By Pastor Paula Burchill
I think there are a lot of lonely people. I hear it from moms of young children, and I so remember that time of life. You want to make friends, but people don’t seem to invite each other over very often. No matter what stage of life we’re in, many of us long for better friendships or for more time to be in community. But it is hard to find.
When we started our family, we were still relatively new to the Northwest. I know how easy it is to romanticize ones past, but I remember just not being able to believe how rarely anyone invited anyone else over. It wasn’t the way I grew up. I remember my mom often having a friend for coffee or talking on the phone to her friends. I found that I was becoming very lonely.
Much has been made of the Pacific Northwest and how when people came here, it was often, maybe subconsciously or maybe not, to get away from social obligations. We are individuals out here. A friend and I run a route each week, and we often shake our heads at how often people we have seen many times don’t even look our direction. I have lived in my neighborhood for over 10 years and I still don’t know the names of a lot of my neighbors. It’s embarrassing.
It might not just be our area—maybe the rest of the country is this way as well. But I can remember feeling like I had to make a very conscious decision that if I wanted friends and if I wanted community it was going to have to be me who did the initiating.
This has not been easy! I get sick of being the one to call most of the time. And I have also had to learn to get over some things. I had to get over the fact that if I wanted to have a social life, I was going to have to be the one who did the asking. I had to get over the fact that I might have someone over, but that didn’t automatically mean they would invite me back. And if they didn’t, I had to learn not to take it personally. This was big, really big.
But it is worth it to have a community.
In Matthew 18, Jesus said where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in their midst. I wonder if Jesus knows there is something about being with others who are not our family that is really vital for us. That is what the church is after all–people who are gathered together in Jesus’ name. And so he goes out of his way to remind us that when we gather with others, he will be right there with us.
Being a mom is lonely–as is a lot of life, actually. And when we are hurting we often think no one will want to hear about it, or we have to be strong and get through it. But what if really being strong means being able to reach out and invite others in?
It’s hard. But I believe it is so strong to put ourselves out there for the sake of our neighbors. I can wish all I want for some sort of very likely mythical past where everyone had community or I can just get off my butt and start making one. Because my experience is that a lot of the time, I just have to swallow my pride and put myself out there. It has to be me. And maybe that is ok. Maybe that is what Jesus calls me to do.
Maybe we are all called to find a way—however big or small, hard or easy, to put ourselves out there as well–to invite someone to dinner or to go for a walk or to play golf or to go to a movie or to come to church or bible study. It isn’t good to be alone. We are created to be in community, from the very beginning. And oh is it worth it. I am so thankful that I didn’t let the fact that I didn’t get invited over very often hold me back from just doing most of the inviting. Because it has gotten better. We have made some dear friends. And best of all, I know that I’m not alone.