How to stay intentional in an unintentional world
In the last five years, I have lived in a small college town, a beach metropolis, and in two of the largest cities in Texas (also known as God’s country). All of these life transitions and moves have brought a lot of goodbye’s, packing many a cardboard box, rearranging furniture and the never ending challenge of maintaining friendships from a distance…. 1,368 miles to be exact.
In the midst of leaving the old and bringing in the new, I’ve come to one conclusion: if you’ve found the rare friend you don’t want to lose, then you should prioritize staying in touch with them beyond the occasional text or Facebook message.
We’ve all sung the famous song, Auld Lang Suyne on New Years Eve, but have you stopped to ponder the question:
Should old acquaintances be forgot, and never brought to mind?
Surely NOT! Not the “acquaintance” who became a friend or even a dear sister in Christ…who dried my tears from a break-up, who reminded me of the truth of God’s word, who prayed over my fears, or the one who answered a phone call in the middle of the night to settle my anxious heart.
So the questions remain:
- How do we live intentionally?
- How do we value our old friends while trying to balance life, a new job, and new friends all while navigating through a new city?
- How do we prioritize our friendships and value them while investing in new potential friends in a new season of life?
Lots of questions, right? …All of which I believe can be answered with a few suggestions. All it takes is commitment and planning.
As easy as we make appointment reminders on our iCal for maintaining our 12 week hair coloring (or what I would like to call my “blonde bondage maintenance”), setting our DVR to record the new season of 24, or sending a group evite for a friend’s birthday dinner… why can’t we translate these easy (1 minute) tasks over to our “friendship calendars?”
- schedule a Skype or Face-time date with a college friend
- send a text in the moment we think of them or a fun memory
- email a Starbucks e-card to celebrate a friend’s anniversary or birthday
- make a phone call as we wait in rush hour traffic
At the end of the day, so many things compete for our attention. While we could chose one if not three of the suggestions above, there will always be other things competing for our time: a house to clean, laundry to put away, an essay to write, a photo to post on Instagram, or an inbox of emails to respond to. As a close friend says, “sometimes we have to choose ‘the better’ of the two.”
So let us discern for ourselves what is right; let us learn together what is good.
Four practical steps to stay intentional with a friend in an unintentional world:
(Keep in mind that you can do this for a friend living next door or in a different state.)
1. Intentionality = Relate-ability
“Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”” – C.S. Lewis
What a sweet gift to remind a friend we all have hurts, tender places, and wounds. We’ve all had our heart broken, battled insecurities, and walked through seasons of wilderness.
By sending a quick note of encouragement or by calling to say “me too” we give permission for that friend to be vulnerable, giving her heart the reassurance that she isn’t facing this situation alone, and there is someone who identifies with her pain.
Not sure about you, but when a friend steps in with a word of grace or comforting smile, you suddenly feel that you are not alone.
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.
2 Corinthians 1:4
2. Intentionality = Prayer
This can be done anywhere.
You can pray in the car. You can pray in line at Starbucks getting your new Oprah’s Chi Tea (really not sure how I feel about Oprah taking over my Starbucks coffee, but nevertheless…). Pray in the office or in class. Pray over lunch.
Why not simply ask, “Can I pray for you about something or can we pray now?” The “now” part is for sure going to be a shocker, or at least it was for me. My dearest friend in college became the first person in my life who instead of offering to keep me in her prayers, offered to pray for me in the moment of my hurt. She pointed the way to Jesus through prayer.
Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. (Romans 12:12)
3. Intentionality = Sacrificial Time (By far the most challenging for me…)
Paul pens in Philippians, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)
As we grow older and responsibilities increase we have less “free-time”. When I moved to Texas from the East Coast, I had the mind-set that I wouldn’t need to make friends because I had the best of them already. My notion was wrong, because I quickly found that I did need community where I was living. However, in order to keep those older and valuable friendships strong, I would have to be intentional to sacrifice time.
So what began in South Carolina as a small weekly community group grew to a cross-country Skype meeting once a month. Our Skype time became our community group time. It was an hour for us to discuss a book that we were reading and to pray together. We shared updates on our life, what God was teaching us in new seasons, and confessed struggles that we needed prayer over.
4. Intentionality = Initiation (Warning label: This may pinch your flesh)
- Initiate the conversation
- Initiate the invitation to dinner
- Initiate the much needed “girls weekend”
- Simply initiate
Our flesh will say, I’ve done this before and haven’t gotten anything in return. Why do I always have to be the one who calls?
By initiating we are being intentional. In her book Radiant, Marian Jordan describes a radiant woman as “one who lives intentionally by setting her priorities according to her purpose to reflect the radiance of Jesus.” We all know how this works. If we desire to do well on a test, then we are disciplined in going to class and intentional about studying. If we desire to loose ten pounds, then we are committed to a healthy lifestyle change. Working out daily. Choosing the cauliflower over the cupcake. Umm…no thank you.
So if we desire Godly friendships that stand the test of time, then we must be intentional about staying in touch with our friends and prioritizing our time for them. Initiate when time is a constraint. Initiate even when you don’t think you’ll have the right words. Initiate because Christ initiated the invitation for YOU to know Him.
As redeemed girls we deliberately choose to live in such a way that every day, every moment, every hour counts for Christ. As redeemed girls we initiate in our friendships, we intentionally seek Him and intentionally set our priorities for those we love.
1. Share some of the ways you have stayed intentional with out of state friends.
2. What have you found to be rewarding in keeping a long-distance friendship and what has been most challenging?
3. Share a time when a friend was intentional and proved to be a ministering agent to your soul.
Apply one or more of these practical steps of intentionality to your friendships. At the end of your summer, share with us on how the Lord blessed you and your friend.
Rebecca Harper, Discipleship Director