Friendship for Life
Foster friendships with intention, initiative, and ingenuity.
by ROBIN DANCE
THE YEAR I turned 40, we moved. Geography dictated signifi cant changes for our family — we knew no one and nothing was familiar. The closest family member was over three hours away. I arrived arms wide open, eager to embrace the adventure of it all, sure that soon enough we’d find a circle of friends to share life, an approximation of what we had before. Before, we were big fish in a little sea. Our group of friends stretched wide and deep. We knew it was special, even if at times we took it for granted. Our three children transitioned seamlessly. We praised God for that, knowing how hard the move could’ve been if they had struggled. My husband and I, on the other hand, had difficulty making connections, despite doing everything we could to meet and reach out to others. It wasn’t that we were without any friends, but it wasn’t the community we longed for and had once known.
Since our home was a revolving door of young people, we poured into our children and their friends. Amazing what they’ll share when they believe you care and know you’re really listening. It might not have been the community we imagined, but isn’t that the way of God? Though we wanted community among couple-friends, He was up to something important in those relationships.
Ten years later, we moved again. Like before, we were starting over in a new place where we didn’t know a soul. At 50 …
In some ways, this move was different. With two of our children in college, only our youngest moved with us. He was too old for us to coach his teams; classroom volunteering was nonexistent. Beyond church, we would have to figure out other ways to meet people.
With an empty nest on the horizon, I knew it was important to find community. In a lovely, redemption story, I marveled how the season of loneliness in our previous hometown wasn’t wasted: What I experienced there fueled intention, initiative, and ingenuity.
Our new community is continually evolving. From young couples in their baby-birthing years to people 20 to 30 years older, these new friendships are priceless. We take nothing for granted.
I deeply value having friends years ahead of me and those behind me in the stages of life, but I’ve discovered that the empty nest is a real thing. It’s vital to connect with people in the same life stage to find encouragement and, sometimes, for help to get through it!
Whether your friendship plate is full or empty, whether or not you’ve recently relocated or have lived in the same place all your life, there are people God wants you to engage with for your good and His glory. If you could use a jumpstart, consider three of the ways I’ve found to cultivate meaningful friendships:
- Intention. The moment God spoke our world into existence, He had purpose and intent for mankind. Purposeful investments of time and effort are necessary to kindle relationships. Rare are friendships “David and Jonathan quick,” where kindred souls are immediately knit together. Also, God’s triune nature evidences His relationality. Since we’re made in His image, we should also be relational.
- Initiative. Be the one to BE the one. We all want to be on the receiving end of an invitation, but people are dying to be asked. Pray for God to reveal those who need a friend, and then invite them to get together. What if the next person you meet becomes a life best friend? That’s reason to be brave! Neglected friendships cannot flourish.
- Ingenuity. Expand your definition of friendship. Don’t box a burgeoning friendship into traditional trappings if you’re finding an unconventional-but-natural connection to someone new. For example, in today’s world, friendship can exist online. I’m in a small online group of women aged 50-plus, and whenever one of us is experiencing something typical for our age, most everyone else can speak to it from experience. Friendship doesn’t have to look a certain way.
We all need people in our life who are for us, love us, and accept us — warts and all. Proverbs 27:17 hints at why: “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another.”
Without friends, life would become increasingly dull.
In love with her college sweetheart (and husband), ROBIN DANCE is mom to three and new to being an empty nester. She’s Southern as sugar-shocked tea and advocates talking to strangers, creative punctuation, spontaneous hospitality, and walking in the rain. Laughing through tears is her favorite, and it is the mysteries of Jesus that draw her closer. Find her writing online at robindance.me, (in)courage, The Art of Simple, and Grace Table. Friendly followers are welcome at @RobinDance on Twitter and @PensieveRobin on Instagram.
This article originally appeared in Mature Living magazine (August 2017). For more articles like this, subscribe to Mature Living.