Purposeful relationships part 1: How to find genuine friendships
I was homeschooled for the first twelve years of my life. A fact that I do not release lightly. ;)
And as much as I respected my mom for self-teaching four kids, I hated every moment of it. More than anything, I longed to join my peers waiting at the bus stop, eating lunch in a school cafeteria, or decorating my locker with magnets and mirrors covered in flower stickers.
When I started going to "real school" in 7th grade, I was elated. I would reluctantly leave every school day, just eager for the night to be over so I could head back the next morning. I remember being genuinely disappointed when snow days were called and sometimes counted the days until the weekend was over. I wanted every excuse I could get to "hang" with my friends, to be apart of the middle school gossip, to be loved and known by those who surrounded me.
Fast forward 5 years. I was eighteen, and spending the summer in Swaziland, Africa, with a group of 18 others. (Fun fact! One of our close friends here in Colorado was on that trip with me. We reconnected when Cal and I moved to Denver.) I had just graduated from high school and was gearing up to move several hours away from home and start college. Throughout my years in high school, I had prided myself on having "lots" of friends. I knew people from every surrounding high school, and heck, I had plans every Friday night. I mean, could it get any better? ;) But when we sat down one morning that summer, with the Swazi sun beating overhead, and talked about community, something in my heart stirred. We spoke about friendships that were raw, real, and deep. The ones that you knew, in your heart of hearts, truly cared for you.
It was in that moment that I realized I didn't know what community meant because I had never fully experienced it. There I was, counting all of the many friends that I had when all I was truly yearning for was real, simple and authentic community.
Several months ago (yes, I'm finally dusting off my old blog to dive back in!), I did a poll on my Instagram account, asking what you all may want to see. Out of the many answers, one popping up again and again: how do I find and keep Godly relationships? And in this question, another one stirred: how many of us don't know what true community looks like? How many of us are like little new-to-real-school Abbie with stars in our eyes, counting down the minutes until we can go back?
Finding true, intentional, and purposeful friends in a world full of chaotic busyness can be painfully difficult. Most of us glance backward at our high school years and sigh, wishing friendships were still made by just sitting together or being on the same sports team. It seemed so simple in college, when we lived right down the hall from all of our best friends, and ate late night popcorn together every. single. night. Friendships feel easier and flow more naturally when we have the time and space to pour into them.
But what happens when we graduate college? When our lifelong best friends move to different states? When you move away from your community? When you have to start over?
It's tough, and often, it's a silent struggle. We feel loneliness and push it aside. We experience heartache with friends and bury it- telling ourselves that it's normal to just move on.
But if we are created for relationship, shouldn't that mean that we fight for it as well? That we boldly pursue, despite what complications may arise? That we forgive swiftly and soundly?
Pressing fully into relationship means that we reclaim the meaning of good, holy, and intentional friendship.
One year ago, we left our lifelong home to move across the country for Cal to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot. There were SO many exciting things about the move. We were leaving cornfields for mountains. I had landed my dream job. Cal was finally pursuing something he deeply loved. Snowcapped mountains are displayed powerfully through my windshield every time I drive through the gym, and the sun is always shining. The cries of our hearts were answered, and yet, I was devastated to leave Indianapolis.
After years of longing for true, deep friendships, I had finally found a community. One whose love and devotion ran deep and stood firm, no matter the trial. Girlfriends who challenged me, loved well, and forgave deeply. Couples who built Cal and I up in our marriage. A church who opened her arms. And suddenly, we had to start over. My heart bled often in those early months, mourning over our friends that we had left behind. I found myself in a place here that I hadn't been in a while: building a new community.
Finding genuine friendships requires perseverance and it usually starts with discomfort.
Being the new girl wasn't easy, but it provided a beautiful, blank canvas to push reset and reclaim the meaning of purposeful relationship.
Over the first six months of living in Colorado, I was forced to look at the meaning of intentionality. It meant saying yes, even when I felt too tired to interact. It meant opening up our tiny apartment, even when our table felt too small. It meant investing money to grab dinner or drinks, even when we wanted to save.
To venture deep, we must always be willing to lay ourselves down. To break down barriers, we must give the gift of being fully open. Sometimes this means being the first to pursue. Other times it means being openly vulnerable and broken to fully let the other in. And always this requires a willingness to sit in the discomfort of the offering our whole selves, without expecting anything in return.
In short, truly being the friend that you are seeking, no matter what.
We cannot expect others to pursue intentionality until we give ourselves fully in pursuit.
Pursuit doesn't just end with "making the first move". It comes in the form of removing distractions and being willing to listen. It means shifting priorities and being open to inconvenience. It is answering the phone in the dead of night, or dropping other plans in time of need. Pursuit comes in asking the questions and answering the asked questions honestly. It means to give grace: entirely and freely.
Press into the pursuit regardless of the discomfort or unknowns or fear. After all, true, deep, and authentic friendships come from our willingness to be brave.