BFF’s are great if you have one. But what if you don’t?
I grew up a missionary’s daughter. When I was in the sixth grade my family temporarily moved back to the US. My brothers and I attended a Christian Academy. I discovered two things during that time: that there was a “popular” group and that I was not in it. Maybe it was the outdated clothes or the fact that I had no idea how to be culturally relevant.
After four more years in Europe, we moved back home for good. All at once I was supposed to acclimate to the American dating game, pep rallies, science fair projects, fundraisers, Valentine banquets, and using a locker.
I have memories of walking into the door of many a new church as a child and teenager. There is nothing quite like the insecurity of wondering what to do with your hands and wishing all of the stares in the room would turn towards someone else. I desperately desired to blend into the crowd and to escape the questioning glances. Someone offering the hand of friendship was a God send.
Now, as an adult, I have mastered the art of introducing myself to new people and small talk. I can easily spot the new person in the room. I know the face, the furtive glances, the conscious placement of the hands.
My husband and I live in a small town in Georgia, where many of the locals were born and raised. After our move here, I wondered when it would be my turn to feel like an insider and I asked God about these things. He seemed to answer: “Anna, I need you on the outside. I need you to see the people who don’t fit in.”
I am now a middle school teacher at the local private school. Ironic? Not at all. God often transforms our most painful experiences into a calling.
I watch the dynamics of my students’ friendships. I love to gently nudge someone towards a new student. Often the “old ones” don’t even notice at first: perhaps because the veterans are popular and wish to remain that way. Or maybe because they are worried about their changing bodies, their grades, their friends, or who they have a crush on.
By getting outside of who you are and reaching to someone new, you find freedom from the trap of yourself and you find Christ. Befriending a new person is like offering them a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name.
As adults, the game doesn’t change. There are those who will never see the new people around them. They will always be more concerned about who their friends are; if they are fitting in; if they have been invited to the parties; if their houses, cars, and clothes are Pinterest-esque. Just because we grow older doesn’t mean that we grow up—myself included.
What about our children? How can we help them overcome feelings of “not fitting in”? Unfortunately, we parents tend to live vicariously through them. When they are left out, we become offended for them—even when their feelings are not hurt! I think one of the best gifts we can give our children is to teach them how to check out of the game; how to live by Jesus’ standards. Then the door opens up to a whole new dimension: a life free and independent. Blessed are the unoffended.
“Make new friends, and keep the old: one is silver, the other is gold.”
Best friends, the true kind, are not overrated at all: the kind that allow room in the relationship to reach out to others and are not exclusive. Lord, help me to be that kind of friend.
Anna Caulley is the author of Jack’s Journey: Ordinary Man, Extraordinary Journey, to be released September 2015. To learn more about it, check it out on Amazon.