Community and friendships are things we all need, but can be hard to understand and sometimes, even harder to build.
This is especially true when having to PCS every few years or so and feeling like you don’t have as much stability as you would like. The thing is, sometimes we forget that we can have stability. Maybe life changes a lot. But with each new place is a new opportunity to meet people around the states and the world. These friends you will make and have already made are perfect examples of people who will be there for you. They are stable in your life even if you are far apart right now, because nothing changes the time that you spent together.
Believe it or not, God actually made us to be in community with one another. It’s crazy! But just as God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so we are to know ourselves, others and God. So if this is true, and it is, what does that mean in our lives? In these next few sections we will look at when we were created and how this community that we have actually brings us closer to God.
Growing up I participated in every sport known to man. I guess you could say I was an active child, always on the move, running around and trying new things. Now that doesn’t mean I was good at every sport I tried, but I did try, and I tried hard. Specifically, I think of my short running career. I was in 3rd or 4th grade when our old gym teacher retired. This didn’t mean too much to me or anyone else until we got a new gym teacher and she wasn’t having us play fifty different versions of tag. She was a real gym teacher! Now we were learning about basketball, tennis, kickball, it was pretty cool! Until she made us run.
You see, when our old gym teacher was around, he would have us run around the school a couple of times. I didn’t really know why we were doing it, just that we were. So we would run, I would finish and then the five of us would wait around for the rest of the class to catch up and finish.
Now our new gym teacher didn’t want us to run around the school, she wanted us to run the MILE! Looking back and a little older than 9, I guess running around the outside of the school a couple of times probably was a mile, but he never called it that. He just said to go run so we did. Now it was official. She timed us, there was an official track and if we beat this time or that time we were eligible for the presidential award! It was all new to me, a lot more pressure for sure, but it wasn’t too bad. Most kids complained about it, but I figured the faster I ran the sooner I could play on the playground. So I ran. I would finish second or third, behind two boys in my class and then run to the playground to do something more interesting.
I remember sitting in my gym class a few days later and Ms. T. reading off the fastest mile times for boys and girls. Then she said something strange. She said, “Did anyone have a better time?”
I remember sitting there thinking, well yeah, I beat that time by like twenty seconds. So I slowly raised my little hand and said, “Umm, I think I did.”
And that was that. The start of my running career. When I graduated from 5th grade I had the record time for the girl’s mile, a record that lasted for the next five years I might add. In middle school I joined the girls cross-country team usually placing in the top five, always first for my own team. I had a great group of friends on the team and really enjoyed those three years with everyone. I still have a picture of us all actually. We all look kind of goofy, but it was fun!
When I went into high school I realized you had to run three miles instead of a mile and a half and I realized half of my friends were going to be on the boys cross country team and the other half would be on the girls so I hung my running shoes up and started something new.
You may be asking yourself, what on earth does that have to do with community or God?! A fair question. What I left out was all the support my parents gave me.
You see when my parents realized that I was enjoying this running thing and wasn’t too bad at it. My Dad asked me if I would like to go to the gym with him in the mornings. So three times a week I would wake up at five in the morning, go and work out with my dad at the gym, then come home and get ready for school. He did that with me for the next three years as long as I would go. Sometimes I was too tired or didn’t want to so he would go by himself, but he always asked and made time for me. He knew what I wanted to do and did little things to help me along the way.
He also helped to motivate me. He told me that as soon as I broke a 6:30 and then a 6:00 minute mile he would give me a hundred dollars! Talk about motivation, but my parents decided to do that because they thought it would help me reach my goals. My dad would train with me during the summers. We would go over to the local college and he would run stairs and sprints with me. He talked with me and always made sure this was still what I wanted, that he was helping the right way.
My mom and dad also came to every single one of my cross-country meets whether they were home or away on the road. That’s a lot of meets! I can’t imagine they were that fun to watch sometimes. In fact I bet sometimes they were plain old miserable because it would rain or be cold out. But they came anyway and I don’t even think I was particularly grateful to them at the time. I mean I was excited to see them and I would talk with them and introduce them to people, but then I would be on my way, hanging out with my friends while they drove home waiting for the bus to take me back to school so they could come pick me up from there.
My parents showed me sacrificial love. It took me a long time to realize this, but I remember sitting at my computer one day, probably working on a college homework assignment when it just dawned on me. My parents really, really love me…I know how much my parents love me…how much more does God love me?!
It was like a light bulb moment. A curtain moved and all the sudden I saw for the first time. A moment of lucidity (enlightenment). I believe that is one of the reasons God designed us for community. I have always known that God loves me, but because I have been in relationship with my parents for so long I was able to get a quick glimpse of how much more God loves me! It’s such a simple lesson, but it changed who I am. With just a slightly better understanding of God’s love and commitment to me, I love others just a little bit better, am a little more patient and a little more understanding toward people.
