We have a problem….she just showed up.” I stood there, mortified, but trying not to show it, facing a group of women with flawless make-up and nails who were trying to figure out what to do with me. I had looked online for a mother of preschoolers Bible study group to join so that I could get to know other women after we moved here. We had not yet found a church, and I was in desperate need of friendship and adult conversation. And so I had faced down my fear of being the new person at a church, and I had driven across town to try to connect and study the Bible with other women. So I stood there, trying to keep my smile from trembling and not just burst into tears or storm out of the building, as this lady led me to yet another group of women and again loudly announced, “We have a problem…she just showed up!” At this point, I wanted to melt into the carpet and just disappear. They eventually found a table where their “problem” could sit during the study that morning. When it was over, I bolted out of that church and vowed never to set foot in that building again.

But I was still lonely. I still needed a friend. I decided to try a different church Bible study. This time I called ahead. I didn’t want to cause another “problem.” I took a deep breath, and called the church. I asked if I could please register for the women’s Bible study that I had seen on their website. The lady on the other end of the line said, “No. Registration is full. Maybe you can get in on the next session.” I hung up. I considered just giving up.

But I was still lonely. I still needed friends. So I decided to forget about trying to get into a Bible study at a church. Through a friend of my husband, I found out about a Bible study on the opposite side of town that met at a lady’s  house. I drove to their church and wrote my name and information on the sign up sheet. My name was on the first line. I got an email later that week telling me that they were sorry but their group was full to capacity. I emailed back and said, “How can that be, when my name was the first one on the list? And just so you know, I don’t know one person in this city and this is the THIRD Bible study that has turned me away.” She emailed back and said that they could make room for me. I am still amazed that I ended up driving down there and showing up at a house full of perfect strangers nearly an hour from where I live, given how painfully shy I am. In time I did end up making friends there who blessed and enriched my life in ways they will never know. I will always treasure those precious women of God who let me into their fellowship and hearts.

What is my point? My point is that it is hard to get to know people. Too hard. It is hard to make friends, especially when you are new.

I am guessing that a lot of women in my situation may have just given up and said, “Oh forget it, if it is this hard!”

I felt like giving up, but I could not let myself because friendship is a necessity, not a luxury. I don’t believe that friendship is optional for believers. It is imperative. It is in the context of deep relationships that we are sharpened. We are encouraged. We are challenged. We are seen and known. Sometimes we are rebuked. We are made better by the other believers we allow into our lives. And we do the same for them. Friendship is a gift, a precious gift from God and we can’t neglect it or convince ourselves that we are fine without it. We are not. We belong to each other. We need each other.

And yes, some seasons of life make it much harder to cultivate friendship, but we just have to be intentional and make this a priority. It does not mean that we sacrifice the things we need to get done, but what if we just did those things together? Instead of thinking we have to have a blank spot on the calendar to plan in “friend time,” just invite someone to what we are already doing.

Going to the park with your kids? Call a friend with kids. Her kids need to burn excess energy too. Grabbing supper after church? Grab it with another family. You are all going to eat anyways.

The other day I was up to my elbows in flour, making tortillas. The girls were dirty little wild things running around the yard. The kitchen looked like a bomb had gone off. I had to get supper on and baths all around for church the next day. My phone chimed with a text. A friend wanted to know if she and her daughter could stop by for a bit. My answer? “Sure!” So, she joined me at the counter in my flour mess, and her daughter went out to run with my little wild ones. And we had a sweet conversation while I made the tortillas.

Friendship does not have to look like a planned event, or a trip to a coffee shop. It can look like sinks piled high with dishes, or delayed bath times, or folding mountains of laundry. It just needs to look like being together. All that is required is a change of mind that says, “I’m letting you in. I’m letting you into my church group. I’m letting you into my schedule. I’m letting you into my mess. I’m letting you into my heart.” And I promise you, you will never regret it.

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