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Unexpected Friends

I sat quietly reading the book of James during church one morning.
It's my husband's favorite book of the Bible.
I hadn't read this book lately, but the chapters we had memorized a few year ago merged with the scripture I was reading and I decided to camp out in James for the rest of the month.
Four years ago we had memorized the first two chapters of James. These scriptures all seem to flow seamlessly together and lend themselves to fairly easy memorization.
The student-perfectionistic side of me set a goal to memorize the rest of the book, but a quiet voice told me just to read the book and enjoy it.
So this month I read the chapters on repeat.
Reading the same chapters over and over feels like being washed out.  Like drinking the same glasses of cold water every day. The themes, the verses start coming out in your life, mind, and your imagination even when you aren't trying to think about them.
Several times this month I've been tempted with anger.  I haven't always won, but every time I start down that road James 1:19-20 play back in my brain and I immediately hear a warning and face a decision.  I'm not free to run down the angry path without knowingly sinning.  The words just come because my brain has been soaking in them. 
The whole book is eye opening, convicting to the core, and filled with wisdom.
Chapter two discusses favoritism and I thought new thoughts after reading this chapter.
"My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in.  If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, 'Here's a good seat for you,' but say to the poor man, 'You stand there' or Sit on the floor by my feet,' have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, 'Love your neighbor as yourself,' You are doing right.  But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers."
(James 2:1-4,8-9)
James discusses what was going on in the church during that time concerning showing special deference between the rich and the poor.  He goes on to point out that many of the people being favored actually were harming the church. 
My mind instantly went to a time when I witnessed this played out regularly as a young girl.
At my home church I had watched staff members of my church look with contempt at a certain poor and unkempt handicapped man that frequented the church. His mismatched shoes and suit and loud yet friendly ways weren't welcomed. 
Then my mind went to me. How do I show favoritism? I know my issues aren't so much a rich or poor issue, maybe a friends issue.
We all have favorite people.
Our best friends. The people who fit best with us. 
The people we prefer.
That's all good.  We need those people that know our realest selves and love us where we are.
Sometimes though we arrive at new places of work, new churches, new circle of moms, and new neighborhoods.
We don't really make connections with people.
We are still waiting for the perfect people to befriend or come befriend us.  Perhaps we miss our old friends and the way things seemed to so effortlessly flow whenever we were with them.
Now we find ourselves quiet and uncomfortable in our new environment and new community.
Who will we be friends with?
No one really feels quite like us...like the friends we thought up in our heads or would write down on paper. Or the friends we are connected with throughout years of friendship and shared life. The friends we are comfortable with. 
Now what?
Bekah Jane Pogue writes of God, "And He inches close and says, 'You are never alone.  Even if you feel it.  I am still here'. And then He reveals who He places in my path.  Our neighbors, the unassuming soul at work, a long-time college friend.  'Do you see who I continually pop in your coming and going? As you go about your life, there they are, showing up just around the bend. Do you see them? They are your hand -picked community.'
Why do I dream about so many friends "out there," when in reality, I needn't look farther than the two feet around me? How I desire to embrace the people I encounter and be present with those I'm actually with-not the ones I've ideally prepared a table setting for." (Choosing Real)
I know I've done this many times.  Sulked or silently pulled away, lonely because the people in front of me didn't mirror the people I had just left, my former circle of friends.
On the flip-side I think about all of the unexpected close friends I've made in different seasons of my life that I never would have predicted.
- My quirky, feisty ninety something old neighbor who I miss every day when I got outside on my deck.  Who knew we would have so many smile widening conversations? I can still picture the way his eyes misted instantly when He mentioned his late wife or the way his mouth flew into sailor mode whenever his children meddled in his daily affairs.
- My closest friend the last two years of high school, the Mongolian exchange student that was always at my house, riding in my car, laughing with me on the couch, running laps around the track, and doing artwork with me outside on warm days. Our canvases spread out on quilts. She always reminds me of being seventeen and carefree. A Mongolian genius and an average Virginia teenage girl closely knit together for a couple of golden years. She had one of the sharpest tongues!
- A handful of elderly relics at the rehab center I worked at.  I was lonely and aching for friends in those days, but I found that my closest every day friends were people I pushed to Bingo and sat bedside reading the Bible with and painting their finger nails. They were at that time my dear friends, four times my age. I remember I would leave my new husband, head into work to be with my friends that were all older than my grandmother.
- Several women who could be my mother that circled around me and befriended me at my former church. We seemed so close despite the years that spanned between us.
I can think of many instances, but the point is many friends that fill in the gaps when we arrive in new locales and unfamiliar territory aren't the people we perhaps imagined.  The one in our age bracket, with our same history, or same personality.
Yet, they are the "hand-picked community" God has handed us for the current season of our lives.
Am I going to accept them or show favoritism remembering former friendships? Am I going to  make judgements on people I don't know keeping me from a sweet friendship? Judgments on whether we are similar enough to be friends?  Am I going to let past rejections or friendship failures keep me from the current people on the doorstep of my daily life?
My sweetest friends have come to me courtesy of God himself.  Nothing I orchestrated.  Not someone I tried to garner a friendship with because of who they were, but rather someone who God plopped down right in front of me and I fell in love with.


Comments

  1. Wow, Somer, you've gleaned much from one of my favorite books. It's been awhile since I've sat with all that wisdom ... you're prompting me to go sit with maybe just a verse a day.

    Thanks for the gentle nudge toward God's Word!

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    Replies
    1. Thank You Linda :) It has been good to read those words this month.

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  2. Somer, beautiful. When I first married (forever ago, it seems!) Uncle Sam moved us across the country. I felt like I was in culture shock as a new wife and in a culture I'd never lived in before. Those first couple months were hard because I kept looking for that which I knew, waiting for it to be manifested in my new locale. God showed me the verse that talks about growing roots downward and bearing branches upward. I felt like he was telling me to bury my roots deep in him and to grow branches outward to those who now peopled my world. It turned out to be an amazing year. You're right. We mustn't show favoritism to friends faraway. God always has new people for us to meet and be knit together with. :) Great post!

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    Replies
    1. Jeanne, I like your image of the tree :)
      Thank you

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