Last week I weeded along my landscape rocks and found dillweed pop-ups everywhere. There were hundreds of them. I like dillweed. It’s tasty. But I don’t need or want hundreds of dill plants.
I think sometimes we end up with friendship that look like my dillweed. We settle for pop up friends that look and feel good for a second, but lack hearty depth. They may flavor life, but there’s no room for real vegetables to feed our hungry spirits. We need real friendship, one spirit tending and feeding another spirit.
Friendships, like any good landscaping or gardening, need help getting planted. Yes, sometimes they pop up like my dillweed, but more often friendships, like plants, need us to drive to the garden store and choose them from the hundreds of new sprouts available. It’s so nice when things grow organically and we don’t really need to expend time, money, or energy on them, but growing the best vegetables and meeting the best friends usually take some effort. The garden store will not drive to us and neither will friendship.
Here are some ideas for making friends
Join a book group at the library or an archery group at the range or really any group that does stuff together around a hobby
Take a one-time or seasonal class and talk to the person sitting next to you instead of avoiding them while simultaneously wondering what they’re thinking about you
Introduce yourself to someone at church who looks intriguing, like someone you’d like to actually hang out with
Join a small group Bible study, be the person who brings good snacks — people will love you
Go to a wine, beer, or food tasting night which is always a win-win
Sit on your front porch or lawn and say hi to people walking their dogs or their kids, strike up a conversation instead of people-watching all creepy-like
Volunteer for some kind of program that you want to support; this program will likely include like-minded people, and programs make the world a better place, so no loss there!
Now, the more complex struggle in life seems to be deepening a friendship. We all want relationships that move past the weather-chatting stage. We all want friends who will stick with us when life gets hard and messy.
Friendships were meant to grow, but they always need a little help growing.
So, how do friendships grow? This question could fill a book, but let’s keep it to a blog.
First, I don’t think we should either overload ourselves with friendship, or underload ourselves. When we try to make and tend to dozens and dozens of friendships, we end up with the dillweed debacle. Many tiny herbs everywhere, but no real space for the vegetables that will fill our bellies. We end up exhausted trying to weed out the friendships that don’t offer much substance. And when we don’t put the work in to make or deepen friendships, there’s the desolate landscape of loneliness laid out in front of us. I’d aim for 3-6 really solid friendships. I am semi-making that number up. I’m tempted to say 12 solid friendships, because #jesus. ;) But we are human and our culture is different than first century Jerusalem and I think 12 sounds overwhelming. 3-6 solid day-in and day-out friendships is what I see the people in my life focusing on who are doing friendship really well.
Second, it’s time to eat, invite, text, pray, and step out into this world bravely if we want to see real friendships grow.
Here are some ideas for growing friendships
Eat together – I don’t know when this became a thing we stopped doing or why, but if you want to grow your friendships, pull up a chair and share nachos, or vegetables, or bread, or water. Who cares what the substance is – eating together means making unique memories together.
Text regularly – you could call on the phone also and you probably should at least twice a year just for the fun of hearing the voice of someone you love, or avoiding the misery of trying to organize yourselves over text. A little “Hi, I am thinking of you,” text in the middle of the day goes a long way in creating moments and opportunities to say something else more meaningful to one another. Don’t expect a text back. Be forgiving when that text takes hours or days.
Friendship is actually about connecting by giving grace, more than it’s about connecting by convenience or similarities.
Check in – do it more than you think is normal. If it ends up weirding that person out, they probably aren’t the friend for you. People want to be checked on without a myriad of expectations attached. It’s so much easier to say, “Yes, I need some help,” when the time is right, when someone regularly says, “How are you, friend?”
Send snail mail again – a card or care package goes a long way in tending long distance relationships.
Invite – invite someone to a play, a movie, game night, church, a book group, lunch, your child’s way-too-long music concert, margaritas after your child’s way-too-long music concert, a walk, you name it. Again, plants don’t drive themselves from the garden store to your garden. Sometimes, often times, you have to be willing to drive if you want friendship to grow also. Do not expect your entire family or even the other half of your couple to hold the weight of your friendship. Sometimes people make couple friends, sometimes they don’t. That’s ok. Sometimes kids become friends, sometimes they don’t. Also, ok. It’s also ok if the friendship never pans out. If you feel you’ve invited and invited and invited again, plant in different soil, find a new friend. It’s painful and it’s work, but it’s worth it.
Last, pray about your friendships and for your friends. God connects and God reminds us to ask, seek, and knock. He also says He can do the unimaginable. Friendship is in His grand plan of life. He concerns Himself with our relationships and gives us Jesus when people disappoint us, betray us, ignore us, or hurt us. Pray, dear one, pray, and then pray some more.
Dear Lord, please, please help my friendships grow.
We have to leave room for the organic in our life. We have to be a bit spontaneous and let God bring people in. We also have to step in. Friendship requires bravery and vulnerability, but it also reaps giant rewards when we let friendship grow and when we work toward that growth.
Where grace and growth meet, that’s where relationships flourish.
Up next: Creating Relational Spaces
In the meantime: Check out our other posts on friendship