We've been meeting together for almost four months now. Nine couples, every Wednesday. Our kids play together in the nursery down the hall while we gather in a circle to share, laugh, and grow. What began as an attempt for my husband and I to meet new people in a new city has resulted in friendship that is growing deeper and deeper each week we meet.
Because, we knew what could happen when a group of people commit to being in community together.We've experienced friendship that is sliced just as thick as bacon and we've let people in on the mess of our lives. But, we had to leave and it's been tough to start over.
But, isn't that what we have to learn to do in life? We are continually moving from one experience to the next. College. Graduation. First job, first city. Engagement. Marriage. New job, new city. Morning Sickness. Baby. (or babies in my case). The list goes on and on. With each experience, comes new memories, new people. Some memories and people are terribly good while others are terribly bad. We cry out of hurt or out of laughter. We smile, plastered or sincere. We stop something old and we start something new.
Our something new this season is our small group. On our first official meeting, I remember how nervous my husband and I were. We had made a few phone calls and invited people to come to our house for a casual meet and greet. "Bring your kids," we said, hoping to find some play mates for our twin girls. We are renting right now, a house that still sports floral wallpaper and shag carpet, and had a long discussion about how we would explain our current living situation. At six o'clock, we said a prayer that people would show. When we opened our eyes, we had guests ringing our doorbell. One by one they came. We gathered in the dining room and instead of the wallpaper and shag carpet turning people away, it was a conversation starter that filled the wallpapered room and carpeted floor with laughter and smiles.
Since that January day, we've slowly become a small group. Scripture and what the Bible says about discipleship are what we talk about most. But, one time we met at a Mexican restaurant and shared chips and salsa instead. The group surprised us with a gift. It was the most unexpected, thoughtful act of kindness that we've received recently and it is still tender to my heart. Another time, over spring break, we planned a picnic in the park but ended up roasting s'mores instead of melted ice cream because of a sudden temperature change. Each week, we get a little closer, become more of a community. Last week, instead of beginning group with notes from the chapters we'd read, we began with a question.
What can I pray about for you?
It is crazy beautiful how a simple question can become an honest confession when you allow yourself to let others in. Each person shared their own prayer requests and what we realized was this:
We are one in the same.
Yes, we've had different experiences, different circumstances. But, when we stripped all of that away, it was easy to see that God was the author of all of our lives. He created you just as he created me. He created us for each other.
Not only did he create us for each other, but he created us so when we sit in a room together on a Wednesday night we realize that we might have different needs but we all need God. That is the essence, the beginning, of finding friendship from a small group. Because when you look around a room at people you barely knew four months ago and can see that you actually know each other better than you ever thought before, you realize that true friendship isn't fake, it's authentically real. Because to have real friendship, we've got to let each other in on real life.
I have no idea what God has in store for me, my family, my future. I don't know where we will live or what new people he will bring into our lives. But, I know that if I don't let people in on what is going on now, in the present, I'm missing a huge part of his creation. If I'm too afraid to invite people over because my house doesn't look like my "For the Home" Pinboard, then I'm missing out on an inside joke. If I'm nervous to go out to eat with other people because I don't know what to talk about, I'm missing an opportunity to be blessed unexpectedly with people who genuinely want to get to know me. If I decide not to go the party in the park because it's too cold outside, I'm missing the chance to see who will beat me in eating more s'mores than my kids. If I'm afraid to ask someone what I can pray about for them, how will our friendship ever become more than surface deep?
Friendship is a risk but if we are willing to take that risk, we usually find much reward. After that, friendship becomes accountability, strength in numbers, and positive reinforcement over critical issues like "Do I have broccoli in my teeth?" or "Should I buy another pair of colored skinny jeans?"
Do you have people in your life right now that make you aware that we are one in the same? Are you willing to ask, make an effort, take a risk?
Trust God and his amazing friendship-making skills.
Till next time, let your light shine!