I don’t want to romanticize the call to diversity within church communities. Especially for introverts like me who like to have our few close friends that get us and are perfectly content to live out the rest of our days with only those select few. Knowing we need a table big enough for everyone is one thing. Setting it and inviting the guests that Jesus talked about inviting is another thing entirely.
We fight for the marginalized, but it gets trickier when we’re talking about individuals instead of an abstract concept. No one wants to be viewed as the other or as someone’s project. Using the term “marginalized” alone creates a distinction of “us” and “them,” which must change in order for true relationship to flourish. When a person has been abused or abandoned, their normal is often dysfunction and chaos, so presenting an alternative and sticking with someone while they travel down the road towards healing is messy.
Picking up the phone and making the call to invite someone into my life is much harder for me than fighting the system. This is why those few close friends who are walking beside me are crucial. They inspire me by their own lives and encourage me to press into God’s calling on my life. They remind me that breaking down social barriers requires actually picking up the phone. Showing up. Even when it feels so horribly awkward. They spur me on to follow through when I’d rather not.
None of us are meant to live a life based on maintaining the status quo. If we are to live meaningful lives rich in the love of God, there will be many times of discomfort. The fears that come with reaching out beyond my comfort zone sometimes come true. This is a great reminder that I am not the answer to anyone’s problems. I am not called to sweep into a person’s life to save the day. I am called to offer my friendship and to walk alongside those who will let me in, but I can’t force myself into their lives. There must be mutual trust and a willingness to learn on both sides.
The church at its best is a place of diversity lived in relationships that don’t make sense apart from Jesus. I’m walking in this relational tension but longing for it to lift and be replaced by the joy of life-giving friendship. Time and commitment are key, but I’d love to know what others do to tear down walls and normalize discomfort. Especially those who tend to be more introverted.
How do you overcome the things that divide in order to build beautiful, safe and strong friendships?