Back in the days before cell phones (and before I had a car) I would find myself lonely during a fine afternoon and dial a friend on my landline. The idea was to see if that friend wanted to come over and play, but I would hedge my bet. I would ask them what they were doing that day, and if they admitted to some wonderful plan, or too much homework, I would pretend that I had called to say hi, wish them a good day and hang up. Even though it wasn't about me (usually) I hated the rejection. If I didn't ask the question, they couldn't say no.
You'd think that I would have outgrown this sort of thing, but it is still habitual. Nowadays, I do call friends just to talk, and I try to plan time with people, but even so, I find myself lonely in life sometimes.
Yesterday, one of my friends from small group issued an open invitation to any of us who wanted to come and hang out at her house. A couple of us made our way there, even last minute, and we made an amazing dinner and talked and got to know each other on a deeper level.
I'd like to think that I have grown up, and I'm sure that's true, but I think that little girl who is afraid of asking questions directly is still inside of me. I still don't want to say: "do you want to come over and play?" I'm still afraid that someone is going to say no.
Lately, I've been trying to practice asking for what I want. I tell myself that it's worth a try. It's a matter of reaching out, of going part of the way, trusting that someone else will reach toward you as well.
I've been having parties fairly regularly since I graduated from college. They aren't usually very elaborate, just appetizers and drinks and games or a movie. Sometimes they have a theme. Sometimes I cook, sometimes I buy food or ask people to bring it. Whenever I have a party, always, I live in fear that no one will come until the first guest walks in the door. There are very few worse things that I think about on a regular basis than hosting a party where no one comes.
Reaching out is visible and vulnerable for me. When I ask someone to hang out, or I express an interest in getting to know them better, or I invite them into my home, it is possible that I will be rejected. Just like when I was a kid, it is likely that this rejection has nothing to do with me. They have spouses, or kids, or work, or something. But usually, when I ask something like this, I am not rejected. Usually, eyes light up and hands reach out to meet mine.
It is a great feeling to have someone reach out to you. I felt this last night when my friend invited us to her home. I have felt this a lot lately with the people in my small group, who are burning their way into my heart. I felt this the other night when I drove a good friend to the ER (all is well) and sat with her through the wee hours of the night. It is a great feeling to be reached out to and everybody wants to be the one picked, the one singled out and chosen. But someone has to do the choosing. Someone has to do the work of intentionality and reaching. If we all wait in our own little worlds for someone to reach out to us, we will be very lonely.
Sometimes, when I reach out, my reaching seems to disappear into the void. My voicemails or texts or emails go unanswered, I am left hanging. This happens. But more often than not, I reach, and the person I am reaching to, reaches back, and they are glad, and I am too. It is enough.