy for my family.
Established friendships and the history they hold are a treasure which needs to be maintained, even just a little bit. It takes intentional work to keep in contact with those far away but these friendships become the thread which weaves our stories together from one chapter to the next. It is the friendships which stand the test of time that steady our feet in a season of change and unknowns. Connecting with old friends in small, yet meaningful, ways is vital to keeping these relationships alive. In this age of online communication, a simple hand-written card becomes a valuable keepsake for years to come.
Build New Friendships
In each new place we find friendships come at various speeds.
In our current season, my time is the most limited, so I am thankful for the playdates, the coffee dates and the little snapshots of conversation I have at the playground with other moms! To make room in our hearts for new friendships is risky and often slow, but the fruit of perseverance is a feast when those newly formed friendships become the familiar and faithful ones.
When moving to a new city or pursuing new friendships, it is easy to get consumed with our own need for friendship and to put self at the center. When I’m tempted to do this, the Lord reminds me to love Him and love others. Earlier in my life, there came a time when I was struggling with loneliness. One of the greatest pieces of advice my mother gave me was to go and look for those who were lonely, too, and befriend them! I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was a way of serving Christ. God brought increased joy to me with this new mindset and I was able to live with hands held open regarding friendships, whether they continued on or faded with time.
It is important to entrust our friendships and need for community to God. He knows we need supportive relationships. He is our Good Shepherd and our Provider. Life lived in community, as children of God, is even more important to Him than it is to us.
Friendship is a gift from God, but it is also an endeavour requiring much effort, grace, and service. In Christian friendship, it is not so much about fulfilling our own needs to be known, but to serve others in knowing them, a laying down of our lives for our friends. In this we model the friendship of Jesus. In Him, we find the strength to bravely reach out with hands held open.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”