After returning home from living in extreme community for almost a year, I honestly don’t know how to have friendships. On the World Race, you live, work, eat, sleep (next to), fight, love and study with the same group of people for large periods at a time. They’re your friend group, family, support group, community group, coworkers, church, and adventure buddies. They’re there when you wake up, go to bed, go out to eat and pray. Most days, it was infuriating that you couldn’t get away from them.
But now I live in the Western world again where individualism is top priority and sins are your secrets and struggles are your personal battles. People find it easier to pretend like nothing is wrong than to confront blatant issues by having the courage and heart to discuss REAL things. “How are you? No, really, how ARE you?” I never had to ask that question on my teams. People would tell you whether you asked or not. The question “How are you?” wasn’t a greeting; it really was asking the state of a brother or sister’s heart.
I have been back in the states for three months now, and honestly, I feel like I don’t know how to have friends anymore. And it’s not that I don’t have wonderful people in my life; it’s just different now. I wake up alone. I work with different people than I live with. I go to church with different people than I eat with. I sleep in a room all by myself and wake up to my own alarm.
I feel utterly alone.
You know that feeling you get after a really intense break-up, and you feel like you have to refigure out how to do life all over again now that that person is gone? I feel like that times 50. It would be REALLY easy for me to buy a tub of cookie dough and veg out on the couch and ignore all of these emotions.
It would be easy.
But I don’t do easy anymore. Easy is the plain yogurt of lifestyles. I want the homemade cinnamon granola, chocolate chip, berry-blast yogurt in a martini glass with fancy garnishes and a silver twirly spoon life! But that takes a lot of work!
So I’ve noticed I don’t know how to have friends. So what? I’ll learn. How do you learn? How do you get better at something you suck at? As my dear brother Joel has heard me say a thousand times:
So to all my Johnson City friends: I’m so sorry that you’re having to deal with me learning how to be a friend all over again. I have random urges where I just want to move in with people, or I feel like we’re not really friends. I also want people to confess their entire life to me full of all their vulnerable struggles, and if they don’t, I feel like they don’t trust me as a friend. I want to confess everything going on in my life to every person I meet, and feel like people don’t love me when they don’t want to hear it.
Seriously, I have no idea what I’m doing. I don’t know how to have a life outside of friendships with people, because I thought friendships meant you do every aspect of life together. It’s a whole new ballgame here.
But I don’t want to feel so alone anymore when I know I’m daily surrounded by wonderful people in every aspect of my life. It’s hard to accept that they’re different in every area, but that’s life? Right? I’m still not sure. I don’t fully understand it yet.
I work with a group of highly encouraging and joyful people!
I attend a church whose main focus is community and outreach and love!
I’ve had incredible conversations with so many different people who desperately love Jesus, and who’ve expressed a desire in wanting to be my friend.
I have friends in my hometown already who seek me out and want to be my friend.
It’s not like I don’t have multiple opportunities to have friends! But I don’t see them every single day, and that’s weird to me. I go weeks without seeing people, and that confuses me. Are we really friends? All my closest friends now are scattered throughout the entire world and my only form of communication with them is entirely digital. I miss them on a daily basis. My heart aches to be near them.
But how do I have intentional friendships with people in my local community?
I don’t know, but I’m learning.
Dear local Johnson Citians,
My desire is to be a good friend to you, but I need a lot of guidance and grace right now because I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. Thank you for all the grace you’ve been giving me, because I haven’t given it to myself enough. You’re awesome, and I’m blessed with the gift of figuring out how to do life with all of you. Thanks for being wonderful.
Only by grace,