I appreciated much of the feedback from people who read my last blog. And my heart hurts for those who do not yet know that there are people around them, probably closer than they think, who are on a very similar journey and hungering for the same kind of contact. I find them everywhere, so I know they are out there.
But as I wander about the planet I notice there are people who are quite relational, willing to engage people around them in conversation, to travel to meet new people on this journey, and are intentional about opening the door to new friendships by taking the initiative in arranging times to get together. Then there are those who wait in hopes that friendships will come to them. The former have lots of people in their lives, the latter have very few. Until we become the friend we want to have, we will stay rather isolated.
I know this is scary for some people, but honestly, relationships won’t come to you; you have to go to them. All our coping mechanisms of the flesh isolate us by making us defensive around people we don’t know and don’t trust. If grace does anything in us, it makes us more relational people, willing to take the risk to engage others in conversation, even if the relationship goes no where. Spiritual growth makes us willing to risk an evening just to get to know someone, and even rejection if in the end they don’t want to know us better.
If you want the conversations of community you have to go looking, sampling scores of relationships to find those half a dozen that become the most meaningful to you. When I travel around I meet lots of people on this journey, and often the room is filled with people the others don’t know. During the day, I meet lots of people in that room I’d love to know better if I only lived in that area. But what amazes me is how little contact between those people goes beyond my time there. Obviously they were there only to meet or hear me, when there were so many other treasures of God in the room that they could be walking with now if someone would have taken the risk to provide an opportunity to grow the relationship.
What seems to be true is that people are either content with the friendships they have, or they just don’t want to risk their comfort zone to get to know others better. I even find people when I travel who would like to schedule time with me personally if they can, but don’t want to come to a gathering of people they don’t know. Usually they have some kind of excuse, but deep down it’s just that they are uncomfortable coming to a strange home or finding out the arrangements. I’m afraid our comfort zones will always isolated places to dwell.
If you don’t make yourself available first, you will have little to choose from because most people are not going to initiate it with you. It’s never easy to take the risk, but the rewards are worth it. Just don’t think you’ll connect with everyone. You won’t. But those that do become friends are well-worth the search. It’s like looking for a job. You wouldn’t sit home hoping one comes to you. You have to go look, to interview, to be turned down, maybe forty or fifty times in this economy to find a job. What if that’s true of friends? Are they worth investing some time and intentionality?
If the body of Christ is going to connect in our day, it’s because God transforms people to having a greater relational priority than to simply do their jobs and chores each week. The greatest treasures in this earth are people. That includes our neighbor next door and the person in the cubicle across from us. If we just start loving the people around us, whether or not they are on a similar spiritual journey, we will eventually find ourselves overwhelmed with friends and fellow-travelers and maybe people who don’t know God yet, who might see his love in us.
I refuse to give into the notion that some of us are relational and some of us aren’t. I agree that it may be easier for some and more of a risk for others, but that’s usually because some have been taking the risk for so long they are no longer uncomfortable with it. But I am convinced that finding God’s love will free you to love people more freely.
If you want the conversations of community, realize they are the fruit of living relationally. Not every contact will produce community, but it is certainly true that if I’m not growing any relationships, I’ll never find it.