When we come into an understanding of God’s love and grace, our life changes dramatically. One of the major changes is in our friendships. We may have had an active social life for many years before but, all of a sudden, our friends seem like strangers.
They just can’t understand why our lives no longer revolve around the institution. In the institution, social life is based upon its planned programs and activities. Since we’re either not going or we participate irregularly, we no longer have common interests or activities to keep us connected.
As our life becomes more and more focused on a relationship with God that is free of religious obligation, we find ourselves drifting away from those friendships. They may not end suddenly but we find that because we’ve changed, we have less and less in common with our former friends and, as a result, our interactions with them become fewer and fewer.
If you’re like me, you struggled to hold onto those relationships. You called and you tried to restore what was once there. This is probably the most painful part of this journey. It hurts to finally admit to yourself that they don’t seem to be interested in making the effort to continue the friendship. They might even give you a lecture about the danger of the road you’re on and your need to be committed to the “church.”
This journey is a lonely one because often there is no one nearby who we can share it with. Over time, the aloneness gets difficult. We pray and ask God to give us the friends we think we need but, as time goes by and none appear, we get more and more discouraged and the loneliness increases. Finally, we start to think about getting involved again. After all, anyone is better than no one.
Those were the feelings I went through and I thought I was past them but, as with most institutional mindsets, they have a way of unexpectedly showing up again.
I recently spent some time at my son’s home taking care of my grandson while my son and his wife were at the hospital having their second child. Most of the time, I was alone with my two year old grandson. He’s a sweetheart and I appreciated the time with him but I missed all of my online friends.
I got home late Saturday afternoon and was very tired. Since I had to be at work Monday morning, I knew I should just stay home Sunday morning to rest and get ready for work on Monday. However, I started thinking that maybe I should “go to church” just to be around people. Fortunately, I didn’t get very far with this line of thinking before I realized that this was an old institutional mindset that was coming out. I was feeling like anyone or anything was better than being alone. I ended up staying home and spent the day re-connecting with my online friends.
I'm going to stop and add something here. I’m not saying that it’s wrong to go but, when I go, it should be because I want to go and not because I need to go. I’m learning that God meets my need for all things including friendships and my dependence shouldn't be on an institution.
The truth is that the friendships we once had may have been for that season of our lives. We’re now in a new season and we have to accept that we may not be able to bring those friendships into this new season. Freedom for me came when I stopped pining for what once was.
I believe we’ll never be happy in this free life until we learn to be satisfied with what is and stop pining for what we’ve lost.
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