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I can still see us, sitting in a circle in a living room. I think it was my living room, but it could’ve been someone else’s. We had just begun meeting outside of church for a women’s Bible study, and our first book was a slightly cheesy one about friendship.

Our activity for the evening was to write down something kind about someone else in the group. Perhaps we drew names or were assigned the person across the circle; I don’t remember that part. What I remember so clearly is that, while most of us stayed with generic compliments, one of the girls wrote plainly that she really liked me and wanted to get to know me better.

Just like that. She said she liked me. And wanted to get to know me better.

I was overwhelmed. Who does that?! Really, I could not recall another person ever so boldly expressing an interest in me. Just like that.

I thought about that Bible study – and the subsequent friendship that was born after that conversation – a couple weekends ago when I traveled to a retreat with several writer friends. I only get the opportunity to see these women once or twice a year, and though I look forward to our annual trip for months, I almost always come home with some bruised feelings.

In years past I’ve often found myself hanging back at those gatherings – at least mentally, holding my breath and hoping, waiting for people to pursue me. Because if they really liked me, if they really thought I was funny or kind or interesting or worthwhile, well, they’d make a point to find me and talk to me. Right?

*sigh*

This is why conferences make me feel insecure. This is why reunions are never as fun as I imagine. And this is why weekend getaways are never as sweet and good for my heart as I anticipate. Because I’m always waiting around for other people to know what I need – even though I’m not willing to ask.

Well, not anymore. This year I decided I’d had enough of that!

I realized I needed to be more like my Bible study friend and less like, well, me. It wasn’t doing myself – or my friends – any good to expect them to initiate conversations and pursue a friendship with me every single time! After all, how could a friend possibly know I wanted to spend time with her if I didn’t tell her that? And how was it fair for me to expect her to know anyway – and then assume the worst of her when she didn’t?

This year, I went to my retreat determined to be brave and bold. I went determined to be a friend. I decided to take responsibility for these friendships that are so important to me, to reach out to my friends rather than waiting for them to do it for me. It was hard – but it wasn’t. I simply asked friends to meet up, to sit together, to eat with me or to walk with me. I joined in conversations or outings without an engraved invitation.

And – just like that – I had an amazing time catching up with my old friends, making amazing new friends and creating memories with all of them.

And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
Luke 6:31

As I thought about the difference in this year’s retreat on my way home, I realized that the difference was not the lodging arrangements or the particular women who were with me. The difference was my heart – and my willingness, for the first time in a long time, to be a friend. It finally occurred to me that perhaps I wasn’t the only woman in that group – or any group, actually – to feel alone or left out, to be wishing for someone to reach out, hoping someone else would start a conversation. I understood that in protecting myself, I was hurting myself. Even worse, I was possibly hurting someone else, someone else who longed to be reached for or pursued.

And I realized how often I go into a situation like this with a hard heart, a scared heart. I expect other people to come to me, to see what I need, to always seek me out. I know it’s a habit borne of insecurity and relationship wounds. But holding on to those expectations – and, even worse, assumptions that my friends were uncaring or uninterested – only caused deeper wounds and meant that I missed out on connections and true community.

Putting myself on the line by saying, “I’d like to spend time with you,” was hard. Anytime we admit our need, our desire for relationship, we’re opening ourselves up to rejection and pain. But this time the risk was completely worth it – both in the connections I made that weekend and the lesson I learned along the way.

Do you ever have trouble pursuing friendships? Has anyone ever pursued your friendship?

What would it look like for you to be brave this week, to reach out to a friend instead of waiting for her to reach out to you?

{Photo by Thomas Leth-Olsen}
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