[mk_dropcaps style="fancy-style"]H[/mk_dropcaps]ave you ever been in a season where you feel like you don’t fit in?  You want more deep and meaningful friendships but you can’t seem to make that happen?  I have heard this expressed to me by quite a few people in recent weeks, so let me get the ball rolling on tackling this mindset. First off, a few things about me, for those of you who don’t know.  I used to be very shy and withdrawn.  It took a lot for me to engage with people outside of my home or any environment where I felt uncomfortable.  Regardless, I craved connection.  I desired joyful, and fulfilling relationships.  These two things do not add up.  In college, a deep season of depression brought my “shyness” to an even more amplified expression and I would not leave my dorm room unless it was for class or swim practice.  During Christmas break of my 2nd year, I remember being in my dorm room, (I stayed on campus for a swimming training camp) frustrated and crying out for deep friendship and community.  The weird thing was I had people around me  all the time.  I swam with fifty other swimmers every day, twice a day.  There was plenty of opportunity to reach out and connect.  I chose not to take those opportunities.

This behavior became a habit, and a tough one to break, over the years.  When you are performance-focused and competitive, there is a drive inside of you to accomplish whatever task is in front of you.  The task may be a workout, a school project or even a work project.  The task should never be the focal point.  Rather, our focus should be choosing to prioritize people over task when the opportunity presents itself.  If you desire to shift things in your life and create more meaningful relationships, it’s time to start cutting out the response to the thought “Okay, we just have to get this done.”  Instead, replace that thought with “Okay, I need to slow down and listen.  This task will get done, it will just take a bit longer.”

I find in my life, and the life of others, the problem is not that there are no people around (although social media seems to aid in shrinking rather than growing our opportunities for face to face connection), you have a sphere of influence.  Rather the issue is  keeping an attentive mind to see windows of opportunity and to engage, even with a bit of inconvenience to nurture a relationship.

Trust takes time.  True friendships are built on trust.   Expecting that by only asking for friendships and expecting that they will come automatically is not possible.  We are a “microwave society,” so our patience muscles are flabby and out of shape.  But, they don’t have to be.  Genuine friendships come with a commitment to do the “reps” and to be someone worthy of trust.   A piece of that comes with a commitment to work out your mind,

[mk_blockquote style="line-style" font_family="none" text_size="16" align="center"]to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.(1 Corinthians 5:10)[/mk_blockquote]

This means we are to hold fast and be obedient to the thoughts that are from God.  Why is that connected to friendships?  Our thoughts are the indicators of where our lives will go.  They determine how we view ourselves, situations, and others.  By choosing to submit our lives to the Lord we should then seek friendships that draw us toward Him not away.  Our closest friendships shouldn't be with people simply because of convenience.  We have all had a toxic friend or two so you know what I am talking about. That does not mean that we should not be friendly to everyone, but that we engage with people knowing that genuine friendship is a process.  We wont be besties with everyone.  That is ok.  Jesus only had 12 close to him and 3 in his inner circle.  But His life was not dependent on those 12 for significance.  They were a support and companions in his journey.  We too should operate in a way that leave us available to serve and support those around us.   Little by little in doing so, our hearts are opened and available, not only for God to move in our lives, but for others to come in and join us in this life.

We are, after all, called to love God and to love people, right?  So, today I challenge you.  Each day, find one opportunity where you normally would put your head down and go about your task and instead look around to see who is around that you can engage with.  Invest into the friendship with true compassion and love.  What do you see shift in you and around you by doing so?