We just got in from dinner out with friends and it was SO FUN! We had a night of food and fellowship, and laughter like we haven't experienced in a LONG time. Certainly not in the 4 years that we've been here in our current town.
I don't know.
I think everyone is busy with their own stuff: family, work, current friends, leisure time. I get it. But where does it leave the body of Christ? How do we connect with other believers and form the community we all crave? How do we connect with NON-believers and form a community that includes them...and hopefully leads to opportunities to share our faith?
Fellowship takes planning. Oh, sometimes it can be spontaneous...but most of the time, it needs to be planned. Fellowship takes intention. We need to make it a priority. It takes sacrifice. Maybe we don't get to see the friends we already have on a certain night of the week...because we make plans with a new friend...new couple...new family. It'll be okay, I promise. Your friends won't forget about you.
Fellowship is messy.
Intentionally putting ourselves out there...investing into lives that need encouragement...showing kindness to people who don't deserve it...speaking life into hearts that have been damaged and torn-apart...pouring love into people who are hurting...it's messy. And time-consuming. And frustrating. And aggravating.
If not us, then who?
In the 4 years that we've been in this town, want to guess how many times we have been invited to lunch? Or dinner? Or over to someone's house? Or to do ANYTHING? In FOUR YEARS? Not counting church "small group" stuff.
Zero times. And we are fun people, I promise!
Now, we are Christians, and we believe that God brought us to our church...altho for the life of me, I can't figure out why. We love our church, don't get me wrong...it's just been a hard 4 years. Our church does a great job of being friendly...on Sunday mornings. Everyone made us feel so welcome...but then it's like a desert for the other 6 days. Most people here, they grew up here...they went to school here, college here, got married here, had their children here. Which is great...for THEM. But what about the rest of us? Where do we fit in?
Or, DO we fit in?
I don't know.
And, hey...we have a big family, and we keep busy. We aren't lonely...but we do miss having friends who actually live in the same town and go to our same church. I know that new people have to make SOME effort...but they shouldn't have to make ALL the effort.
I also think that a lot of people today...they are fine with the whole "Sunday morning thing." We have just had more...and so we want MORE. We know the blessing of friendship.
Anyway, tonight, we went to dinner with some long-time friends. I cannot remember the last time we went to dinner with these people. We talked and we laughed and it was...easy. They knew our history and we knew theirs...and it was just really nice and relaxing not to have to go through it all.
You know how you go to dinner with people you don't know very well, and you spend the whole time giving them all the background on your life? Not that it's not interesting to learn about other people...it's just that time is so precious and...well...see all of that above stuff on how fellowship and friendship is messy.
We live a little over an hour away from these friends, but sometimes it feels like we live on another planet. Not really, but you know how it is...
These friendships have been fun, encouraging and supportive...but they've also been difficult and sad...with bits of heartbreaking thrown in for good measure. But we have clawed our way back from some really hard times, and what we had tonight was a picture of reconciliation.
Of forgiveness...and reconciliation.
No, things will never be the way they were...and that's okay. We are older now, wiser. Maybe what we have now can be better. I don't know.
But as we sat in our car, waiting on the others to arrive, we saw some older couples getting out of a car. They walked slowly to the door of the restaurant. Two of the women were walking with canes. One woman was all hunched over. Two of the men moved slowly, but one walked quickly ahead of the rest. I looked over at Jim and said, "that's all of us in 20 years," and we laughed.
And for the first time in a long time, with these friends, and these friendships, I felt...HOPE.
"A person’s wisdom makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense." Proverbs 19:11