Friendships need more than common ground

How many friends do you have in your life? Some people have a lot of friends, and that’s great. Others have a small group of friends, and that’s equally great. But what happens with friendships over time?

Some friendships get stronger. Others drift apart. And it doesn’t mean there’s wrong done. It just means that people don’t always stay the same, friendships don’t always stay the same. Life has a tendency to change all of us.

In most cases, friends just don’t have anything in common anymore. Maybe you were inseparable in elementary school or high school, but you changed in college. Maybe you were the best of friends in college, but life in the workplace made you reprioritize.

But then, you have those special circumstances where you start out as friends and you remain friends for the rest of your life. I am so very blessed to say that I have a lot of friends. But not only do I have a lot of friends, I have a lot of friends who have been my friends for a very, very long time.

It’s those friendships I treasure so much, and what amazes me–leaves me speechless–is that I can spend years apart from those friends and when we meet up again, it’s like no time has passed. There’s no awkward silence. There’s no scrambling to keep conversation going. It feels just like coming home, like you are where you belong, like being reunited with your favorite family member.

How do you get that kind of friendship? How do we cultivate relationships like that? I’m certainly not an expert, but I have learned that there does seem to be one unifying factor in every friendship in my life that has lasted: Who is your friendship about?

Me and best buddy Katie in a telephone booth at Trafalgar Square, London, England, UK

Me and best buddy Katie in a telephone booth at Trafalgar Square, London, England, UK

Today’s verses are Colossians 3:16-17.

Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

If you build a friendship around things you like to do together or things you have in common, your friendship might last a while. It could last a long while. But what happens when you grow tired of doing those sorts of things? What happens when you’re no longer interested in the things you used to care about? What happens to your friendship then?

Friendships that last have to be built on something that doesn’t change. That’s what I’ve learned over the years. The friendships that have meant the most to me have been built on mutual love of Christ and a desire to do whatever He’s called us to do. No matter where. No matter when. No matter what.

Those friendships have changed my life. It’s those friendships that I can pick up en media res and just start talking like we’ve never been apart, even if we haven’t seen each other in three years. Because no matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done or how long you’ve been apart, the thing that drew you together in the first place is still the same.

What’s God doing in your life? What did you see God do today? Or yesterday? Or the day before? What do you think He’s going to do tomorrow?

Those questions never get old. The conversations and the stories and the memories never wear out. Because when you’re talking about God, when you’re focusing on living life with Christ at the center, you never run out of stories.

What kind of friendships do you have in your life right now? What are they built on? Are they built on commonalities like what books you enjoy or what music you like listening to? Those friendships are nice. Are they built on the ages of your children? That’s nice too, especially in the difficult years of child rearing when you need someone who understands where you are.

But don’t think those friendships will last longer than your common interests. Your common interests will change, and if you don’t have something stronger to hold you together, you’ll eventually drift apart.

If you make Jesus the center of your life, the center of your family, the center of your friendships, you’ll have an anchor that never moves. And, let’s just face it, you’ll have so many adventures to talk about, you’ll never have to deal with awkward silence again.

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Lonely chair on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Did God create us to live life alone?

Have you ever talked to a stranger and discovered you had more in common than you expected? I’m truly an introvert, so I don’t do extremely well in talking to people I don’t know. But I’ve had conversations on airplanes, in elevators–brief snatches of talk with waitresses in restaurants–and in those moments, I’ve been stunned at similarities or common points of view I’ve shared with them.

I really believe God brings people with like minds together without their knowledge frequently, and it’s up to us to figure out what we have in common. But the greatest and possibly most damaging lie our enemy whispers in our ears is that we are alone, that no one understands what it’s like to be you.

Lonely chair on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Lonely chair on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Today’s verses are Hebrews 10:24-25.

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

Why is it important to have community in our lives? I hear people ask that often. Why is community important? Well, why is it important to know you can trust your next-door neighbor? That’s an obvious question. You want to know that your next-door neighbor has your back, that he’s watching out for suspicious activity around your house, that he’ll be there to make sure your home doesn’t burn down if you’re on vacation.

Having a spiritual community is no different. No matter how independent you may be, you still need friends. You still need people around you to keep you on the right track, to steer you in the right direction, to smack you on the head if you twist off and try to do something stupid. Nobody is strong enough to make it through life alone, and God doesn’t expect you to.

If God thought you were strong enough to survive life alone He wouldn’t have made so many people around you.

Yesterday I got another opportunity to remember just how awesome God is at putting pieces together. I watched a room full of strangers–these people had never met each other before–find common ground and forge friendships in mere moments.

Why is that important? Why does it matter?

Well, how would it make you feel if you bravely explained your life to a room of strangers and they all looked at you like you’d sprouted another head?

Conversely, how would you feel if you did the same thing and two other people–people you don’t know–express that they’ve had your same experience, that they’ve shared your struggles, your fears, your failures? I don’t know about you, but finding people who’ve experienced what I’ve experienced makes me feel like I’m not a lost cause. If someone else knows what it’s like to live my life and they’ve survived, maybe there’s hope for me too.

That’s God’s power in community. He brings people together from all walks of life, people who should have nothing in common, and they discover they have everything in common. He brings us together to help each other through the hard times in life, to support each other and encourage each other when life gets hard.

No wonder Paul warns us not to avoid gathering together. Growing up I thought that was a passive aggressive way to make me feel guilty for not going to church every time the doors were open, but that’s not what it means. What it means is don’t shut God’s family out of your life. Don’t isolate yourself because you think you aren’t worthy or you think no one will understand you. I guarantee you’re wrong.

Someone else out there has experienced your same trouble. Someone else out there could benefit from learning what God has taught you.

Do you have a community? Do you have people in your life who hold you accountable, who pick you up when you fall down, who laugh when you laugh and cry when you cry? If you haven’t got one, look for one. Pray that God shows you where to find one, and He’ll open doors you didn’t even know existed.

We were never intended to live life alone. So stop trying.