While today I’m quite content on the friend front in my town of Colorado Springs, it certainly wasn’t always that way. When we moved here twelve years ago, we knew a few folks — friends we still have today. However, it took us a full decade to connect with a wider circle of people and for me to feel like I was at home here, apart from my own family, of course.
A decade is a mighty long time, y’all.
I’ve lived in places where it didn’t take nearly that long, but here it did. More often than not, the miracle of making community just takes longer than I think it should. Is it worth it? Oh, yes. But as is often the case, quality doesn’t mean quickly.
While I relish this garden of flowering friendships in my day-to-day life, it’s not the same story on other fronts. In my work life, I don’t have friendships to the degree I once did. Oh, I still enjoy great relationships with work folks, but many of the relationships I worked hard to cultivate for the last decade aren’t what they used to be. And even as I’ve prayed and reached out and put all kinds of effort into widening my circle, I haven’t experienced the success of connection I’d hoped for. In this field, I feel a little untethered and a lot lonely as I try to create the expansive sense of belonging I once enjoyed.
As a former military wife who spent repeated years making new community, I learned quite a bit about what to do and what not to do to make friends. I’m by no means perfect at it! But I know that you can do many of the “right” things and still see little reward.
And that can cause no small amount of frustration.
In an effort to understand why things are the way they are in my own life, I’ve had to form some honest answers to a couple of questions. If your own friendship landscape looks too barren for your liking — whether that be in your neighborhood, at work, at church, or elsewhere — I welcome you to consider your own answers to these questions alongside me.
First, is it possible I’m discounting some places I do already belong because I’m spending too much time lamenting where I don’t?
I am guilty of ignoring people in places I do belong because I’m spending too much time missing folks who used to be around but aren’t anymore. I genuinely lament the loss of these folks. After all, I really like them and loved their creative energy and personality in my life. It’s okay for me to be sad that these relationships have changed. At the same time, I need to eventually turn the page, accept that things are different, and move forward accordingly.
The truth is that friendships — like the leaves of trees within seasons — change and grow, or change and fade. I’ve been the one to step away from a friendship before, certainly. Not because there was anything wrong with the other person, but because something affected what I could give to that friendship. There was no good guy or bad guy, just the realities of life! In turn, other people have every right to step away from a friendship with me. Like any other relationship, it takes both parties’ investment for it to grow. I can’t do the work for both of us.
Be that as it may, I can take a gratitude-laced look at those places I do belong today and turn my energies towards nurturing the people there, even as I’d like to still nurture new relationships too.
And this leads me to the second question:
If I’m putting forth sincere effort to connect with folks yet making little progress, is it possible I’m going through this less-than-ideal friendship season because the Lord simply wants my attention elsewhere?
I’ve discovered that there are times when the Lord, in His divine, knows-all-things wisdom, temporarily winnows one area of our lives in order to widen our focus on another. Whether we need to tend to some things within our family, our hearts, or our relationship with Him, God helps meet that need by removing some of our distractions. I sense this is the case in my own life right now, but it won’t be the case forever. God’s heart is for us to have our people — no one is the exception to that. But for now, I will tend to the areas He directs me towards.
Whatever your answer are to these questions, know that the way things are right now doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. While self-awareness and an honest evaluation of our own actions in friendships are always good things to consider, everyone goes through seasons when friends are few or relationships disappoint us — even Jesus. As Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.”
There is an appointed time for friendship droughts to begin, yes.
But there’s also an appointed time for them to end, praise be.
While we wait for our own to end, may we be mindful to give others grace and give ourselves grace too.
If you could use a bit more practical direction on how to find your place and people, check out one of my OG (in)courage articles here or my book Back Roads to Belonging: Unexpected Paths to Finding Your Place and Your People.