Seven years ago, my husband and I packed up our three young boys and moved from the Bible belt of Alabama to the west coast of Canada. The first several months after our arrival were some of the loneliest days of my life.
It probably would’ve been easier if we’d left a place we didn’t really care for, but this wasn’t the case. We’d left behind family, friends and a life we’d loved. And although we both knew the Lord had led us to make this move, it was not an exciting change for us. We didn’t feel as though we were heading off on a grand adventure or that we were some kind of super-Christians who were bravely “following God into the unknown.” Instead, almost every aspect of our transition was clouded by a sense of loss. We laid down money, dreams, plans, and relationships we’d treasured. This was not at all what we’d imagined saying yes to God would feel like.
I remember hitting an all-time low a couple of months after we’d been living in Vancouver. At this point, because I was homeschooling our kids and we weren’t connected at a church yet, my social skills were a little bit, ahem, rusty. I was at the grocery store one morning when I saw a woman who looked to be about my age with a little boy who looked to be about my son’s age. They’re perfect, I thought, like the creepy person I was apparently becoming. I stopped my cart right there in the aisle and tried to figure out a way to naturally instigate a conversation with this lady. Hi, my name is Elita, I’m new to Canada and I have no friends. But based on your age and the items you have in your buggy, I think we could possibly be best friends. Do you and your son want to come over for a play date right now? Please say yes. (I wish I were making this story up, y’all.) My mental facilities kicked back-in just in time for me to make eye contact with her as she passed by, we exchanged very normal “hellos” and I kept on walking. She never knew that I’d secretly pegged her as my new BFF. I paid for my groceries, got in my car and cried. Oh, I was so lonely you guys.
Here’s the thing: I’d had my circle before we moved to Canada. I’d had the friends I was “doing life” with. They were the ones I’d sit with for hours on front porch swings as we’d rock our babies and dream about the future. These were the girls I’d go to Bible study with and work-out with. We were the ones who would set-up meal trains after babies were born and watch each other’s kids while we went on much needed date nights with our husbands. We did camping trips and movie nights and birthday parties and street parties. I can’t count the number of times we’d stay up so late talking in our cars that our husbands would come check on us just to make sure everything was ok. These were my people. My best friends. Having to lay down these friendships without knowing if I’d ever have those-kind-of-friends again was one of the hardest parts of the move for me.
I’ve since realized that some of the most important lessons I’ve learned about God have occurred while walking through the trenches of deep heartache. In his kindness, the Lord used that season of loss to open my eyes and see, really see, the hurting and lonely people around me. I don’t think I had ever noticed people like this until I became one. Before our move, I’d been so happy I had a place to belong, so glad I had “my circle,” that I hadn’t really been looking to invite more people into my life. And as God often does, he challenged me through Scripture:
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters… Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:16;18
I sensed that God was beginning to redefine what loving others looked like in my life. Because let’s face it: it’s pretty easy to love our best friends. But here I was, without a friend in this new city, and I had to wonder what God was asking of me. What did it look like for me to lay down my life for others? What did it look like for me not just to love in words or speech but with my actions?
The answer I felt God give me was such a basic concept that I almost second-guessed it: look for the lonely ones. Invite them in. Be their friend. That was it. But it changed my life.
I stopped feeling sorry for myself and started getting involved anywhere I could. I volunteered at our new church and I helped my son’s soccer team. I even went to a women’s conference by myself (the exact opposite of anything I would normally do) and I was determined to keep my eyes open and look for opportunities to love on others. I didn’t always get it right; I still don’t. But I’ve learned that saying yes to God doesn’t always have to “feel good”; in fact, it often means stepping out of my comfort zone and trusting him to meet me in my weakness.
Friend, if I could encourage you with anything it would be to look for the lonely people in your life. Look for the moms at your kid’s school who don’t seem to have a circle. Look for the girl who sits by herself at church or the one who comes to your bible study alone. Look for the ones in your workplace who eat lunch by themselves or the mom on your kid’s hockey team who seems disconnected. You might just find a girl, like me, who is desperately longing for someone to say hi to her. Sure, it takes work to welcome new people into your life. It takes work to meet up for playdates and have people over for dinner. This is the “laying down of our lives” part. We lay down our wants, our conveniences, our schedules, our preferences and we choose to say yes to people. It can be hard work. But gosh, it’s worth it. People are always worth it.
By the way, I did eventually make some really close friends. (And it wasn’t because I stalked people at grocery stores!) I’m so grateful God gave me new friends I can dream, laugh, and cry with. We all need that kind of friend in our lives. But I pray that we would move beyond circles and become women who gather rather than divide. I pray we’d tear down the silos we’ve built around our friendships. Let’s throw open the doors of our lives and invite more people in. Your next best friend may just be around the corner.
Hey friends, if you want to connect with Elita, visit her at www.elitafriesen.com.
You can also connect with her on instagram at instagram.com/elitafriesen
Elita is the author of Relentless Mercy: The Life of Jonah and the God of Second Chances. Please go to my Instagram page at www.instagram.com/mirrormirrormbs to enter to win four of these amazing bible studies.
Thanks for reading, friends!