Friendship: When Adulting Feels Risky
Eight years ago, I took what felt like a big step into the unknown. I asked an acquaintance if she wanted to have lunch.
Perhaps I was a stunted 27-year-old, but this was a gigantic leap for me.
Now hear me out, I had friends. I loved having people over to play games, and I felt quite comfortable working side-by-side on a service project with others, chatting in-between the tasks. I got along with co-workers. I was even part of a group of college friends that was so close several of us had moved from Illinois to Oklahoma together.
But those college friendships had developed so naturally - almost without effort. Everyone was used to meeting strangers, and there were plenty of settings where this sort of thing just happened. Dustin and I had gotten to know one another in mostly group settings, and it had all just been fairly simple. But this wasn't college anymore, and it seemed to be getting harder to truly get to know people.
What happened to the endless opportunities for late-night conversation over way too much Easy Mac? Why did it feel so hard to make new friends? And why did I feel so vulnerable when I considered asking this friend to meet for lunch?
We’d known each other from church for a while, and I could tell we had lots in common. But there was something about the one-on-one environment that seemed more risky. The idea of keeping up conversation with just one person for an hour seemed daunting. What if we ran out of things to say, and it just got awkward?
Through gentle encouragement from my people-person husband, I pushed myself to ask her anyway, and she immediately said yes. She seemed excited. We made a plan. And I still felt nervous.
Despite my initial anxiety, when we met the following week, things went well. We shared stories and found a myriad of connections over our dreams and passions. Conversation flowed almost seamlessly, and when lunch was over, I was so glad that I had asked her to go.
I soon realized that there were lots of women around our small church who I didn't know very well. And as uncomfortable as I still was, I pushed myself to make a few more "asks" and set-up a handful of coffee and lunch meetings over the next several months.
Each time was the same routine. In the hours before the meeting, I would freak out. I'd start feeling inadequate. I'd worry that I'd be terrible at conversation, boring to talk to, and bad at asking questions. Yet somehow, with a little positive self-talk, I'd go to the next scheduled meeting, praying that it would be ok and that the person on the other side of the table wouldn't hate the experience.
And the truth is, each meeting was vastly different. Sometimes, we'd click immediately. The conversation would be smooth and uncomfortable silences few. Sometimes, it was a little harder. I'd become too self-aware and overly concerned about the other person's perception of me.
But the more I did it, the easier it became and the less anxiety I had about the whole thing.
Now, eight years and dozens of coffee dates later, I consider this form of community to be essential in my own formation, and one of the most life-giving aspects of my job.
Through intentional, one-on-one conversations, I’m learning to be a better listener — to ask another question instead of talking more. I’m learning to be more present — to practice “withness” instead of self-assessment and image management. I’m learning to be more generous — to understand that while not every coffee date or lunch will turn into a lifelong friendship, connection is still important, and the time is still worthwhile. And I’m learning to be more sensitive to the Spirit’s movement — to notice the way that God is working within the story of the individual across the table and in my own heart during our time together.
That friend of mine, who I asked to lunch eight years ago, became one of my closest friends. We now live states apart, but every time we’re together (as we were earlier this month) I’m grateful that I didn’t let fear keep me from knowing her. She’s one of my favorite people.
Sometimes, almost always, community involves risk. And whatever that looks like in your own life, I encourage you to take a step forward into what could feel uncomfortable. You might be surprised at the way God meets you there.
Christina is married to her college-sweetheart, Dustin, and finds life with him to be fun and steady, two qualities she values highly. When she’s not watching “shows” that her girls Kaylynn and Kristin put on in their playroom, Christina can be found at one of the local coffee shops where she spends her time writing, reading, or playing board games with Dustin on the occasional date night.