A few months ago through a God-given opportunity, I joined my old women’s ministry for a study on a book I had been wanting to read since it came out – Find Your People by Jennie Allen – Building Deep Community in a Lonely World.
I don’t consider myself a lonely person, nor would you think so if you see my bubbly self in person. I’m an extrovert with a pretty decent sized network of friends. I’m close to my parents, happily married with amazing kids and I have close girlfriends. However, I still feel lonely at times, and I know very well that I’m NOT alone in having these feelings. I am an only child (I lost the only sibling I ever had when I was a teenager), and I think I struggle a bit more than people who have siblings, because siblings are basically built-in besties for life (or so I think). In the past decade since becoming a mom, I have found wonderful friends, but I have also struggled with the hurt and rejection from a few women that really cut deep, to the point that I started Christian counseling to help heal the wounds in my heart, learning to forgive and move on. Going into the study I looked forward to finally taking a Friendship 101 course I always wish would have been offered in college.
Find Your People is a short 7-week study including Introduction, each with a 15-minute videos that goes with each session. You can totally read this book on your own, but I highly recommend you go through it with a group of women. There were so many tears shed at the table, and even though it has been a few months since we finished, the study still rings loudly in my ears and continues to inspire me to be intentional with my friendships. I have always valued relationships, and this study reiterated the importance of having our village, and the wisdom on how to build one.
Session 1 – Introduction
For all of eternity, God has existed in relationship – as Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. With that foundation, we are created to be relational beings.
In order to build a healthy and balanced community, here are 5 pillars Jennie outlined in her book –
- Proximity – Adam and Eve were with each other all the times, and they walked with God closely.
- Transparency – They were fully known and fully loved – naked and unashamed.
- Accountability – God set boundaries for them around the Tree, and they were accountable to Him for keeping them.
- Purpose: They shared a job, caring for God’s beautiful creation.
- Consistency – They woke up and showed up every day, with all the times in the world to pour into each other.
Session 2 – The Disruption of Community
I’ve hurt people. They’ve hurt me. I have failed relationships with people I know I have hurt. Some have forgiven me, and some have walked away. Nothing hurts more, nothing steals our thoughts, nothing disrupts our happiness more than difficult or broken relationships with people who were supposed to be there for us.
I resonated with this deeply! Thanks Jennie for sharing so openly and vulnerably.
Biggest take away from this session – You will disappoint me. I will disappoint you. God will NEVER disappoint us.
Session 3 – Proximity
Proximity with God and with each other.
Do I have friends I have made through Instagram? Shockingly yes. Shocking because I never expected to make real genuine mommy friends…well online! But this platform connected me and some like minded mamas. I have even met up with quite a few moms and their sweet families in person.
While those friendships are wonderful and precious to me, I learned from this study the importance of having my village that’s nearby as well, according to Jennie, within a 5 mile radius would be great.
Some ideas of where to find your village – Church, work, neighborhood, kids’ school, gym, kids’ extracurricular teams etc.
Tip – Initiating is AWKWARD, for everyone! We tend to wait to be asked out, and there is zero risk of rejection if you don’t initiate, right? But if you want to find a friend you need to be a friend.
Session 4 – Transparency
In an affluent country like the United States, we have white picket fences, tall walls and nice wooden locked and alarmed doors. But having these wonderful physical boundaries also keep out the good things – bear-your-soul intimacy, being encouraged, held accountable, seen, loved and known. I can’t remember going over to any neighbor to borrow an egg or some sugar ever! Because if I need it, I will drive to HEB to get some myself…but by not troubling each other and being so indpedent, we lost some of the precious sense of community we all long for. I love my neighbors, but the most I ever ask if to take in my packages when we are out of town.
Transparency is the idea of living without walls. Where we can see what’s really going on with each other. Knowing and being known, needing and being needed is God’s plan for us.
Wall of Protection vs. Armor of God
“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckletd around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.” – Ephesians 6:1
Wall of Unmet Expectations vs. Our Hope – We often have unrealistic expectations of our friends and families, full list in book, including “my friend will initiate, encourage, remember my birthday, be there for me whenever I need them, never annoy or misunderstand me.”
Wall of Shame vs. the Truth – Isolation is one of shame’s greatest goal, don’t let shame win.
Jennie went so far as in saying she shared her finances with her people, the last 5% we normally hold back from talking to anyone about.
Session 5 – Accountability
Accountability is one of the lost tastes of heaven that made God’s plan for community work for the people in it. It is building relationships and taking risks with peple and allowing them to sharpen us.
The last thing you and I need is a friend group that does nothing more than co-sign our stupidity. If I’m about to careen off a cliff and the only thing you choose to do is stand there cheering for me, we’ve got a problem. I don’t need accceptance when I’m being a fool; I need help, and so do you.
I love Jennie’s honesty and openness, becasue how many friends do we have who just say great, beautiful, good job to whatever we do. But the real, true friends will tell us (in a gentle and loving way) what we really need to improve on.
It will take discernment and effort to return to the kind of relationships that really build us – the kind God had in mind for us to enjoy.
Session 6 – Shared Mission
“You don’t know someone until you’ve gone on a trip with them and you’ve eaten with them.” This inspired me to decide to go on the Disney trip with my friend Sandy and our 4 year old boys, and to fly to Paris with our framily the Chius. It took some courage to take both trips, but I’m so glad we did.
Discipleship is inconvenient, uncomfortable and very messy. But it’s beautiful.
Session 7 – Consistency
Community. Togetherness. People in your business. Living life like this, you are for sure going to come to a moment in the very near future when you are going to want to bolt.
But instead of leaving, fight it out, fight for each other, fight to understand and fight to stay.
Sandy I’m thinking of you as I’m typing this, because out of all my friends since I became an adult, you and I have fought the most, but we also fought the most to stay friends for the last decade. I’m so grateful we both fought to stay. Look where we are now =)
When we stay, we grow We learn the art of reconciliation. We fight it out and work it out and cry it out and show up again the next day.
There is not a truly intimiate friendship that is free of conflict completely. But hopefully we fight and come back to the table, back to each other.
Jesus makes the best friend. He has never ignored you, cut you out, shamed you, or rolled His eyes at you. Not once. He always listens, always cares, always tells the truth. He is always there, safe and encouraging and always challenges you to be better.
You are never alone. You have Jesus and He has you.
BUT He wants more for you. More for us. A team of people to run with each day, to love Him together and love each other through the hard.
Find your people, and never let them go.
Final Note –
As I reflected and prayed about the friendships in my life, I also learned to discern who are NOT my people. I have had my fair share of hurts, and my counselor says it’s because I’m real, genuine, and I put myself out there. The good thing is I have attracted a lot of friends becasue of who I am, and the bad, mathematically speaking I also annoy and drive away many. The big lesson – I’m not for everyone, and that is OK! Well the ok took a lot of counseling sessions to make peace with, but I’m getting there =)