I am rather a bit of an introvert. Most people that have met me would not believe that. It may seem like a contradiction to those that know me. But if you are one of those that really knows me, you know how true this is. Or rather was. I struggled getting to know people. I never knew what to say to start up a brand new conversation with a brand new person. I had a fear that if I was myself around new people, they wouldn't like me, or they would think I was weird or stupid or that I would never fit in. And my pride wouldn’t let me do that. Stupid pride. And the most stupid part is that I’m a really friendly person. I’m a talker and I like people. ;-)
I used to think that I couldn’t have too many friends because I would never have the time or energy to keep up with all of them or be able to truly connect so if I stuck to just a few close friends, I would be ok. I would be a better friend. Right? Wrong. This kind of mentality only kept me from getting to know some amazing people. And I also found out that it worked in the opposite direction. If I didn't take the time to get to know someone personally, I found myself making judgements or presuppositions on who they were and their personalities before I even knew them. And it turned out, those judgments were wrong. Those people weren’t who I thought they were.
As Christians, we’re called to live in community. To live in fellowship. We can’t really do that if we’re living with a ‘short-timer’ mentality. Relationships take work, especially building new ones. It can be hard and exhausting. I think if there’s one thing I've learned this past couple years it’s that no matter where you are or where you go, you have to dive in. Involve yourself. Make new friends. You never know who you’re going to get to meet, how you can serve them, show Christ, how you can bless or be blessed if you don’t take the time to get to know people. I don’t care if you’re only going to be there for 10 hours or 10 years. Get involved. Invest yourself; your energy; your emotions. Yes, there is the chance you’ll get hurt. You’ll be tired. You’ll mess up. But that’s part of life and part of loving. Love requires sacrifice and energy expended. It means taking risks of getting hurt, of people thinking you’re weird or stupid. The beauty of the situation is that if you’re living for Jesus, everyday seeking ways to serve and Glorify Him, you have nothing, NOTHING to lose. But you have everything to gain. God doesn't put limits on the number of friends we can make. Isn't that amazing?
So I made a change. It’s not a change that comes overnight – at least for me. It was a conscientious move in a new direction. I took one step at a time. By walking up to that one new person at church (ok, so I did drag my best friend along for help and moral support) I started letting myself open up more and more. It took some time but it’s gradually gotten easier. I think I realized it most this past year when I was in school – where my classmates and I shed much sweat, tears, and yes, blood together – in a place where we were all working toward the same (or similar) goals – I couldn't help not to get to know people and get involved. We depended on one another for moral support, sometimes physical and emotional support, study teams and success. Then there was this past summer when I was with my missions team in Poland. Getting thrown together with a group of 35+ people for two weeks where you only know about 10 of them well and in a country where all you know how to say “please” “thank-you” “excuse me” and “hello, my name is…” is something of a challenge for anyone I dare say. But those two weeks were some of the best in my life. I made new friends, a couple of whom I consider now to some of my besties and share so much in common with. I think that’s one of the most profound things the blood of Christ does: removing barriers and allowing us to live more fully in community with one another. Not only did my mentality on new friendships change but my current relationships changed too I think. I felt a more deep and precious love for my dearest of friends and a willingness to be even more of ‘myself’ with them , share struggles and sins with them, with no fear of their judgment or censure but assured even more of their support, love, and prayers.
I heard something by Tim Tebow recently that really inspired this post and pretty much sums up what I’m trying to do with my life: “When you die, there’s going to be a tombstone. It’s going to have your name, the year you were born and it’s going to have the day you die. In between, there’s going to be a dash. And that dash is going to represent everything that you did in your life, good and bad. That’s how you’re remembered. What do you want your dash to represent?"
What do you want your dash to represent? I know that for me, mine is not going to be defined by retreating to the ‘safe’ spot inside myself where I avoid new connections and the work it involves. It’s going to be defined by opening my heart to others and sharing whatever I can of myself with them. My life may not be spectacular or full of amazing events that the world will see. In fact, to date, it’s quite ordinary. But I’m going to choose to live like it’s a less-than ordinary life, because as God’s child, my life is made new in Jesus and that makes me more than ordinary. And it’s by small acts of faithfulness to His Holy Word that the world will see change.