A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
I've never been the type of person to have a ton of friends. I don't meet new people very well. I tend to be shy around strangers. I find making conversation with unfamiliar people difficult. I always envied the people who could just talk to anyone. You know, the ones who can be in a room full of complete strangers, and be best friends with everyone in ten minutes. How do they do it? I'm so awkward in places like that. I try to talk about the tried and true friend making subjects like the weather, and I can't get anywhere! It's so bad, that when a new person comes into church I have to MAKE myself greet them. However, that's not before I look for all sorts of excuses why I don't need to speak to them. I need to start playing the piano prelude. My Mom or Dad will tell them who I am, and that's good enough. I have to write out my offering envelope before the service, because I'm always at the piano during the offering. See, I've got some pretty good reasons why I can't greet strangers before the service. And after the service? Well, of course I have to play a hymn as everyone is leaving, so I'll pick a long one, and they'll be gone by the time I'm finished. If they're not gone, I'm sure there's someone I need to practice special music with, or I'll just talk to someone I know until the stranger leaves.
How BAD is that??? I know, I'm terrible, but by the grace of God, I've been working on getting better. When I used to attend a fairly large church, it was SO easy to blend into the crowd. I had my circle of friends, and that was it. There were so many people there, that sometimes it was hard to tell the visitors from the regulars. No one noticed in a big church if you didn't meet new people, so I spent most of my time hiding from the strangers. Now my church is small... like really small. You can't blend in quite the same. There's no hiding in a small church. There's no slipping out the side exit hoping no one sees you. We don't even have a side exit... LOL.
I've always wished I had more friends. Believe me, my shyness and lack of socializing doesn't stem from the fact that I LIKE being alone. Nothing could be further from the truth. Everyone desires friends. Everyone wants to be accepted by someone. Everyone enjoys companionship. I'm no different. I want the acceptance, companionship, and company too, but all too often it seems like I don't have it. Then comes the questioning. Mostly I question God. I mean He could give me more friends right? He knows it's hard for me to meet people. Why didn't He leave me in my big church where I had friends? Why doesn't He make it easier for me to make friends? Why can't He just bring those friendly, outgoing, extroverted people across my path to befriend me? I NEED to meet those kind of people if I'm ever going to find any friends.
God already answered my questions in Proverbs 18:24. Initially, I ignored that verse. I don't mean ignored, like skipping it every time I read Proverbs 18. I ignored what it is telling me to do. It's pretty straight forward. If I want friends, then I need to be friendly. Eventually I couldn't ignore it anymore, so I started fighting God on it. That's never a good option, because we know who's going to loose! I'd question, reason, rationalize, and make up excuses of why that verse didn't apply to me. However, little by little, God is changing my heart. He's already promised to give me strength to do whatever He asks me to do (Phil. 4:13). Ever so gently, He prods my heart with things like...
"Go talk to that person."
WHAT!!!!! I can't talk to that person! I don't even KNOW them!
"It's OK. Just go talk to them."
What'll I say?
"Just go talk to them." (still gentle but with more emphasis this time).
It's funny. Once I talk to the person, it turns out it wasn't that hard after all :). We're so foolish to fight against God. One thing I've been trying to do to help me in my journey of showing myself friendly is to smile more when I'm in public. I used to just ignore people when I was out shopping or at a restaurant. Again, I'm not one of those chatty people that talks to everyone who comes across my path. But, I can smile. I like to think that a smile makes other people feel better. Happiness is contagious. And smiling doesn't involve talking! YES! I like that :). However, I've noticed that as I smile more when I'm out and about, people talk to me more. Sometimes it's just "hello" or "have a nice day", but it actually doesn't bother me that they speak to me, and it's not that hard to respond back.
You're probably laughing at me right now, and thinking that I'm crazy, but I'm telling you. This is a big step for me! So, if you think I'm weird, it's okay :). God doesn't expect us to become perfect overnight. Spiritual growth is more often in baby steps. However, even a baby step is considered progress. One of the most encouraging things that anyone has ever said to me, is that they find me friendly. I've had several people tell me that, and it just thrills my heart. Not because I'm looking for praise or self-affirmation, but because I know that all my hard work and baby steps are paying off. I'm heading in the right direction.
Before I end this post, I have to say that I do have some amazing friends who I am very thankful for. Some of my friends are close by, and I certainly consider my church family good friends. Other friends live far away, and I don't get to see them often. Yay for email... but, then we don't even email that often... LOL. It doesn't really matter, because they are still my friends, and when we do get to see each other it's that much more special. I appreciate each and every one of my friends, and pray for them often! So to all my friends, here's a big smile from me to brighten your day :D!!!! And even if I don't know you, I hope the smile brightened your day too!!!