I clicked on my Instagram feed and there it was. A group of my girl friends, all together, having fun, laughing and smiling. All together at an event that I hadn’t been invited to.
It wasn’t the first time I’d been left out, but this time it really hurt. I turned off my phone, tried to distract myself by cleaning the kitchen, and clenched my jaw as tears filled my eyes.
I wish I could say this happened to me in high school, back when I was a little more dramatic and my friendships a little more fraught. But it happened long after high school, long after college, too. It happened this year, in my adulthood. I am married, I have a son, I pay taxes, I have health insurance. I am a grown up.
Yet there I was, standing in front of a kitchen sink, my head hanging and shoulders trembling as I fought back the tears. Because I had been left out. And it really hurt.
You’ve probably had a similar experiences, whether it’s after moving cities, states or even just changing jobs or neighborhoods.
My trouble began about 3 and a half years ago when I left my home state of North Carolina and moved to Illinois. I left behind a long-standing network of wonderful friendships, but I had high hopes about the new friendships to come.
I had no idea just how difficult it would be.
What I soon learned was how hard it is to make friends as an adult. Part of the problem was my expectations. I expected to make friends as quickly as I had in college. In college, friendships come easily and organically, and a lot of that is circumstantial. You live in the same dorm as hundreds of people your age. You are together all the time, staying up late into the night talking about every manner of topic. In college, you can cover a lot of ground very quickly, all while bonding through the adventures of a new life stage.
College friendships are forged out of intense proximity, and that formula is rarely replicated after that stage of life. Once you graduate, you get a job, you live farther apart from people. Maybe you get married and have kids. As a result of these life changes, post-college friendships take a lot longer to cultivate.
And that was part of my problem. I expected to make friends as an adult at the same rate I had in college. In reality, it is a rare friendship that grows deep in such a short amount of time. Most friendships—good, tried and true friendships—take years.
Like me, you also may feel like the new kid in town. When you haven’t had the time to form those deep friendships, it can hurt. You can feel alone some days, even a little insecure. But as you strive to forge friendships in every stage of life, here are a few things to remember:
There’s nothing wrong with you
Satan loves to isolate us. In the same way that a soldier is more vulnerable without his army, the same is true of believers. When you are isolated, you are most vulnerable to attack. Once he can get you alone, the Enemy will pummel you with lies.
Chief among them is the lie that something is wrong with you. Every time I am excluded—which, I should add, is never done maliciously or intentionally—my heart becomes clouded with lies: They don’t like me. They probably don’t need any more friends. They think I’m snobby. I will never fit in here.
And on and on they go.
But here is the truth: friendships take time. Most of the believers I know are not catty people who build themselves up by tearing others down. Most believers I know are hospitable and loving and kind. Most believers I know love Jesus so much that they can’t help but welcome new people with open arms, just as Jesus did.
But most believers I know are also imperfect. Things fall through the cracks. They make mistakes. Not because there is something wrong with me, and not even because there is something wrong with them, but because this is the broken world we live in. Oversights and busyness happen. And it’s not personal at all.
You are created for community.
The ache in your heart at being left out can make you feel pathetic. But the truth is that desire for community is a God-given one. He created us for community, which is evident throughout the created order. Marriage, family, friendship and most of all the Church are all evidence of God’s intent.
You have a friend in God
As good a thing as community is, community will sometimes fail us. Whether it is a broken friendship or a falling out with a church, our relationships will let us down. But even on those days, we are not alone.
In John 15:15 Jesus calls us friends, reminding us that perfect friendship is only to be had in Him. All other friendships are only signposts pointing to the one true friend who will never betray or disappoint. God will never exclude or hurt us. So that deep yearning in me is not just a yearning for earthly friends, but for friendship with Christ.
I’ll remember that the next time I feel left out. That ache in my heart is not pathetic. Instead, it is the quiet beckoning of the Father, urging His daughter to come find refuge and friendship in Him.