When I was in elementary school, it felt like I was in mini, cliché high school. My friend, Chanae, and I were essentially the “cool girls,” the guy I liked, Austin, and his best friend, Rudy Michael, were the “jocks,” and I didn’t have a worry in the world. I didn’t care what anyone thought about me—well, except Austin, but that’s because I had a huge crush on him—I even pretended to like Yu-Gi-Oh, because he liked it, so he’d sit and play the card game with me for hours teaching me how to play. Ha, ha.
In middle school—I was in fifth grade, but included in middle school for various reasons—I suddenly started to care what people thought of me. At our private school, we had what was called “G privilege,” every Friday, which meant we were staying caught up in school and not getting in trouble, so we got to were CMC’s (Casual Modest Clothing) instead of our school uniform and we went on field trips every week. One Friday, I had worn my jeans to school and they were pulled up above my belly button, because my mom told me I had to wear them that way. The cool older girls—seventh and eighth graders—asked me why I wore my jeans so high and I told them. They suggested that while I was at school, I let them down a bit, because it looked cooler. Naturally, I did what they said, and thus started my habit of caring about what other people thought of me.
The next year, my mom started homeschooling us for the next few years. While being homeschooled, I went to co-ops, teen night with our homeschooling group, and participated in a Bible club called “Awana.” Most of the time, I didn’t really think too much about what the other kids in these groups thought about me, but I still cared. I especially cared in eighth grade when I was going to Awana every nearly every Thursday and playing basketball on a team with the kids from the private school I had previously gone to and would later graduate from. Most of the kids in Awana grew up in church together and or went to school together, while I was the homeschool kid who went to church across town. The girls on my basketball team saw each other every day, all day. I had grown up with half the girls on the basketball team, but it didn’t always seem to matter, because I was still the outsider.
Then came high school and the popularity of unlimited text messaging. I had plenty of friends from my homeschooling group, Awana, and the church I had grown up in/gone to school to, but I didn’t feel close to any of them Every day after school I would text message every number in my hot pink Razr phone. Every day, most people would answer, but we’d only have like a five-message conversation and then they’d stop replying. Two friends though, Akina and Demi, would always reply and keep texting me until one of us had to go to sleep. So would a guy I had a crush on whom I would use as bait to get my mom to let me stay up past my bed time as like as he was answering—but, shh, don’t tell her!
Even with these all-day conversations, I went through all of high school feeling like the outsider. I grew up in church with these kids, but they grew up in school with each other. It’s a different vibe; while I saw them weekly, they saw each other daily. Not to mention, they were also all two years younger than I was, because I was born in December and I was a year behind in school, while they were all summer babies and on track for graduation. Even though these girls and I spent nearly all of our waking time together and knew nearly every detail of each other’s lives, I still felt lonely. Oddly enough, I didn’t actually know I felt lonely though. I spend so much time thinking about how other people feel, that I’ve always had a hard time realizing how I feel until 1) it’s too late or 2) I sit down to write something and it turns into something much different than I planned.
In 2012, when I was starting my senior year of high school, the Lord led me to a new church where I met three girls that would change my life forever. You can read about them in nearly every other blog post I’ve written—if you go to the search box and look for Allie, Holly, and Shelby, then you can actually find every post they’re mentioned in. (I just tried it. Ha, ha.) After meeting them, I quickly learned how much I had been deeply craving a deep, human friendship—going to that church has also showed me how much I had been deeply craving a deep relationship with the Lord. It’s been over 5 years since I started going to Compass Church and it still surprises me that I have such a close friendship with Allie, Holly, and Shelby, especially because Allie and Holly spent four years living in Austin and have sense moved to California and Indonesia respectively and that I normally only see Shelby on Sundays, compared to feeling lonely when seeing my friends in school daily.