What is amazing about community is the way that the people in our lives can reflect God’s truth back to us. This passage below is a passage I had read before, but never really understood until having the moment of truth. God used the people around me to make this passage come to life for me and understand God just a little bit more. Check out this passage, see how God used it? God uses community to teach us and refine us.
Can you relate to the story? Has God ever shown you something through your friends? What was it? How did it change the way that you live?
What are other ways community has been there to support you? Other ways your friends have been there for you?
There are people who are your friends, will speak truth into your life and people who are your buddies, people you hang out with and have fun with. Who are those people that you can go deeper with? Who are your friends?
Why are these people your friends? What made these people, people you can trust and people you respect?
Are you a person people can count on? Why or why not? How can you be better, what needs to change? What makes you a dependable friend? Or are you just buddies with people?
God, sometimes making friends and being a friend can be hard. I feel like there is so much uncertainty in my life! But I know that you are in control. I know that you are in charge and I know that you are with me. Guide me this week as I go about. Help me to see people who are open to beginning a friendship and help me to remember the value of community. Give me courage when I feel afraid, strength when I feel alone and a desire to try something new. All of this feels pretty crazy, but I know you desire this for me, so that I can be a part of a good community, experience their love and the joy that comes with that, but also so that I can know you better. Guide me in all that I do. In Jesus’ powerful name, Amen.
Take some time to reflect on these verses. Have you ever thought about some of the things that these verses talk about? One of my good friends likes to remind us that you are whom you hang out with, very similar to 1 Corinthians 15:33. Who are some of the people you hang out with? How do they affect the way that you think and act? What are other ways the people around you affect you?
- Proverbs 22:24-25; Don’t make friends with people who have hot, violent tempers. 25 You might learn their habits and not be able to change.
- 1 Corinthians 15:33; Do not be fooled. “Bad companions ruin good character.”
- Proverbs 11:14; A nation will fall if it has no guidance. Many advisers mean security.
Read over each of these a few times. The first time just think about the words you read. Then read over them again. What jumps out at you? Is it something you need to work on, be aware of, warn a friend about? Then read over these verses a third time. How will they change the way that you act today?
Remember that scripture is filled with wisdom for just about every topic. Crack open the word, see what it has to say or open it with someone else who knows a little more if that sounds intimidating by yourself.
Sometimes we fail at being friends. I think back to one of my really good guy friends in high school. Every summer he went to this sports camp and at this camp they had a tradition. You see one of the things that they valued was good friendship so if while you were there at camp you wanted to make something for a good friend back home you would go out and search for a rock, but not just any rock. You had to go out and find a rock that already had a hole in it. When you found it you could use that hole to make something for your friend back home.
Well this particular year, when he got home he gave me a necklace he had made at his sports camp. It was pretty simple, a leather cord going through a hole in a rock, but I knew this wasn’t just any rock. He had searched for this rock, spent time looking for it to show me how much our friendship had come to mean to him.
Unfortunately, we didn’t end our friendship well. I hurt him in some pretty harsh ways, but I keep that rock hanging on my rearview mirror in my car as a reminder of the friendship I had and as a reminder to love and care for the relationships God has given to me. Deep and meaningful friendships truly are a gift.
Galatians 6:1- Here God tells us that community is good for calling out with love the bad things that we do. It is our brothers and sisters in Christ who God often to speak to us and show us a better way.
Psalm 34:3- Another thing we can do in community is praise God together. There is something very uplifting about being able to worship together.
1 Corinthians 8:13- We sacrifice for our friends. If we know something is a temptation for them, we try to help and protect them.
Philippians 1:9-10- We pray for our friends, that they would know God and know his love.
Romans 15:5-6- We encourage our friends just like Paul encouraged those he wrote to.
Small group guide:
Large group guide:
Look at the different people in your life. There may be somebody that you need to be a better friend to. How can you be a better friend to them? Write it out or find something to remind you what being a good friend looks like.
Go back and check out Romans 15:5-6. Paul takes the time to truly encourage his friends in Rome. How can you encourage your friends this week and let them know they are truly appreciated?
Maybe for you making friends is hard. Take some time to think about what makes a good friend (see RezLife Topic Friendship/Good Friends). For me, I believe that some of the most important things when cultivating deep and meaningful friendships are time, trust and mutual respect. Those things have to be there for friendship to take root. Other things that may help are common interests, groups or hobbies. Maybe it’s time to get out there and try something new. Make an action plan. What will you do this week to put yourself out there and be a friend? Don’t wait for someone to come to you. Pray that God would open doors and help you move forward.
Check out this article by TIME Magazine. It talks about the power of friendship and one woman’s account of how her friendships helped her to change her behavior. When you look at this article think about these questions…
- Have you ever watched one of your friends change their behavior and liked it so much that you tried it as well? What was that like? How did it happen? Did it last?
- Did you notice how she talked about our drive and desire to be with other people? That lines up with what scripture says! How can you see that in your own life?
- What are different things you want to change to be more successful? Who can you have join you?