Part 6: Friendship and Community
School was awkward for me as I have mentioned, although I loved the academics. Friendships I made were few, but loyal. I thought about a situation in 4th grade where someone had been cheating off my page, the teacher watched it happen, asked me about it, the young lady’s brother and his harem threatened me at lunch and my best friend Marianne ran to get our teacher. I headed back to class after lunch and our teacher was giving him a talking to and she told me if he ever tried that again to let her know. My friend ran to get the cavalry and I was protected. Good friend. Thanks, Marianne!
Friends at a new school in middle school were fun and faithful. We did silly things together, having music and love of learning as a common denominator. The new school was where my dad taught though so my community was probably skewed by the fact that the other students knew that and treated me different because of it. Despite that truth I often didn’t fit in – doesn’t shock you after all these weeks of revelation, I know. But the friends I made were true blue, funny, and didn’t mind my interesting sense of humor or need to stay out of trouble. I knew people on all levels of the social ladder in school, but my friends came from band and art class mostly, the two areas I felt most confident in.
High school was about the same, although I was now in a different building than my dad, and the transitions from 8th-9th had created a rift in a few friendships because I had made Symphonic Band and some of my besties had not. I didn’t realize the issue until lunch the first week of High School. Rough first semester is all I will say about that. I made new friends in marching band, art class, and graphic arts class. A few friends from middle school returned when the dust settled after that first semester. Eventually as the years moved on I had awesome friends in more than art and band. They had my back in math and science classes, causing me to come out of my good girl shell to speak up for myself when the teachers were unkind. Friends in high school often gave me courage to be more than I thought I could be. After high school, I was involved in a few of my best friend’s weddings and we stayed in touch for a few years, but they dropped away as I headed into a new direction, marrying my high school sweetheart – my bestest friend – and we moved around the country.
As I grew into a woman, the friends I began to make had much more to do with my faith in Christ, shared desire as a mom with other moms and wife with other wives. I home schooled some and found more friends. Prayer, Bible Studies, serving in church activities and ministries, created bonds that I trusted and began to really appreciate. The Christian community was my support and source of loyal, compassionate, giving friends. This community also had the ability to be the greatest reason for why I hid who I really was and pretended to be what I wasn’t. A double-edged sword for sure.
I often befriended those who fit in less better than I did, because I knew what it felt like to be left out. This has been a life-long way of living. Sometimes I was helpful. Sometimes I was taken advantage of. Other times I was able to be used of the Lord to bring blessings to others. At least I keep trying and the Lord helps me to not quit taking chances. We all need a friend – someone to share life with, that knows we exist, and appreciates us for who we are in some way or another. The fallout and blessings belong to God who is writing His story with me playing a bit part over in my itty bitty corner of the world.
In my neighborhood, I did not fit in – racially, economically, culturally – but I attempted to reach out and to minister to those there, making good friends who shared the load of watching dogs and house when we went on trips, watching out for each other’s kids, having a drink or a barbecue in the back yard from time to time. Volunteering in the community and sharing cookies at Christmas enabled me to get to know people, but my deepest friendships came from a few women at church who knew my story, prayed with me and for me, served along side me and challenged me to grow as a woman and a sexual abuse survivor. They challenged me to try new ministries on college campuses and in the prison, working with other women as a teacher and a conference coordinator, and to go for the career I now have as a Life Coach. They know my ugly and don’t run away. They know my story and don’t give pat answers or trite sayings. They pour truth of the Bible and God Himself into me, replacing the lies I often believe because of my past. They push me to believe more and rest more deeply in God for my identity and worth and His mission in and through me.
What I Learned:
- They can be hurtful and not always trustworthy or kind
- They are important for my encouragement, support, and growth
- They intersect my life at different times and seasons, rubbing themselves off on me and causing me to learn more of the world outside my own perspective – enabling me to love them and be less selfish
- They are not God so they will not always be pleased with me, won’t always understand me, will often fail me. This enables me to set boundaries that honor God and enable me to treat them as He calls me to, sometimes walking away to let Him work where I cannot.
- Friendships are a lot of work, but worth it to the development of my own character and growth as a person
- I desire to be a good friend and neighbor, supportive and encouraging to my community and neighborhood, adding my own uniqueness, strengths and gifts so everyone benefits
- I am an introvert that fights fears and insecurities to have extrovert friends and friends that may not reciprocate at the level I hope for
- I will never be in the “In” crowd and that is ok because I really think my life experiences have shaped me to serve the edges, the misunderstood, the wounded.
- Created me to need others
- Has given me awesome friends and supportive community
- Has allowed friends and community to be lost so I will look only to Him as my true Friend, Life, and Encourager
- Challenges me to reach out to others, build friendships, and be a part of an honest, growing Gospel community that is storming the gates of Hell alongside me
Friendship has not always been safe for me. Community has not always been supportive or understanding or friendly. But the truest friends and community I have are those who live the Gospel, know their God and Savior, and do not let me settle for less than HIS best this side of heaven. Ironically, in a fun “God way”, some of these people flow from friendships in high school that were not that close, but life has drawn us closer as God has worked in our stories – marriages, kids, vocations.
Friendship and community have meant different things to me in different seasons of my life story, but I am thankful for those who are currently my friends and the community the Lord is building up around me to serve Him in a new state, a new church, a new neighborhood, a new career, and a new house. Grateful.. yes, very grateful. I am not alone – I belong “in Christ”!
What About You?
- How have your friendships and community shaped who you are and how you see God?
- What is God calling you to do and be for your friends and within your communities?
- Where do you see the Lord using you most in your friendships and communities?
Share any comments or ask any questions in the comments below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org