Reading this title might fill some of you with anxiety. It might make you want to curl up into a ball in a corner. But for others, it might make you excited for the possibilities to make new friends and experience new adventures!
In high school, I took one of those super long personality tests that supposedly assesses every aspect of you. It said I was an “ISTP”. The ‘I’ stands for ‘Introversion,’ where it said I scored a zero. Apparently this means I am pretty much balanced between extroversion and introversion, with maybe a slight bent towards the introverted personality type – basically one step over the line between introvert and extrovert. So, of course, I interpreted that as, “I don’t have trouble making friends, but it’s not a exactly a strength of mine.” My brother Raleigh once said that both of were “forced extroverts.”
Reading this title makes me feel both of these things: an extrovert who is excited to meet new people and make new friends, but also an introvert who desperately wants to lock everyone out of my house and crochet something by a dimly lit lamp. There’s part of me that feels ecstatic at the idea of having people over to my house and another part that feels dread. Those two things seem to be polar opposites. But I think that that probably sums up how most ladies in ministry feel. The reason that I’m starting here is this: how I feel should not have any bearing on whether or not I try to make friends. I have tried to paint a picture of a girl who, if it were left to my personality, would never make new friends unless it was forced upon me.
Thankfully, Jesus’ gospel gives Christians a way to break past the confining box of “personality type” that society puts us in and even allows us to get over our own little ideas of how we think of ourselves. If we didn’t have the gospel, we would let our circumstances, feelings, and background dictate all of our actions. Growing up rich would make us into attention-seeking extroverts and overly confident in our abilities and achievements. Growing up poor and underprivileged would lead us to live a life of extreme insecurity and self-pity. Neither one of these situations work to our benefit – you are left with only false humility or false confidence.
If it were up to me in my own power to try and meet new people here in Taiwan and make friends, I would never do it! False humility tells me that my Chinese isn’t good enough, that it’s too hard and stressful to socialize with two toddlers, that I’m awkward around new people, or that it’s not worth the time and energy because it won’t yield the results that I want, anyway. I would think to myself, “I really want to meet new people and bring them to church, but I hate not knowing what to talk about.” False confidence discourages me from making new friends, too. It tells me that I don’t want to be friends with those kinds of people. It tells me that I shouldn’t change anything about myself – that if people want to be my friend, they should come to me on my own terms. These kinds of insecurity and arrogance are both totally at odds with God’s word.
But here is the empowering truth that helps us go out and make friends no matter how far outside of our comforts zones it takes us: “you are a child of the King.” A child of the King can neither be intimidated by anyone or prideful towards anyone. We need to remind ourselves as daughters of the King of kings that we should never be intimidated (because we know who our Father is) but we can also never be prideful with anyone (because we did nothing to deserve this position).
“For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” Romans 8:15-17
This is how the gospel smashes all of my excuses to not go out and meet new people. Preach this truth to yourself everyday and believe that God is at work to build His kingdom. He wants to add new believers to His church and He may use you to do it! Because of what Jesus did for us, we are now able to go out and serve Him.
“How much more shall the blood of Christ… purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” – Hebrews 9:14
So get yourself spiritually prepared to make new friends! Make yourself vulnerable even though it doesn’t feel comfortable. Once again, remind yourself that He was born into this world as a baby, vulnerable and willing to suffer for our sakes! Stepping outside out of my four walls of comfort into a public park with my kids to make friends shouldn’t be so bad after I reflect on what Jesus has done for me. Opening my home and showing hospitality to others doesn’t seem like such an expensive, tiring burden anymore when I think of how Jesus died for me so He could prepare a place at his heavenly banquet!
There is, of course, a practical aspect to consider in being able to meet people and make friends, but there is also a spiritual aspect. Without the right motivation for starting and keeping relationships, the end result could be a service to the Lord that is done out of fear or pride, but not love. May the love of Christ on the cross be my motivation to die a million small deaths a day. Our King paid the ultimate price for me. So I can pay for a friend’s coffee and spend a few hours talking with her about her problems. I can be inconvenienced in the middle of the night for a girl who needs a friend when she is broken-hearted, I can leave my nice air-conditioned apartment and venture out with my two toddlers speaking imperfect Chinese and getting to know people in my neighborhood. Practically speaking, we do all have little idiosyncrasies that make us do awkward things or say awkward things in front of people. I could give you a list of do’s and don’t’s for “Friendliness, Security, and General Pleasantness,” but none of that is going to matter if we don’t have the gospel running through us like the blood running through our veins.
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” – 1 John 4:7
We are born of God, which means that it is in our DNA to love. Go out and love people because you are loved by the King. Go make disciples because you have experienced real security and real love through the ultimate friend, Jesus.
Now, as far as the practical side goes, here are a few thoughts to consider:
- Be intentional: Go out and have a goal of meeting X number of people a week or month. Every person you talk to can be a potential friend. Don’t let an opportunity slip past you!
- Be outside: New friends rarely come to you! Change your routine. Don’t always go to the same restaurants, stores, parks, coffee shops, etc.
- Be accessible: Get an account on every social media network that is popular in your area. Not having these accounts communicates to people that you don’t want more friends!
- Be available: Set aside times in the week where you can always schedule meetings with friends. This is hard for moms, especially, but if you can carve out a hour or two on a certain night of the week, you’ll find it much easier to ask people to meet you.
- Be equipped: Have business cards on you and your phone at the ready. It isn’t that strange anymore to look someone up on Facebook and add them as soon as you meet them.
- Be interested: Show interest in people’s background, family, job, home, stories, and opinions. Don’t slip into the trap of always changing the topic of conversation to yourself!
- Be hospitable: Proactively invite people; don’t wait for them. Bringing people into your home is also far more powerful than we realize. And it is sometimes easier for moms (but not always!).
- Be loving: Send notes of encouragement, buy a friend a little gift, do something that is unique to their own special “love language”
- Be open: Talk about who you are and who Jesus is to you. Just as naturally as it is to talk about my husband or kids, my relationship with Christ should come up naturally in conversation.
- Be praying: It is the Spirit that does the work. Pray that you will be able to meet many people, that you will be a faithful witness to them, and that you will continue to have the willingness to be poured out for others the way Jesus was poured out for you.