Monday, April 30, 2007

...There Are Plenty of Good Fish in the Sea

This blog is inspired by a meditation series on friendship on another blog. I've been finding myself reading along nodding my head until I hit something else that makes me go "Hey, wait a minute!"

I think it is better now to express my thoughts as a statement of my own instead of just responding to her words. Nevertheless, you may as well see what got me going...

Some people are displeased that they don't seem to have "real" friends. However, often these same people do not show themselves to be friendly. It's not that they're angry all the time, or hard to get along with, but perhaps they just don't take any steps out of their normal path. Without these steps, it is very difficult to make 'real' friends.

I've seen it countless times over the years. People will become part of a church and become upset over time that nobody seemed to ever ask them over, or out to eat. Sure, they'd wave and smile at them or have small conversation, but it never got deep. Often, one must show themselves to be a friend that steps out in order to have friendships

(btw, I do appreciate the improvement you've made in this section. Hopefully my reply will be equally improved!)

This dear lady seems to be very blessed within her church group in finding friends and this is wonderful to hear --until you get to the bit where she says she's found that often the very ones who say they can't find friends are not themselves friendly enough. There is some truth to this & scripture will bear her out.

Proverbs 18:24 A man that hath friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
It seems to me that you are still saying, very nicely, that if people can't find good friends at church its pretty much their own fault. I have definitely seen the shoe on the other foot.

In fact, I've seen this countless times over the years too. A family goes to a church and tries to be friendly. They feel shy, of course. The usher shakes their hand, and he's done. The folks sitting next to them may say hello but they are anxious to catch up the news with the good friends they already have with the pew in front of them. The family may dress differently. (some churches are a bit stiff with those who dress casually in a dressy church, or dressy in a casual church, or barely meet code because its obvious they don't have many choices.) They may be a bit poor. They may have come because they are logical people & figured they'd ask other real Christians about the questions raised in their minds after reading Dan Brown or Leakey's latest. There will be no room for this.

[& If they ask without extreme diplomacy the word is just likely to go round that 'we have heretics visiting'... My husband tripped that line once. He wasn't fully saved then and he wanted to talk to a pastor about how do you know if you are saved? (He was raised Mormon/agnostic) & even though he was wanting to be sure he was right with Christ, he had some questions about the faith as understood by Evangelicals. As my beloved has the directness of a freight train, I urged him to take it up only with the Pastor, who should be trained to answer. (I'd already tried, but he wanted to see if other believers were as serious about Jesus as I am.) The pastor ducked the first questions, said he had a lunch engagement, and told him to make an appointment. Hubby didn't bother, but I did eventually talk him into trying the church again. The next time he turned up this clown railed on about 'sorcerers' and 'heretics' and kept looking at him. Later that pastor was run out after covering for a young relative who had been caught using illicit substances. That young man had run his youth ministry. 'Struth! Nevertheless, the church had some real substance to it. Thankfully, my hubby did get his questions answered and did make the fuller commitment -elsewhere. Eventually the church recovered from their worst problems too, but we did not return.]

Conversely, the poor and needy can hang around and smile, and the friendlier ones will smile back, but breaking in to any of the social circles can be easily as tough as it is in any non-Church setting. Think about quilting & knitting circles in your area. People cozy up over time to those who appeal to them on a fleshly level. They want friends who are FUN, who have kids the same age, who work at the same place, who are peers in some way, who do not pose a danger of draining their resources or involving them in 'situations.' The most desired are the talented/rich/ influential ones. This is perfectly human. Its a cool thingy to be able to call those in positions of authority "friend!" Raises your own stock if they all you "friend" back, does it not?

Conversely, the poor and injured have a much harder time getting fully accepted. The very poor have a hard time keeping the car going & gas in it. They can't afford every new whimsy of 'let's all make this pattern next week,' 'let's all get matching sweaters' or let's all meet at the new restaurant next time!

Proverbs 14:20 The poor is hated even by his own neighbor: but the rich hath many friends.

Frankly, I have often seen these 'little extras' used precisely to weed out those whose participation was less desirable. Its one way a publicly open group can be quickly whittled down to the more fortunate. Of COURSE you can go, Cinderella, as long as you have a suitable dress...

I have rarely seen a church clumped up under Holy Spirit categories. This means that all the outside reasons people get dumped in the world are present in the Body too...everything from stinky breath & ragged jeans to ugly words passed along sotto voce.

On one level, it would be odd if it were not so. Believers are being transformed out of their worldliness one day at a time. Everybody is on a different 'day.'

Watchman Nee once described Christianity as one beggar telling another where to find bread. We are a hungry people, learning to be fed by Christ. I have also heard the Body of Christ on Earth likened to a hospital. Would we could all leave our fleshly diseases at the door! But we cannot, so we come into the presence of Christ that we may be cleansed and healed. We arrive oozing our issues.

But encountering the same fleshly behavior that turned them from the world inside the Church has made many un-churched & semi-believers decidedly touchy... Its not always that they never reached out, its what they got when they did!

The modern churches get- to- know- you programs are usually limited to those fill out postcards. Most of the introductions will be of the social did-they-mean-it? variety-- the kind where the well dressed 'insider' says "Hello, I am ___. You are? (answer) Well, thank you for coming. We're so GLAD to have you here with us today!" and then moves on. Go ahead! Ask her to eat out with you...

I saw one obviously poor family try and you never saw anyone turn their back so quickly. Best friend of the preacher's wife too --they left...

Well, maybe you can invite her over, if you feel your house & food will be up to her standards. Maybe later...okay, don't know us yet. It just seems like its impossible to really talk to people around the official meetings at church...

Oh, we have women's study group..come to that and we'll get to know you (on our terms.) Okay, so go. Make the effort! It may be wonderful!

But when it isn't..... you will be standing or sitting near their happy little group waiting for a turn to make you voice known. Oh yeah, you may have read the Bible since you were toddler, but don't expect to be regarded as a full believer, let alone a mature one, unless you came in wearing a title --after all, you are new to this church & you might be a heretic. Okay, submit to local authority with good grace. D here is in charge of the group and she has the study plan. Didn't you get one? Its only 7.00 group rate!... We're going to stay on topic during the session (um..wasn't this why we came, so we could actually talk as Christians?) but we girls can chat at the cafe afterward...its got the cutest little hors d’Ĺ“uvres.... You can't stay, the baby is sick/can't afford it either...oh that's just too bad... Maybe next time.

Hehe, Nancy has the cutest little puppy, don't you know? No, you don't know. Maybe she'll show it to you...*sigh* sure, if I stick around five years she might bring a photo in one day.

I have seen the blessed sheep with their church group intact tell people that they have plenty of friends now, thanks -find someone else...just like that.

There must be plenty of good fish in the sea...right?

And you've just been tossed back to go find them. Swim, away fishy!

Most believers don't regard it as their charge to seek out the injured sheep. I have tried but the injured ARE injured. Hurting people are often not as much fun to play with. Some have had someone try to 'pose' next to them. Some figure if you are relating to them you must be a loser too and will dump you if they finally get inside one of the 'in crowds.' Then too there are the days when they may turn on you because you accidentally brushed up against that sore spot.

And, actually --everyone is like that on some level -- including you, including me.

I am so very glad I have been in other situations, places where I fit in, places where I was appreciated...or the bad ones would have undermined my faith in my own ability to be accepted - to be a friend.


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