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It’s Back to School season. My kids aren’t in school (yet), but that doesn’t keep me from eagerly anticipating another “back to.”
Back to Bible Study!
I’m so ready for summer to be over, for the weather to get cooler, for the plethora of pumpkin-flavored confections to emerge from their year-long hiatus. I'm also ready to get back in the swing of my weekly ministry routine. I feel like I’ve been counting down the days, longing to return to my weekly dose of encouraging and challenging BSF (Bible Study Fellowship). Most of all, I look foward to the time set aside with my long time friends. This year, however, I’m also want to more intentional about making new friends, particularly with those who might need friendship most.
When I was in 10th grade, I couldn’t wait for the school year to start so I could chill with all my theater friends again, every single day for 9 whole months. I didn’t wonder what new and interesting people I would meet in the new school year. I didn’t pray for the new girl out there that I hadn’t met yet, who may be hoping and praying for someone to reach out and include her. I didn’t look around with eyes and heart open, ready for someone new, someone who might need me in her life, or who I might need in mine.
I wish I could say I didn’t think or pray for these things because I was young and immature, or because I wasn’t a Christian yet. But the truth is, I still don’t think and pray this way.
I still look forward to chilling with all my old friends every single week for 9 whole months, just like I did in 10th grade, without a thinking about widening my circle one inch. Just enjoying the new “school year” with the same old friends in the same old bible studies and small groups.
It’s particularly devastating to admit this because I’ve actually been the new girl, standing outside the small group circle desperate to be invited in. My husband and I were quickly and enthusiastically invited to join a very tight knit circle of friends, in the form of a young married couples’ small group, the very first weekend we moved to Peoria, Illinois several years ago. It remains one of the most generous invitations of my life. Those people were our family for two years and those women remain some of my most dear and precious friends. Lucky for me, they did not treasure their time together so much that they hoarded it to the exclusion of others. Like I do.
I’ve also been the “returning girl,” coming back home after several years living out of town. I was welcomed back with many warm hugs and “hellos” and well-wishes, but when it came down to it, very few actually picked up the phone to invite me into their weekly routine. I’m sure many assumed that, as an extrovert returning to my home town and home church, that my schedule would be overflowing and any open spots for new friends and acquaintances would be claimed. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m so thankful for several, usually quite introverted, friends who stepped out to invite me in. I now have a flourishing tribe to call my own. The question is whether or not I’m willing to share it with anyone else.
I’m working on it, guys. Just give me a minute.
Give me a minute to mourn the loss of the super amazing time I would have laughing and reveling in the life-giving company of my closest friends. Give me a minute to selfishly wish I could just kick back and hang out with them all of the days, soaking in the comfort and ease of old friends. - Sigh - Give me a minute to pray for a new, changed heart that notices the new girl or new couple out there this “back to bible study” season.
I need to pray for that new, changed heart, and eyes and ears and mind, ready and waiting and open to someone new. Maybe not new to town, or new to church. Maybe just “new to me.” Maybe there are women who have been attending BSF for several years, but we’ve just never crossed paths. Just maybe, God purposed for 2014-2015 to be our “school” year, the year I finally meet this particular person, my husband and I finally connect with this particular couple, to grow and love and encourage one another from this day forward.
But I ain’t noticin’ anybody new if I’ve got old friend blinders on.
The blinders that keep me laser focused on my comfort, my preference, my entertainment, my ease. The blinders that keep me intent upon only these people in my line of sight, unaware of those on the periphery, who may be waiting for nothing more than a friendly smile to invite them in.
I am (a little reluctantly) taking those blinders off, and with pumpkin-spiced beverage in hand, you can find me at bible study, open and ready to welcome new friends as well as old. Maybe I’ll get a new Trapper Keeper, and some crisp new highlighters. Oooo! And Ultra-Fine Point Sharpie Pens, too. (Okay. Now I’m actually getting excited.)
Fall 2014. New friends coming to a bible study near you. Are you ready?
Marie Osborne is a wife, mama, and blogger who loves Jesus & large non-fat lattes. You can find Marie on her blog encouraging, challenging, and laughing… under a pile of diapers.