Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” –Exodus 3:13-14a
The nerves were probably not very well masked as my mom led me to the classroom. A part of me could not wait to go and explore my new surroundings and the other part of me was terrified that no one would talk to me. It was the first day of kindergarten. I was dressed in a jean dress, headband, and my favorite pink jellies from Gap.
My mom and I said our goodbyes and I immediately panicked because I didn’t know where to put my lunch box, I couldn’t remember the teacher’s name and I had no clue where to sit. Before I could make my first step into the brightly lit room, a blonde-haired girl wearing the same pink jellies and a side-ponytail ran up to me and asked if I would like to color. She saved me from my fear of having to get people to like me. She introduced herself and had me sit down in the blue plastic chair right next to her so we could become friends—a friendship that has lasted over twenty years. You had me at hello, sister-friend.
As adults, we do not share the same inhibitions as small kids do. We seldom approach a complete stranger, much less tell them that we’re going to be friends. They might think, “Well, don’t you think you’re special to become my friend instantly.” But kids don’t share that forethought. They don’t care what they are wearing, what their job title is or who says “hi” first. They just have an instinct to be friendly by making the first introduction. There’s something very vulnerable and authentic about that.
I thought I was pretty good about giving the gift of going first in friendships—introducing myself before the awkward five minutes has passed when it feels too late to say hello. But, as a new mother, I find myself crawling back into my shy shell and having to re-motivate myself to make the first move in mom circles. It’s scary, uncomfortable and small talk is often like twenty questions about where you are from or what your child’s name is (thank goodness for rowdy children to give us something to talk about).
But if we want to pursue rooted community, we are going to have to start with the first step in getting to know anyone–introducing ourselves.
I’ve noticed that when I make the first move to say hello, these “future friends” rarely respond negatively. They are usually overcome with the generosity and intentionality that my actions have communicated. I know this feeling because that is exactly how I feel when I remember that God reached out to me first.
God is in the business of making the first move. He loved us before we were created (1 Jn. 4:19). In a variety of ways, He has spoken to us and reached our lonely places by calling us into a friendship with Him. He introduced Himself as, “I AM” (Gen. 3:14) and as time went on unveiled numerous nicknames (Prince of Peace, Shepherd, Bread of Life, etc.). When God sought me out to be in relationship with Him it was an overwhelming sense of generous compassion and grace—and I want to pass on that same feeling to my future friendships.
What does that mean?
- Introduce yourself to the new girl and warm her heart to her new surroundings. Can you even imagine all the insecurity she might be feeling? Well, you are going to completely disarm those pesky insecurities with a friendly hello and how are you?
- Introduce yourself to the girl sitting alone, you know who I am talking about. Remind that girl that she belongs in community because the body is not complete without her.
- Introduce your friends to new friends. Don’t let a friend walk into a social setting without introducing her to your other friends. She won’t know names, she won’t know the stories so make the introduction for her and suggest a common interest to the two friends. Ex: Hey Shelly, this is my friend Sabrina. Sabrina and I work together and she loves making her kids’ school lunches look like Martha Stewart designed it just like you do. Bam! Done! Best friends in the making!
My hope is that you remember the God who reached out to you so you feel the courage to reach out to others. Building friendships starts with a simple “hey”.
Questions for Your Community:
Why do you think God reaches out to us first?
Why is it important to make the first hello?
How can our community set up a welcoming culture?
Have a chat with your friends and set a game plan for how everyone can take the responsibility of welcoming new friends, introducing past friends to current friends and creating a habit of going first.