I am still working on making a friend a day.
Yesterday I had coffee with a neighbor. It was wonderful to get with someone my age, who has grown kids, and just be friends. We talked about our lives, shared our struggles. In keeping with my goal to not shrink back, I was real with her, telling her how I am trying to grow spiritually. Then I talked about the spiritual healing group I would like to try to start. She was interested!
This spiritual healing group has elicited more interest than all the invitations to church combined. I got the idea after reading “Spiritual Maturity: God’s Will for Emotional Health and Healing” by Cresenda Jones. She recommended having a group to help individuals work through emotional hurts of the past that still have an effect on their daily lives.
Last week, instead of inviting the check out clerk at Publix to church, I invited her to be a part of this group. The clerk was a placid middle aged African American woman who looked like she’d experienced a lot in life . For the first time, I saw genuine interest in someone’s eyes, instead of shutters going up. I felt like I connected, and had an honest relaxed (albeit short!) conversation with someone. And the young woman bagging groceries listened intently as well, regarding me with clear light eyes, so I made sure to include her in the conversation. It was a breakthrough!
My hairstylist was the same way. I have been trying to build a friendship with her for five years. She always seems friendly, but from a distance. When I told her about the spiritual healing group yesterday as I was getting my hair cut, she told me to text her with more information. She was unguarded, sincere in her interest.
It wasn’t all great like that. I invited the clerk at Kroger, a tall young man who was friendly and conversational but never responded to my invitation to church as we talked. I bypassed opportunities.
I actually have had some struggles lately. Sometimes I have had zero motivation to do anything. I’ve pushed through, but it’s been discouraging because I didn’t feel like myself. I was so tempted to feel like I was failing.
But I think God allows us to go through hard times sometimes because it increases our compassion for others. Just as Jesus had to become human so he could relate to what we are going through, we need to experience difficulties so we can sympathize with the weaknesses of others.
For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Heb. 2:17
And I love what Ann Voscamp said in “One Thousand Gifts” about going through trials: “all new life comes out of the dark places. . . Isn’t this the crux of the gospel? The good news is that all those living in the land of the shadow of death have been birthed into new life.”
I have to trust when I am in a dark place. The beauty of God is there in my barren moments, in my failures. His hand is still upon the worst of my times. And when all my efforts seem like so much dust, His fingers are in the dust of my efforts. I picture myself reaching and clasping those strong stable fingers.
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I go up to heaven, you are there. If I make my bed in hell, you are there. If I climb upward on the rays of the morning sun or land on the most distant shore of the sea where the sun sets, even there your hand would guide me and your right hand would hold on to me. Ps 139:7-10
Here are some scriptures that have encouraged me lately —
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. Eph 1:17
This is my goal for the new year — that everyone would KNOW God better.
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” Romans 14:17.
As I work on sharing my faith more, I realize what I really need to work on is trust and joy. If I have these, the sharing will come.