By: Alyssa Miller, Resonate Ellensburg
I remember waking up on move-in day last fall, dreading the day ahead of me. Yes, I was excited to leave home and start college, but I also was about to surround myself with strangers on purpose. I wanted to meet people and make friends but I was too awkward and introverted for that to happen, so I stuck with my roommates and avoided everyone else. One girl stayed behind to introduce herself and grab my number. After she left, I thought how cool it was that on the first day of being in a new town in a new state, I already met someone who wanted to hang out with me. Behind my angsty front was a girl who craved people who wanted to spend time with and understand her. The basics of this kind of friend-making seems silly to even think about, but it matters more than we think.
Welcome weekend is possibly one of the most anxiety-filled seasons for everyone involved. Life after high school comes with an on-going list of unknowns and ‘what if’ scenarios, from not knowing who your friends will be or being unsure about where to eat on campus. I moved 1,200 miles away from a place I had lived in for 13 years to attend Central Washington University. I didn’t know anyone, anything, or even why I chose to move so far away from everything I was used to. God used people going out of their way to get to know me to bring me into community and into His story.
As we strive to make disciples this year, let’s also strive to make friends. The basics we learned in elementary school apply to adulthood, go figure. Here are some tips for how to make a friend.
Spend time with the people you meet. This seems like common sense, but think about how many times you’ve overbooked yourself and not had any free space in your Google calendar. We’ve all been there: wanting to hang out with someone but not having time to because you said yes to so many things. Our God longs to spend time with us. In fact, every single day he is waiting for us to put our schedule aside and make him a priority. We are called to “draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” If God comes into our messy lives and meets us where we are, why should our friendships look any different? The truth is, they shouldn’t. Abby didn’t let me go a single day without seeing or hearing from her. And through that, God didn’t let Abby go a single day without being reminded of how important quality time is when building a relationship. Making time for new friends is worth the awkward conversations, ignored texts, and canceling of plans. God’s kingdom will not grow otherwise and the gospel won’t be heard if we don’t make time to share it and live it out.
Get to know them and genuinely care about what they say. Since becoming part of Resonate, I’ve learned that asking people questions is a huge part of the community culture. Asking questions isn’t a bad thing. In fact, if done properly, it’s a really good thing. But getting to know someone and interrogating them are two different things. Questions flow so easily in conversations with someone you don’t know. But if you aren’t careful, it can come across like you are only there to gather information rather than grow a friendship. I just got home from Elevate where I learned that to have a good conversation, you have to be eager to learn from the person you’re listening to. If you are only in the conversation to insert what you know, or keep asking questions that are irrelevant or have been answered, the person you’re talking to will sense that. God used Abby in my life to show me what a good listener is. She listened when I spoke and actually cared about what I was saying. Having someone show genuine interest in my life was one of the reasons I kept hanging out with people from Resonate; I never felt like an inconvenience or like they were tired of hearing about who I was.
Be honest and vulnerable. If you aren’t an open book with someone you’re trying to live toward, they won’t know how vulnerable to be with you. When someone sees how imperfect your life is, they also see that your struggles don’t stop you from living a joyous life. This is God giving us a beautiful opportunity to share the gospel; a sweet story of being fully known, flaws and all, and being loved anyway. We are the most honest when we share our gift from God instead of keeping it a secret. If Abby hadn’t been vulnerable with me, I wouldn’t have trusted her enough to open up about my life. And if she hadn’t shared her faith in Jesus with me, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Being vulnerable is hard and takes time. So we must be patient with people because not everyone knows that there is victory in being open and honest.
I was connected to community because of the work God was doing during my first week at college. He was preparing people to meet me and preparing my own heart to be met where I was. That weekend was when my interest in Jesus was sparked. God used move-in day to draw me closer to gospel friends, and ultimately draw me closer to Him. I never would have thought that during my few weeks in my college town I would give my life to Jesus, but that’s what happened. Since then, I’ve learned what it looks like to joyfully submit my life to Jesus. Meeting people in the messiness of their lives is what Jesus is calling us to during the coming season. God wants to use us to glorify His kingdom, and what better way to do that than to welcome friends, new and old, into our lives?
How amazing is it that our Lord wants to be our friend? We are sought and chosen every day by God. The feeling of belonging that results from this is something everyone craves. If we don’t live toward someone correctly, people won’t get the opportunity to see God’s true character. We get the chance to meet new people, do life with them, and introduce them to the friend they’ve longed for their whole lives: Jesus.