Her question caught me off guard.
I was chatting with a woman who was visiting our church. She had attended our church previously, before my husband and I came, so she knew many of the people in our church, but was interested to get to know me a little bit. After telling me some about herself, she asked me, “So where do you call home?”
“Home…” I stumbled in my response to her that day. I think I said something like, “This is our home for however long God says it is.” Her words stuck with me though. I’m sure she didn’t know, but she had touched on something my heart has struggled with for a number of years.
When we first moved to our new church, I was eager to start building lasting friendships (particularly with other young moms around my age) that would make this feel like home. I was blessed with a wonderful church growing up, one that I attended from birth until I left for college. The church family was an extension of my own family. I was blessed with wonderful friends and also adult mentors, all of whom helped shape me into who I am today. And when we arrived at my husband’s new pastorate, I could see these same kinds of friendships around me – I wanted in!
I jumped in with both feet. I was going to make this my new home church as quickly as possible! However, I discovered that you can’t microwave friendship. The kinds of friendships I was looking for couldn’t be formed instantly. True friendships take time to build. It takes time to show that you are really there for someone, to get to know them, to go through things together. I began to realize that the deep and beautiful friendships I saw around me were often the result of 10, 15, 20, or even more years together!
Discouragement began to assail me. How could I, a pastor’s wife, ever have deep friendships like these? I had this deep longing to be a part of a home church, like these women in our church were. I wanted to be able to settle down, sink my roots in deep, and become a part of the fabric of the church and the community. And I realized that as a pastor’s wife, I don’t have that guarantee. I don’t have a guarantee that I will spend that length of time in a church, simply because of the nature of pastoral ministry. We go where God calls us, even if that means leaving a church that feels like home. Could I ever have that home church I longed for? Truthfully, I felt homeless.
God has called us to this ministry. We have been here for almost five years. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. We plan to be here in this ministry setting for however long God wants us to be here. If I had my way, we would be here for a long time – I love this church, this community, the school district that my children attend, and have made some wonderful friends along the way. But I don’t know how long God has us here – if that will be for one more year or ten more years, or 20 more!
I began to realize that my longing for a home church and the friendships that go with a home church were really evidence of a deeper desire. As I prayed to God for answers to my heart’s longing, He reminded me of where my “home” really is through John 14:2-3, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
Of course I long for a home church with lasting friendships – I am longing for my eternal home and eternity with my brothers and sisters in Christ! Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:8, “Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” I long for a place to belong permanently and I long for relationships that reflect that belonging.
During this time, I read Christine Hoover’s book Messy Beautiful Friendship. Through her book and what God was doing in my heart at the time, I was challenged in what I expected friendship to look like. I came to realize that I wanted friends to be there for me in a way that only God can be. He was using my desire for deep friendships to push me toward more reliance on Him. He was pushing me to become more fully satisfied in the Person of Christ. He also challenged me to stop thinking about how to get friends, and focus more on how to be a friend.
Rather than focusing on myself, my desire to feel at home, and my expectations for friendship, I began working on being faithful with the relationships He had already given me. I began seeing more clearly the seeds of beautiful friendships that had been planted in my life, even in places or people I didn’t expect.
I began working on cultivating the characteristics we see in Scripture that distinguish a good friend. For example, Colossians 3:12-14 says, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
With my reminder to be fully satisfied in the Person of Christ first, I have been freed from the restrictive expectations of a perfect friendship. We are made for relationships, beginning with God first, but healthy and God-honoring friendships are an important part of who God has made us to be. Instead of focusing on trying to microwave that “home-church” friendship of 20+ years, I can focus on pouring into the friendships God has already given me, and keep my eyes open for those new opportunities. He has already shown me many! I’ve found that as I focus on pouring into those friendships instead of what I want out of them, He blesses me and grows them deeper day by day. Yes, my home that I long for is in heaven, not on earth, and Christ is that perfect Friend I long for – but by His power, I can strive to be a friend like Him here on earth and be blessed in return through these earthly friendships.
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