Since my support systems crumbled a year ago, God has been rebuilding my community. A friend recently texted me: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19). Focusing on gratitude today opened my eyes to God doing a new thing through a sweet season of friendships.
When my support systems fell apart, I worried I was too needy to be good company. I asked for help anyway. One friend let me show up on her couch for tea whenever I needed. Another listened just the way I like. My family picked up my frequent phone calls. I was reminded that real friends want to hold you when you’re weak and support you when you’re a mess. Caring for your needs isn’t a burden. The vulnerable risk of asking friends for help opens us up to the grace of love you don’t deserve.
Over the summer, I had the chance to visit the US and Tanzania. I reconnected with old college friends and mentors, relatives, my dad’s Tanzanian colleagues, and missionary families from childhood. My communities have always been transient, so home is people more than place. There’s something special about people who have watched you grow up, who know your family or your formative years. They ground you in who you are and where you come from.
Last year, I adapted to other people to try to preserve relationships, losing some of who I was in the process. Recently, I’ve been privileged to find people I can simply be myself with. Whether it’s celebrating in silly costumes with relatives, playing “Hannah Jeopardy” designed for my birthday by a college bestie and brother, or clicking with a fellow Third Culture Kid, I’ve felt the freedom of being known and loved as I am.
After a season of receiving lots of support, it’s been empowering to support others and focus beyond myself. As several friends have been grieving dashed hopes in their love lives, I’ve been able to relate and comfort them with some of the comfort I received. Sewing a present for a friend or acting like an honorary bridesmaid has also refreshed my joy in giving.
In the wake of relationships ending, making new friends has been healing. Isn’t it encouraging when people like spending time with you? I’ve returned to places with sad associations and made new memories. A new friend whose personality initially triggered me has prompted me to process past hurts and make peace. I’ve randomly reconnected with acquaintances, hosted game nights, and gathered groups to explore a Nairobi bucket list. God has also blessed me with depth in existing relationships, making plans for sleepovers and road trips. It’s a hopeful season with new friends to meet, new places to see, and new adventures to be had.
I’ve gotten back in touch with some best friends from past seasons of my life lately – doing henna with a childhood friend, sipping “tea of amazingness” with an old housemate, or messaging a high school friend on facebook about her upcoming wedding. Though we haven’t kept in touch consistently, these moments affirm the connection we had. They say: “Our friendship still matters to me.”
For a couple years, I’ve been praying for mentors. God answered that prayer in this season. Connections I made earlier bore fruit as I reached out again or seemed to hit a groove. These godly people given me permission to rest, taught me how to teach theology, or said just what I needed to hear about ministry.
Friends have also given me hope for my future. As a single extrovert working remotely overseas, I need social support to stay sane. Laughing and talking all at the same time with the Kenyan ladies in my Bible Study made me think, “These are my sisters.” Last month my workplace officially hired a dear colleague. Side by side at our desks and at a conference, we have shared a new depth and companionship that makes me think, “I could stay here.”
Friendship is beautiful. Friends tell you you’re worth loving when all you have is weakness. They give you the honor of loving them when they wonder if they’re lovable. They want to spend time with you just as you are – even when years have passed. Friends hold up kind mirrors to who you are and celebrate together at what God has done in your lives. They ground you in where you’ve come from and give you hope for where you’re going.
Which friends can you be grateful for today?