For the Lonely
Over the last two weekends, people have thrown us baby showers. This was an unexpected development. Separated from our families and many of our close friends, my husband and I looked around and shrugged our shoulders at the realization that there really wasn’t a friend or family group in place to throw us a traditional shower. It didn’t bother us much, and we resigned ourselves to not worrying about the ritual.
But last week, the church surprised us with a party replete with cute decorations, generous gifts, and a awesome onesie that says “Church of the Village <3’s me.” This was a beautiful expression of the church’s constant love and support for us as we have stumbled into this awesome transition into parenthood, and we were so touched and grateful.
Then, this past weekend, a United Methodist clergywoman threw us a shower upstate. When we arrived at her house, we found her entire family cooking an amazing spread: handmade California rolls, freshly grilled ribs, home fried chicken breasts, kimchi, and chocolate cake. Hand-painted wooden blocks on her mantle spelled out “BABY FLIPPIN”. My husband and I greeted guests as they arrived, and we began gathering around the various tables of delicious food, talking and catching up. After a few hours, we sat down in the living room. By this time it was dark outside, and the room was dimly lit with warm lamps. Tea and coffee arrived on a tray, and we all settled in.
As only a clergyperson might do, our hostess asked each guest to give my husband and me a blessing by telling us something they have learned from a child in their life. One by one, each person told us a sacred story about their own children or children they have worked with, wishing for us to feel as blessed as they have been by the insights and lessons of young people. The conversation was really touching for my husband and me.
And as we sat around in the lamplight, I remember looking around at each individual and thinking, When did these people become my friends? How did this happen?
For so many years, I have hobbled in and out of loneliness. Like many young adults, as soon as I left the peer-saturated, automatic friend pool of college and graduate school, I walked into a world of isolation, where it felt like everyone already had all the relationships they needed, where you had to actually make an effort to form friendships, where you could spend months trying to get to know someone, only to realize you just didn’t click with them and would have to start all over in your search for companionship.
The same went for my work colleagues. I remember several really lonely years going to our region’s annual conference, wandering around a sea of strangers who all seemed to know and love each other but to whom I seemed invisible. For these last five and a half years being out of school, my narrative about myself has been, “I have no friends.” But this weekend, as I enjoyed a sort of last supper with colleagues before my parental leave, as we sat around drinking tea and sharing our lives, I realized that my narrative was no longer true. Somehow these people–with whom I have attended countless conference meetings, with whom I have organized around LGBTQ rights and racial justice, with whom I have worshiped and talked through sermons–somewhere along the way, these people became my friends.
Jesus and his disciples had a moment like that at their last supper together. After they ate, and as they shared wine and life together in the candlelight, they talked for a very long time. And there is this moment, when Jesus looks around at these people with whom he has been doing ministry for the last few years, and he tells them, “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father-Mother.” (John 15:15). Jesus tells them that they are no longer in a master-servant or teacher-student relationship. But, at some point along the way, these people have become his friends.
Some of us today have also had friendship creep up on us. For those, I encourage you to look around your life today, at your colleagues, your church relationships, your neighbors. Open your eyes and see the the friendships that have developed, give thanks to God for those who journey beside you, and keep an eye out for those around who may still be seeking community.
Some of us today are feeling loneliness. For those, I want to say that I’ve been there too, and so many others are in the same boat. Finding friendship in new situations is difficult and sometimes feels like it takes forever. But my prayer for you is that you would keep at it, that you would continue to open yourself up to the life to which God has called you, so that perhaps one day you may wake up and find that you are not so alone anymore.
May it be so for all God’s children.
Seeking community in the city? Check out one of our small groups and studies at Church of the Village.