Friday, April 9, 2010

Many Kinds of Friendly

I received an email last week that started a spiral of thoughts. As I worked out my response I started to scrape away what I didn't believe and was left with a clearer picture of what I know to be true. I love the things that make me slowly and thoughtfully sort out my beliefs. They're tangled again, just like the mess of necklace chains that I neatly put into a plastic zip-lock bag five years ago, but haven't worn since. If I'm careful, I can sort them all out without breaking anything.

Who would call you friendly? The cashier at Haggen? The barista at Starbucks? The third grader at the park who needed help getting his kite back in the air when his mom's hands were busy changing his little sister's diaper? The construction workers who have been working on the road at the bottom of your street for the last three weeks? The new mom at MOPS last week?

Are you embarrassed, like me, because you aren't sure that anyone on that list would slide you into the friendly category without at the very least an uncomfortable pause? I've spent time sorting through my guilt at not being what I call First Impression Friendly. I know someone is already coming to mind. She's the one who always smiles. She might be telling you about the death of her dog, but somehow within seconds the smile has again pushed its way back up her sweet face. Before you realize you're doing it, you're smiling and you don't stop smiling for a couple minutes after she's off talking to somebody else. You like her, but somewhere deep down (and it shames you), you're annoyed too.

I've tried to be a First Impression Friendly. I can't seem to get beyond cheery wallpaper. And that just makes me so tired. My cheekbones literally ache. Don't misunderstand me, God does call us to work on our First Impression Friendly skills, even if it exhausts and frustrates us.

My failure has led my contemplative tendencies to wander down a parallel path because I have friends, really deep friendships. I have friends that I can go months or even a year without quality time and then sink immediately into sharing heart hurts while standing in a grocery store parking lot. I call that a Deep Friendly. Sometimes a Deep Friendly doesn't know how to make small talk with you until you've first sat down over a cup of coffee and heard each other's life stories. In fact, the ones who are naturally Deep Friendly might have made you slightly uncomfortable when you first met them. But now they are the ones that you are drawn to in a crowded room when you are feeling slightly insecure. They know your story, even the ugly uncomfortable parts and they still like you, in fact they probably like you even more now that they know that you are flawed, too.

The email I received this week had to do with the level of friendliness they experienced at our church (I won't tell you whether they thought it was a friendly church or not, because that isn't the point). First Impression Friendly gives a church a good reputation. It might even draw in a lot of new people. Churches need those people, they would struggle to survive, let alone flourish without them. Secretly I wish I was one. I'm not. But it's the Deep Friendly that keeps those new faces coming back week after week because they've become apart of the community.

If you have mastered First Impression Friendly you might be annoyed with us Deep Friendly types because we can't just make ourselves "be friendly". After all, you rationalize, I have deep friends, too, I can do both, they just aren't trying hard enough. We seem to leave an awful lot of the burden on you guys to make people feel welcome when they walk through the church doors on Sunday. But the truth is you don't know what's going on in people's homes or at a coffee shop after you've done (what I consider the hard work) of getting someone to consider coming back a couple of more Sundays. So, while you are off making even more people feel warm and fuzzy inside, we're giving hugs to those who have started to become regulars and talking about meeting for coffee.

What kind of friendly are you? Thank God that He made you that way. Intentionally use the tendencies He gave you this week for His glory.

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