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In Defense of Small Talk: The Common Grace of Friendship

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendships recently. There’s a chapter in the depth study I’m writing all about them. I try to explore what it means to have deep friendships and why it’s important. I still have some work to do but it’s coming along. 

This weekend we went to our godson’s first birthday party in Dayton. His grandparents from both sides were there and a few other friends, like us, from various pockets of his parents’ lives. But the main crew was their neighborhood friends. Other young couples with young kids whom they’ve met over cul-de-sac bike rides and trips to the mailbox. 

The couples all laughed and mingled and helped each other’s kids unwrap cupcakes or get back up after falling. We were there for three hours and I never quite learned which kid belonged to which parent. They passed babies between them and helped and held whichever one tugged at their pant leg. To someone not yet in that season it was an easy group to envy (in a hopeful, one-day kind of way) because the community so clearly runs deep.  

A day earlier I’d gone to brunch with my friend Jenny, who I met through my in-laws but got to know through BeautyCounter. She and I talk almost every day through the Voxer voice texting app. A lot about the business and what sales are happening or what new product just came out. But about the rest of our lives too. Like what her kiddos are up to for summer or what my plans are for the weekend. Plus the occasional fear or insecurity or prayer request. Little snippets of our whole selves showing up through a little orange app. 

And all of this has me thinking about friendships. Of all the forms they take and ways they interject into our lives. 

The friends we know because they live on our street or the friends we make through common interest. And, well, all the rest. 

I’ve always been a few, deep friends kind of girl. I’m an introvert and will never be the life of the party / never met a stranger / social butterfly that many of my friends are. But I grew to accept that about myself. Claiming that I don’t enjoy small talk because I crave connection and that I’m not good at surface-level friendships because life doesn’t feel very surface-level to me most of the time.

So I narrowed in on that. I spent my “friendship energy” on my closest friends and said no to a lot of social events with people I don’t know very well. I resigned myself to the few, deep friends way of life and went along my happy, somewhat anti-social way.

But as I’ve thought more and more about friendships – as I’ve made work friends at my new job and gym friends I workout with every Wednesday and NYC friends who are also caught up in the crazy waves of the city and therefore I see once a month to catch up over drinks –I’ve realized how beautiful and worthy and wonderful these other forms of friendship can be

We need the few, deep friends. We need the people we cry with and rejoice with and tell our hardest truths to without fear of judgement or indifference. But we need all the others too. We need the “can you hold my baby”, “let’s try this yoga class”, “what do you think about this lipstick”, “remind me what your husband does again” friendships to deepen the roots of our season and surroundings and better experience the gift of common grace.

People are weird and complex and interesting and beautiful and awful. We’re all some mix of fear and hope, sin and grace, failure and triumph, forgiveness and the need to be forgiven. We’re all mourning something, loving something, learning something, and wishing for something more, and we’re all given the chance to rejoice in the commonality of it all if we’d just open ourselves up to those around us. 

There’s so much hate and distrust in our lives and a million reasons to close our doors and stick with the people we know. But how much beauty would we miss if we did so? How many opportunities for connection or laughter or a glimpse of God’s grace would we lose out on? How much of God’s sovereignty – poured out into every turn our lives may take and every person whose path we cross along the way – would we ignore if we simply weren’t willing to see it?

I’m not saying I’m about to become a massive extrovert and befriend every person I see on the train. I’m just feeling more aware that the details of our lives are held within His perfect purpose and so the people we come across are there by intention. Maybe to encourage or remind us of God’s presence. Maybe for us to encourage or connect with in some way. Maybe as a gift of friendship or chance to practice loving others we wouldn’t naturally love, who knows. But all within the bounds of God’s sovereignty. 

Even an introvert can find some hope in that.

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