Building Community

At the end of February/beginning of March, I attended Storyline Conference in San Diego. All these speakers, Donald Miller, Bob Goff, Tricia Lott-Williford, Mike Foster, Jon Acuff, Alli Vesterfelt, Bill Lokey — one thing they all have in common, besides being speakers at Storyline and Christians, is that they each seem to have this incredible circle of tight-knit friendships. I’ve seen it often in books, too. Series like “The Sister Circle” by Vonette Bright and Nancy Moser or even the secular “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” by Ann Brashares are woven around these amazing friendships.

When I read these books or see these friendships in action, I often find myself thinking, who are these people and where the heck did you find them? These people are doing life together in awesome ways; they’re engaged in community. How on earth am I supposed to find community like that?

Because the people I know aren’t those people, even the ones who are already good friends (who I love and appreciate dearly!). We’re spread out across life and across miles, and we all seem to be struggling to make ends meet much of the time. We’re stressed out, tired out, and broken down. We seem to barely be holding on, never mind having something left over to give to others. How does a disassociated body become associated again?

How do we go from hurting, lonely hearts to life-affirming, hold-on-and-I’ll-hold-back, in-the-trenches-together friendships?

I think it begins with this:

Start now, where you’re at, with who you are, with the friends you’ve got.

Be real, be honest, and be bold. Tell your friends that you want to build better community, stronger friendship, more intentional relationships; ask them if they’re desiring the same thing.

Be intentional. Commit to being in touch and asking real questions. Commit to spending time together, even if it’s just by phone or Skype. Communicate regularly, meaningfully.

Be available. This might be a hard one, because we’re all so overwhelmed. But I think availability might kind of be like water for friendship; friendships won’t survive without it.

Be patient. Don’t expect community to spring up overnight or over a cuppa or over a meal. It’ll take some life, maybe a lot of coffee, maybe a lot of dinners, maybe a lot of talking. Probably a lot of coffee. Mm, coffee. Just saying.

Be seeking. If the people you know aren’t people you want to do life with or aren’t interested in building community, then find new people. If you don’t feel like you have any friends, start reaching out to neighbors, coworkers, people at church, people online, people you’ve lost touch with. Try a new activity, try a new pub, try a new happy hour. Whatever it is, be engaged and look for people who kindle your spirit.

Be truly kind and deeply loving.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4;8

Lastly, release yourself and your friends from unrealistic ideals of this mythical “superfriend.” Don’t be held hostage to an ideal and don’t hold anyone else hostage to an ideal (or in real life). Appreciate your friends for who they are, reconnect to the things that you love about them, admire and encourage them openly, walk with them, cherish them, and kindle their spirits.

May our friendships be life-breathing, love-filled, truth-seeking. May we build communities of safe haven, of light, of strength, and of sustenance. May we have friendships where we can hold hands and just be reassured.

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. ‘Pooh?’ he whispered.
‘Yes, Piglet?’
‘Nothing,’ said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. ‘I just wanted to be sure of you.’” -A.A. Milne, “Winnie the Pooh”

Birds of a Feather

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