I walked into the room and immediately wanted to walk back out. I had already dropped both my boys off in their respective rooms and listened carefully for their cries. It was a new place for all three of us and I'm not sure who felt more uncomfortable. I at least knew one person but she was busy with others and hadn't noticed me.
I sat alone at a table and picked up a piece of paper to keep myself busy. What else could I do in a room full of women that seemed to know each other already?
Then she sat down next to me. She introduced herself and asked me about my kids. She told me about hers. She asked how I learned about the group and if I knew anyone else. Soon the meeting started and I met more moms. I met more women. I got to know names and numbers of kids. And my kids survived and even enjoyed their time away from me.
That happened nearly seven years ago. I stepped into, what was for me, an incredibly uncomfortable situation. It seems crazy that loud and outgoing me could be uncomfortable in a social setting but I am. Put me in a room with several people I know and I'm totally cool. Put me in a room full of complete strangers when I need to get up and be "on" and I'll rock it. Put me in a room where I have to meet new people all on my own? I clam up and crawl inside myself.
But seven years ago I decided that I needed to meet new people. I was now the mom of two and most of my friends were only online via message boards. While this was great because we could carry on conversations for days or weeks it also wasn't the same as in person friendships. It wasn't the same connection as meeting over coffee to commiserate over the lack of sleep. Hugs when good news is shared. Tears when heartache hits.
Seven years ago I finally accepted an invitation from a woman at church to join a MOPS group. Only it wasn't at my church. I stepped into this unfamiliar church in an unfamiliar part of town and found it filled with unfamiliar faces.
But it didn't stay that way.
Seven years later and I have gained amazing friends. It is only now looking back that I see how that happened. It took reading Never Unfriended by Lisa-Jo Baker to realize what makes these friendships different from other acquaintances.
Finding relationships that cross from aquaintence to frienship means we need to do these three things:
1. Dare to go first
This one is probably the hardest. Especially for introverts. For those that can have legit panic attacks over the thought of going first let alone the action. We assume the other woman doesn't have any interest in us. Already has enough friends.
If I'm thinking that, and you're thinking that, I'm guessing that other woman across the room has thought that too. If we all keep thinking it instead of standing up and saying "hi" then we are all going to remain lonely. Invite her for coffee, ask her over for a playdate, join her at the table. Take the initiative to put yourself out there. It can be terrifying but the other option is to remain alone which can be just as scary.
2. Admit to being "un-fine"
I feel like I need to obliterate the word "fine" from my vocabulary. It's such a lie most of the time! Admit when life is hard, when you are struggling with a difficult situation or decision. But how many times have you bonded with someone over saying "I'm fine" and how many times have you bonded over a parenting struggle, the dislike of dishes and laundry, or spilled Cheerios all over the floor.
It can be really scary to let people see the real side. To show them that you don't have it all together. But if you dare to be vulnerable and admit the "un-fine" parts then they can feel safe to be "un-fine" as well.
3. Be the friend you want
Friendship shouldn't be based on what we can get from the other person. It's not about how many times they answer our texts, the number of times we go out to eat, or the extent they go to make us feel good. It should be how we act toward others. Being a friend means giving of ourselves. Doing for them what we would want them to do for us. Bringing meals when they are sick or have a new baby. Cheering for them when something amazing happens. Listening and comforting when times are hard.
Just as Jesus demonstrated how to love our neighbors we can demonstrate what friendship looks like. Friendship isn't petty or competitive. It isn't boastful or self serving. Friendship is love, kindness, generosity, and togetherness. Live that example of friendship.
I'm so thankful that I was invited to that group seven years ago. That God encouraged me to step through the doors. That God encouraged others to dare to go first. That we all learned to admit we were "un-fine" and could say "me too!" That we decided to be the friends we wanted to have.
If you are looking for encouragement, inspiration, and practical steps for finding and keeping lasting friendships I encourage you to read Never Unfriended by Lisa-Jo Baker. It is filled with Biblical truths and examples of why God calls us to be in companion with one another and what Godly friendships look like.