Let’s cut to the chase: making friends is hard. Friends are good; we want friends. It’s right to want friends because it’s how we’re wired. But making them? I’m quick to say I’m busy on Friday night. With takeout, with Netflix, with anything but the recognizably gritty work of pursuing friendship. That’s not to say there are not Friday nights when hanging out on the couch with my loyal buddy Netflix is the perfect end to a busy week; but sometimes, perhaps, it’s less about needing a quiet night and more about avoiding the inevitable effort and possible disappointment of human interaction.
I get it: It’s awkward to go to the event by myself. It’s nerve-wracking to say hi to the person I met last week but am not sure if he or she remembers me. It’s old school to bake for the neighbours. It’s painful to sit through small talk. And it’s not worth it when I’m probably going to move on from my current post next year anyway.
If it’s bad to admit we are lonely, it’s the worst to admit we actually might need someone. We have all been there.
Let me repeat that: we have all been there.
I know, because I’ve been talking to more and more people about this lately: why aren’t we honest with each other about our desire for deep friendship?
“Maybe the awkwardness is a gift and the neediness a grace.”
Why do we always assume the worst of ourselves, as if, there isn’t any possible chance that someone would want to befriend this. I’m always surprised when I hear this because 9.9 times out of 10, the person I’m talking to is like a beautiful, radiant unicorn sitting in front of me and I couldn’t imagine not wanting to be their friend. But that’s not how we see ourselves and alas, the cycle continues and it intensifies. We’re terrified to bother one another or to impose.
But what if we did bother one another? What if we got needy about community?
What if we took a deep breath and mustered the courage: to borrow the thing from the neighbour before ordering it on Amazon; to ask for a ride before grabbing an Evo; to invite someone to go with us to that appointment we’re totally dreading (or just go with us to the grocery store); to bake cookies for the new tenants next door; to seek relational or health advice before we fall into the abyss that is the internet; to put out the plea for the favour before we fork out the money; to cook for more than just our own households tonight.
What if it doesn’t work? What if it’s awkward? Well, the worst that will happen with the extra food is you will have leftovers. Plus, I think God is gracious with our graceless efforts. So no, maybe inviting that person out for coffee didn’t spark the deepest, longest-lasting friendship you’ll ever have—this isn’t a magic trick–but it did stretch a muscle. Often unfurling our clenched fists is the first step toward God revealing his dreams for us. Then again, maybe you changed that person’s life.
Isn’t this the story of faith after all? Giving our motley selves and all of our insecurities to be used by God in his renewal of all things?
Nobody, of course, did this better than Jesus. And as his followers, I want to push us to lead this charge. We need people. People need us. For we have already been befriended, adopted, and claimed. We have an example of a God who put on human flesh (talk about awkward) and broke bread around tables— bucking social expectations and challenging norms– out of a deep and active love.
A love that shows up uninvited. A love that talks to the stranger. A love that does favours for people. A love that can do small talk and can also do real talk. A love that is not limited by its time in a given location, but is expounded by its investment in the present moment.
A love that changes the world.
Maybe the awkwardness is a gift and the neediness a grace. Maybe the inefficiencies and labour of friendship will slow us down just long enough to remember we are not self-sustaining machines. And maybe then we’ll finally have the courage to say, “I’m totally free on Friday night. Do you want to come over?”