I am not a naturally gregarious person. My friends don’t believe it, but I was actually painfully shy in high school. Up until the time I realized I needed Jesus in my life, I was not only painfully shy I was also a pretty shallow and self-focused person as well.
Walking with the Lord the past fifteen years has done a lot to change that aspect of my character, granted, but even today it can be a challenge to make new friends, especially when there is no one else around to make introductions. In instances where I am around people who are largely unknown to me I tend to be a wallflower, tagging close behind the people with whom I am most familiar.
Recently our pastor has been teaching on the ‘One Anothers’ of the Bible. You know, love one another, greet one another, and that one I dread … speak to one another. Well, after being challenged in how we greet one another (there was a lot of holy kissin’ going on that weekend!) I have been trying to discipline myself to become more outgoing, especially in a place where being gregarious should be second nature – church.
According to the MSN Encarta online dictionary ‘gregarious’ primarily means “friendly: very friendly and sociable.” Outgoing carries with it the idea of being confident in social situations. Oh. So. Not. Me. Seriously, that painfully shy, shallow and self-focused girl of my youth wasted a lot of opportunities to get to know some amazing people because she could not bring herself to engage people socially. Another meaning of the word describes communal living, especially organisms that tend to live in groups. But as I pondered the meanings, I was most struck by the Latin root of the word – grex – which means ‘flock’ and also provides the root for our word ‘congregate.’ Do you see where I am going with this?!
Shouldn’t we feel most comfortable in the places where we congregate or flock together? The Lord really hit this concept home to me a few years ago when we were first settling into our new church. Having lived with this sense of timidity for many years, I began to feel that it was time to muster up some courage. After all, if I truly believe that God has not given me a spirit of timidity, but of power, love and discipline (2 Timothy 1:7) then I need to be living into the courage that comes with being a believer in Jesus Christ. So as we came to our new church home, I realized God was calling me to a new way of looking at relationships with others.
I recently shared at our annual Women’s retreat that early in my walk with Christ, I had a hard time getting past my past. This attitude compounded my natural tendency toward timidity and making new friends came much too hard. Then one day a few years ago God encouraged me to be bold by reminding me that in Christ I am a new creation. I began to believe that when in a room full of presumably Christian women, I need not feel ‘less-than’ others but I am completely equal in Christ; and that no other woman need feel ‘less than’ for the same reason. We are all equipped with the ability to be confident, gregarious, as we gather or ‘flock’ together in Christ.
Fast forward to this morning … We brought our breakfast at church to a table where some dear friends were seated. Across from us were two older women, obviously friends themselves, but very much alone otherwise. As we chatted with our own friends, our pastor’s words from the morning compelled me – speak to one another. I had already ‘greeted’ them, but now I turned to engage these two precious women at our table. I actually introduced myself!
At this point let me just say that when God wants us to learn a better way to operate in the body of Christ, He certainly shows off what He can change in us to make it happen. I was truly blessed to get to know these sweet saints in our body! After some captivating conversation we were able to exchange contact information to make plans to see one another outside of church – and lest you wonder if that is a biblical mandate or not, I hope we are going to be hearing about being ‘hospitable to one another’ (1 Peter 4:9) in a few weeks.
I am so grateful that God continues to mold and fashion me. I am so grateful that I did not have to stay in a state of shyness and timidity and I am truly thankful that I did not pass up an opportunity to get to know these amazing godly and encouraging women in our church! I really can’t wait to see what glorious treasures God has for these new friendships in the coming weeks.
‘Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart.’ 1 Peter 1:22
With a holy kiss …