Lunchrooms freak me out. I thought I would grow out of it once I left the paranoia known as the school cafeteria. But corporate lunchrooms, conference banquet halls, even church fellowship halls can get my heart racing. One wafting scent of food ready be served to the masses brings on an uncomfortable squirming feeling.
Suddenly I’m thirteen again, anxiously hoping someone will wave me over to join their table. At least now I have the company of my cellphone, proving to everyone (or myself) that I’m too busy to have a conversation with them anyway.
Finding our place at the table can be daunting. If you don’t have a circle of friends eagerly saving you a seat, something just feels off. We weren’t made to eat alone in a bathroom stall, we were meant to commune with friends. To walk this journey together – lifting each other up, grieving together, learning and sharing ideas.
But there are so many tables. And so many lunchrooms. My people-pleasing chameleon was trying to be at the popular table in every single situation. That pesky inner-lizard had me bouncing from table to table, from lunchroom to lunchroom, attempting to conform. This enabled me to meet all kinds of interesting people. But all that bouncing never created extremely deep connections. I had a lot of friends, but many of them were surface friends. I never stuck around long enough or let myself be vulnerable enough to experience true, deep friendship. And trying to fit everyone into this circle took so much effort that it made me want to hide in that bathroom stall!
How do you find and keep your true friends – the ones God intended for you?
What I’ve found as I’ve started rebuilding this friend circle, is that once again I was trying too hard to control it. A circle of friends is not something I can create through sheer will or effort. I can’t. But God can. And He already has created it perfectly. It’s waiting there for me to discover it. To accept it.
Allowing God to be my center relationship circle has been the one decision that stabilized all other decisions.
Once I surrendered control to Him in my other circles, this one fell neatly into place too. Because of Him. Always Him. When my relationship with God became real, it filled in all the holes my other relationships were failing to fill. His love radiates outward through every other circle. I feel so satisfied with Him, myself, my spouse, my kids, and my family, that the pressures and expectations around friendships are eliminated. He removed the desperate need for friends and created a genuine want.
Genuine is the key word. The wise Martha Beck reminds me, “Being absolutely honest tends to repel people who don’t like your true self and attract those who do. Integrity will always take you to the village where you’ll thrive best.”
Living out honesty, through God, has absolutely led me to my village. By getting out there on the true path God created for me, I have found it winds away from people who don’t add value to my life, and it winds right through the places I need to be to meet people that enrich my life.
I have found other Christians who are passionate about Him and want to make a difference in the world. I have joined a group of women who are also figuring out their calling to write. I have found people who love nature, and music, and playing games, and reading. I have surrounded myself with these friends, while leaving room at my table for new friends and old friends.
I’m much more willing these days to notice others wandering around the lunchroom, hoping to find a table. I’ll wave them over, curious about the reason our paths are crossing, excited about the possibility of a new friend.
I used to wonder if I actually had time for real friendships. The kind where you invest in people. Because if I’m so satisfied with my other circles, do I really want to spend time and effort on this one? The answer is a resounding yes! Having people you can confide in, bounce ideas off of, vent your frustrations to, and roll on the floor laughing with is SO worth it. These are the people that get you. That can honestly say “me too” when you’re hurting.
I used to get tense trying to cram friends into my busy life, but because of other changes I’ve made, time just isn’t as much of an issue anymore. I’m spending less time on things that don’t matter (no, I still don’t miss Candy Crush), freeing up time for things that do matter. I’m hanging around with people that are already doing what I like to do instead of trying to squeeze people into my schedule that I actually have nothing in common with. And since I’m spending time because I want to, it never feels like a hassle. It fills me up instead of draining me down. And I hope I’m filling them up too.
Something that fascinates me about this circle is its ability to change shape and size, crossing time and distance. Sometimes it feels like it’s just me and my best friend. The one who God planted right in front of me and then she thankfully refused to leave! The one who is now so close I can’t tell where my soul ends and hers begins, even across 1,500 miles. Other times it expands to include a whole new group that my path led me to. Then it contracts again, as a friend follows her own path in a new direction.
I’m learning to appreciate each connection for what it is in the moment, no matter how long it lasts or when it might come back. I’m getting better at not expecting one friend to fit every need, but just the one need in that moment. I’m getting better at only giving what they need and not trying to be their everything. I’m learning that each friend in the circle has a unique gift to offer, and together we’re whole.
What has been difficult, as I’ve been rebuilding my friend circle, is letting go. Not everyone wants to be at my lunch table. My chameleon is pouting in the corner as I explain again why I also don’t need to campaign to be elected to their lunch table. What is required to win the election may not be worth the seat.
The truth is it’s not healthy for me to try to keep up deep friendships with everyone. Because not everyone is following God. Paul warns us in 2 Timothy, chapter 3, “…Have nothing to do with such people.” It’s simply too easy to conform to those around me, so I need to limit it to good influences and stay honest about my true self. It’s getting easier with time, but there’s still a familiar sting when someone unfriends me or unlikes my Facebook page.
But each time I experience a genuine connection, I quickly remember how blessed I am with the friendships I do have. Facebook has nothing on my actual village. A group that shares a sense of purpose, a common endeavor, and helps each other live out God’s plan. And when we get a chance to get together to share and celebrate this crazy life? It feels as if we’ve never been apart. As if we’re all part of one big lunchroom and we’ve all got a seat at the popular table. God’s table.