For the first four years of my attendance at Compass, while we had other friends we’d talk with and who have come and gone, it has mostly just been me and Shelby sitting together and talking on Sunday mornings. It blows my mind to think that even with just one consistent friend, I have felt less lonely—read not lonely at all—with Shelby than I ever did with 10 to 30 other students at school. I think it’s important to remember that God had those years in which it was normally just Shelby and me sitting in the front row during the first service during church every week, because things are different now.
Within the past year or so, God has started to bring other “kids”—I refuse to call myself an adult—who are my and Shelby’s age to church and given us new friends. Because I’ve grown so accustomed to it normally being just me and Shelby, it’s been super weird to get used to having other friends, but it’s been a good weird. Shelby and I are no longer the only two sitting in the front row at church. Now we have a friend in Bill who was the first new friend to show up. A few months ago, we met Morgan who was sitting alone in a different row, before Shelby decided to introduce herself and I followed—that’s how it works. Shelby does something, like sitting in the front row at church, and I follow. Then, we met Lauren—who interestingly enough is best friends with one of my coworkers. Now, we have three people who sit in the front row during the first service and a few minutes after the service ends, Morgan comes to sit and chat with me, Shelby, and Bill before the second service starts. A few minutes later, Lauren shows up and we all talk about our weeks and what’s going on in our lives.
It’s such a strange phenomenon to sit and talk with multiple friends on a Sunday morning; I’m still not used to having a friend like Shelby (or Allie and Holly), so I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to having so many friends to talk to on Sundays, but I don’t know if I want to get used to it. The strangeness of it helps me to be so grateful for it and I never want to reach a point when I’m not grateful for these friends.
This past Sunday, I was sitting with this group of friends of mine and I was just struck by the awesomeness of the God who gave them to me. My forever freezing best friend had been leaning her head on my shoulder (which by the way is not something I let just anyone do, so it only strengthens the message of this post, because as lonely as I’ve ever been I NEED my bubble, and almost no one is allowed to pop it. I’ve recently learned though that once you’ve reached a certain point of friendship with me, my bubble doesn’t pop, but expands so that you get to be in it with me, if you want, ha, ha.), Bill was sitting to my left, Morgan, Lauren, and her friend had just recently arrived, and a few other people were standing around us as we shared in conversation. It was just one of those moments when you take a proverbial step back and thank God for what He has blessed you with.
In high school, while I had wanted to be friends with everyone and had become known as the always happy social butterfly, I had also closed my heart off to everyone. I didn’t trust people to love and accept me, because they didn’t. Then, when I started going to Compass God gave me Allie, Holly, and Shelby, with whom I slowly started to open up my heart. Now that Bill, Lauren, and Morgan are around and we actually have enough twenty-somethings to have a “Young Singles Group,” it’s like God is telling me, “It’s okay, you can do it. You can be friends with these people. I know you still fear that you’ll lose the friends you have, (yes, in my somewhat rare dark moments, I sometimes even fear that I’ll lose Allie, Holly, and Shelby), but I’m here with you, and I’m bringing more of my children to be your friends. You don’t have to be afraid. Now that you know that I’m all you need, I want to show you that you can have human friends who won’t fail you.” (I don’t mean these friends won’t be imperfect, I simply mean that they’ll show and share the love of 1 Corinthians 13)
It’s an incredible and daunting feeling to sit in the center of a group of friends and know that these people are my people. They’re not people I became friends with because we were always together (much like the ones I had in school) and they’re not friends I’ve only met because they’re friends with my friends; they’re actually MY friends. Yes, I mentioned that I introduced myself because Shelby did, but it’s not like Shelby was friends with them and then I became friends with them. We became friends with Bill, Lauren, and Morgan at the same time. So, they’re not Shelby’s friends and they’re not convenient friends; they’re MY friends and I couldn’t be more grateful!
So, Allie, Bill, Holly, Lauren, Morgan, and Shelby, if you have read to the end of this, then thank you for being medicine for my wounded heart and vitamins for my hopeful soul! And thanks for being the friends I never knew I needed.