Tag: Belonging

Two Questions to Find Deeper Relationships

Who would you say is the greatest friend you ever have? As you think about that person, you felt like you clicked. Proximity played an important role. You might have gone to high school or college together. No matter where you are today with them, you feel like you can pick up where you left off.

For some people, you have a close friend with whom you remain close to this day. Yet, many of us build a bond with a person or group of people and for various reasons we relocate or they do. Sometimes, we lose touch due to changing life stages.

On a regular basis, I help people try to get connected into small groups. My job title is even called Belong Director –the guy that helps you BELONG at a church. You and I pursue community to engage the Bible, pray together, and serve, but our larger hope is to find our tribe, the people with whom we can share life.

Let’s be honest. This process of finding deeper and more meaningful relationships is tricky. It’s far more art than science.
Each decade of our lives has more complications through changing life stages.
The effort it takes to meet new people can feel exhausting.
Even when we intentionally commit to a new group of people, we’re not always convinced it’s the right one.

An observation that I have seen in myself and others is this: we measure our new relationships by our best old relationships.

What do I mean by that? Remember the friend you answered in the first question? When you set out to find deeper community, ultimately you are looking for something similar to the good you had. Don’t get me wrong; there are consistent characteristics of great friendships that are universal. But there is a line of wanting to over-replicate something you already had.

When we measure our new relationships by the old ones, we will have a difficult time letting the new friendships grow naturally. In many ways, we’re asking for duplicates rather than originals. Our expectations could be ruining the beautiful reality of growing relationships.

You might find yourself in this spot. You moved to a new area or you long for deeper relationships. I want to leave you with two questions to pursue deeper relationships: What’s realistic to your life stage right now?

1. What’s realistic to your life stage right now?

Many people tell me that their most meaningful relationships came during their time in college and 20’s. Both these eras of our lives had copious amounts of availability and invites. Then our career responsibilities and family life changed. Start with what’s possible to develop now and manage your expectations.

2. Who are two-three people that I want to invest more time into?

I think we have to start with the people already around us. Whether you’re an extrovert or introvert, we can either meet too many new people or not enough. Start with two-three people. Perhaps you meet with them one at a time and then move to a group setting. Begin by building the proximity so a deeper relationship can happen.

What insight can you give about finding deeper relationships? Share in the comment section below.

Photo produced by Phil Coffman

The Front Porch

I grew up in the Italian section of Endicott, NY. You could smell the garlic and sauce cooking miles away. If you walked the blocks of the neighborhood, you would see the various front porches. Each neighbor had their chair or rocker with a distinct creak. As a kid, I would ride my bike around the block and wave to my neighbors.

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Waving to my neighbors on their porches taught me about experiencing community. Every once in a while we would strike up a conversation about the Yankees, cars, and the old stories of IBM, which started in Endicott. Front porches provided space for neighbors to get to know each other.

Joseph R. Myers in the Search to Belong devotes a whole chapter to “Searching for the Front Porch.” He comments, “I wish for a front porch. I am not alone. In our time people have a hunger for a significant ‘median space.'” Myers describes the front porch as providing space between the public and intimate.

When people look to belong, they look for a safe and neutral place to get to know others at their pace. Some of us feel lonely and long for such places. Others of us would like to include more people, but do not always know how to create the space to meet with people.

The New Testament gives us glimpses Jesus meeting the woman at the well, meeting a blind man on a roadside, and his greatest sermon happened on a mountain to a synagogue. These snapshots of Jesus as someone who found the front porches. He invited people to know him rather than forcing relationships to happen.

Where are the front porches today? Go to any local coffee shop, Starbucks, Panera or diner. You can find the median spaces in lobbies, atriums, and parks.

Living out the Gospel in community means creating space for others. Inviting them to get to know you with no agenda. Learning to listen to them as they share their story. Remembering their name time after time. Grace motivates us to help them sense God’s presence in a way they can receive.

We look for and create front porches to help people belong as God intended them.

What memories do you have of front porches? What spaces have you considered “front porches” today?

Photo credit to Logan Adermatt

The Long Journey Home

Interstate 90 runs from the eastern to the western coast of the United States. Over the last few weeks, I have gotten to know the little section running from Buffalo to Albany, NY. The adventurous part of me still relishes the trek to the destination. Open roads invite us to follow after new opportunities.

unnamedThe picture above depicts the decorative creativity of my wife, Robyn. As much as I enjoy the open road, I have growing love of walking through the front door after a journey. Most of us long for the place where we can put our feet up, grab a snack from the fridge without asking and sleep in our very own bed.

Maya Angelo in All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes said, “The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”

Our deepest desire for home correlates to our need to belong. The real longing for home perhaps means the hope to be who we really are. To find out that the people who know our best and worst still want to spend time with us. Even further, to know the Creator of all things has accepted us by His grace.

Christmas speaks of a long journey home. Jesus begins his life exiled from both his earthly and heavenly home. The Savior of the universe became homeless, so that we could have a home. He invites to belong as we are and to become what He always intended us to become. Our long journey home starts by recognizing the infinite love and acceptance by God incarnate.

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