I heard on the news the other day that our country is experiencing a loneliness epidemic, and our technology advancements have been contributing to this widespread feeling of isolation. Our smart Phones, Facebook, Instagram and twitter accounts have redefined how our generation communicates with each other. People are using their phones more to connect through social media and texting rather than to call a friend and have a conversation. It is easier to send short, cryptic bits of information then to take the time to talk to a friend.
Through social media, we can get a false sense of connection with people, and if we are not careful, we can use social media as the main way we find out what our friends are up to. Though we are hyper connected by a global network, our lack of quality, in person time with people breeds loneliness and depression. I don’t want to just view my friends lives through an iPhone screen. I want to have face-to-face, heart-to-heart, in-person friendships with people – just like Jesus did.
One of my biggest fears of moving to a new city and being a member of a new church was that I would be lonely and not connected with people. I have learned that loneliness can be overcome when I approach my friendships with faith and become intentional in my efforts to spend time with my friends. Since moving to Medford, Oregon four months ago, I have experienced a deep connection with my new friends, and I would like to share about some of the amazing women I have come to love in my new city and how we are developing a deep connection with each other.
My Faith in Jesus has deepened my connections with people as I look to the Bible to define the purpose of my relationships.
In the picture above, Jeanne is the one holding the adorable dog. She and her husband, Bruce, lead co-dependency and chemical recovery groups for Christians in our Church and for the community. She is a nurse by profession, adopted a boy from Russia, an inventor of a new kind of medical mask and has a no-nonsense kind of approach to life. Her direct but loving approach to our friendship as well as her use of the Bible in our conversations has helped me look at my heart more than my accomplishments. In all our conversations she keeps bringing everything back to our hearts.
Then I met Dede. She is the woman on the bottom left. Dede is my next-door neighbor. She is a nurse by profession, a mother to five children who are now all grown, has a handful of grandchildren and has a giving and empathetic heart towards people. Her husband’s company in Idaho Falls transferred him to Medford back in July 2017, and I believe that it wasn’t a coincidence that she and I are neighbors.
Acts 17:24-26 says:
The God Who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth. He does not live in buildings made by hands. No one needs to care for Him as if He needed anything. He is the One who gives life and breath and everything to everyone. He made from one blood all nations who live on the earth. He set the times and places where they should live.
Of all the homes in Medford and all the potential neighbors I could have had, God made sure Dede and I lived next to each other.
I moved into my home on January 9, 2018 and two weeks later Dede came knocking on my door with homemade banana bread. I felt an instant connection with her and we began to walk during my lunch break on the weekdays. Walking and talking with a friend on a consistent basis is one of the best ways to connect with a friend. Back in Jesus’s day, walking with a friend was the most natural activity to do. Most likely Jesus had his best talks with his disciples as they walked from town to town. I believe it was on those dusty roads they spoke openly about their fears, joys, heartbreaks, dreams and secret sins.
Then I introduced Dede to my friend Jeanne, and the three of us started to meet at my house at 7:15 a.m. on Monday and Wednesday to read through the gospel of John. Our time reading the Bible together has directed our conversations to subjects that really matter and has cultivated an atmosphere of honesty and vulnerability.
Dede started to attend church with me and it has been a great joy for me to stand side by side with her as we sing songs during the church service. Then last Sunday her husband came to church for the first time. Dede is growing in her faith and it is astonishing to witness.
Next, I introduced Dede to two other dear friends of mine, Judy and Kristy, and now they have joined us on our midday walks.
Judy is the woman in the middle of the first picture. She and her husband, Dave, lead the Rogue Valley Church of which I am a member. She is a mother to four boys and one girl who are now all grown and have children of their own, and she is wise, fun and full of compassion. Kristy is the woman who is directly to the left of me. She just moved to Medford from the San Francisco area with her husband. She is a computer technician for the public schools, has two sons and is an unpretentious and gracious person.
Another new and dear friend of mine in Medford is Diane. She is currently going through a divorce after 29 years of marriage, and my heart goes out to her because I know exactly what it feels like to be cut off from your husband and to face single-hood after many years of being married.
Last Monday, Diane and I fasted from food to dedicate time to pray for the outcome of her divorce and for our friend, Jeanne, who is getting infusions to raise her platelets. Diane and I ended our fast via Facetime by talking and praying together. What a bonding experience that was for us!
Even though Diane is facing an uncertain future, she has moved towards our friendship with the intent of giving me comfort and encouragement. Diane calls me every day to see how I am doing and spends fun time with me. Her kind gestures towards me are perfectly described in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5:
We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is our Father Who shows us loving-kindness and our God Who gives us comfort. He gives us comfort in all our troubles. Then we can comfort other people who have the same troubles. We give the same kind of comfort God gives us. As we have suffered much for Christ and have shared in His pain, we also share His great comfort.
Below are some of the ways I spend time with my friends, and these times together help me feel connected to them:
- Eat meals at Judy’s dining room table, attend group Bible studies in her living room, enjoy looking at her growing chicks and playing with her dog, Gracie.
- Shop for a mattress with Diane and eat Mongolian food together.
- Chat away with Dede as her husband installs a chandelier above my dining room table.
- Pray with Dede as we walk along the path overlooking the Rogue Valley.
- Watch The Voice in my bonus room with Jeanne as we chat up a storm.
- Visit Dunbar farms with Kristy and buy organic farm food using the envelope honor system.
- Worship together on Sunday morning.
- Read the Bible together and discuss the meaning of life and how to live like Jesus.
- Fast and pray with each other.
- Call each other to share good news.
- Confess our sins to each other.
- Give gifts and cards to each other.
These women and several others, such as my new friends Nancy and Shelly, have refreshed my heart.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you consider the way you are connecting with your friends.
- When was the last time you called a friend or scheduled a call to just simply find out how they are doing?
- Do you answer the phone when people call? Or do you let it go to Voicemail, listen to it and then decide to text the answer later?
- Are you startled when you receive a phone call from a friend rather than a text? Do you immediately think it is an emergency?
- When is it better to call a friend rather than send a text? The other day my friend Nancy called me to let me know that it was best for us to meet at 6:00 p.m. rather than 5:00 p.m. It was a quick call and she could have easily texted me the info that we needed to postpone our diner for an hour, but I really did like hearing her sweet voice and having her discuss briefly why it needed to be delayed.
- When was the last time you sent a card to someone? I received a card in the mail the other day from my friend Marie Ronan. I haven’t see Marie in over a decade and we live in different states. She could have Facebook messaged me, but rather she wrote beautiful words in a beautiful card. I can’t tell you how thrilling it was to open the card from her.
- Do you meet with your friends face to face and have heart to heart conversations with them? Do you read the Bible together and get open about the real issues in your life?
- Are you available to get together with your friends? Do you try to incorporate them in your everyday life?
Since moving to a new city and meeting new people, I have found that the best way to overcome loneliness is to allow Jesus to define my relationships with my friends and step out in faith as I reach out to them. I hope this blog post has inspired you to have more face-to-face, heart-to-heart times with your friends, and if you are doing this already, to take the time right now to thank God for the gift of friendship.