A few Sundays back, as I stood in the foyer, one of the ladies in our congregation came up to me and started sharing how wonderful dinner was the night before. She had been invited to have dinner with a family in our congregation. This family is known for reaching out and inviting new members of our faith over to their home. The food is plentiful and delicious and those invited feel warmly welcomed.
As she shared how incredibly loved she felt and what a part of the family she felt like, my heart was touched by how sensitive this family is to the needs of newer members. They open their hearts and their home and share the warmth of family life with those who have not perhaps experienced it before in quite such abundance.
As she continued to gush, my eye caught on another woman, sitting by herself in a pew. This woman is single, older, and joined our faith a couple years ago. She, too, had been invited over for several dinners and visits and been made to feel a part of this particular family.
Then, about six months after she joined our faith, she was dropped. Cold. Like a bad habit. No calls. No texts. No invites for dinner. Nada.
I could see that she was listening in on the first woman’s excitement. Her shoulders drooped further and further down as she turned her face towards the wall, away from where we were standing. My heart hurt.
How does this happen? Why does this happen?
You see, this is not the first person this has happened to. Years ago, one of my friends was an active member of my faith for several years, then she hit some rough times in her life. As a convert, she turned to her old friends and habits during this difficulty.
She did so because she felt that the ‘friends’ she had made at church weren’t genuine. They were people with good intentions, who went about doing good, but really weren’t good for anything. When she hit a low point and needed someone to be there for her, there were only two of her church ‘friends’ who stayed in her life.
The others were all too busy and, to her, proved they were too shallow to be considered friends.
My son has only been serving a mission for four months. Yet, he has already taught more than one person who has experienced this exact same situation. Someone who feels embraced and loved more than they ever felt before in their lives … for a few months. Then they are dropped and expected to continue on alone in their new faith.
This hurts my heart. I KNOW those of my faith are dedicated to the Lord and want, so very much, to DO good and to BE good.
Yet, too often, we reach out as a project, as a to-do, not in genuine love. We see an opportunity to serve. We jump in with 110%. Then we move onto the next project. Only … people aren’t projects.
A project has a check box. When completed, check!
A person is not a project. There is no end-point to our relationships … or at least there shouldn’t be.
So what should we do? Stop inviting someone new to our faith over to our homes? Stop reaching out in fellowship and love? Absolutely not! Continue to do so! Our warm, loving welcomes are exactly what the Savior would have us do.
We need to stop stopping! Stop having an endpoint to the relationship. Start reaching out with a genuine desire to make a long-term friend.
There are no limits to how many friends you can have! Sure, you can’t invite everyone over every week for dinner; however, you can find space in your life in other ways. Look for a common interest and build upon that. Are you both into landscaping? Plan a visit to a local gardening store together. Enroll in a gardening class together. Visit a local arboretum. The possibilities for this relationship are only limited by your creativity.
Too busy serving to make time for friendship? Honestly, if each of us took the time to actively nurture our friendships, I think there would be less need for service. It wouldn’t be a ‘service project’. It would be spending time with our friends!
My own life has been enriched by the incredible friends that I have. The talents and interests of my friends cause me to look around in wonder at the endless possibilities in this world and within ourselves.
Growing up all over the world gave Emlee Taylor an opportunity to see the incredible differences the Lord created in humanity; and even better, the passions we all share as members of the human race: love for family, faith, & a desire to make a difference. Emlee lives life with passion—focusing her time now on raising four children and teaching them to recognize truth and to live true to that truth, regardless of others’ expectations. Emlee is passionately in love with her bestest friend and husband of more than 20 years.