This post is by Kelli LaFram.
I stared down at the phone I was holding in my hand, reading and rereading the text I had just tapped out, but was hesitant to send. Why was this so nerve-wracking, so scary? It’s just a text, just an invitation. Wasn’t it? No, it was more. I was lonely and wanted friendship centered on Jesus, but it was also a risk. If I hit send on that invitation and it was rejected… Well, then my loneliness would only be amplified.
Making the time for in-real-life (IRL) relationships matters. It is so easy to sit in front of our computer screens and participate in online communities, such as the blessing of HelloMornings, but we need more than typed-out prayers and words of encouragement. While online connections and communities do have a place in our lives, they are not a substitute for in person, face-to-face, interpersonal relationships. We need to experience the love of God through the medium of real-life human interaction, which is why building the habit of IRL community is so important.
But it’s scary, right? I recently asked the ladies in our Hello Mornings Community what keeps them from engaging in or pursuing meaningful IRL friendships. Here are just a few of their answers: fear of being hurt, fear of being vulnerable, fear of judgment, and fear of not living up to others’ expectations. Do you notice the theme of fear?
Fear is not from God (2 Timothy 1:7), so who is it from? Satan. And he wants us isolated and alone because in that state we are weak, vulnerable and a sitting target.
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
We are not created for loneliness and isolation. We are created in the image of God, who, through the example of the Trinity, displays the perfect picture of interpersonal connectedness. Being habitually separated from people leads to emotional, mental, physical, and even spiritual unhealth, so it is absolutely necessary that we make an effort to habitually seek out and engage in IRL community. We need to spend time in the actual presence of another human being created in God’s image. Making eye contact, knowing and being known, speaking words of encouragement, feeling what others are feeling, and even rebuking each other when necessary are more important than our screen-addicted society is aware of.
I’m 40+ years old and I still find IRL community challenging, so if you are reading this post with sweaty palms and a quickening heart rate, know that you are not alone. Reaching out and asking someone to be part of your life is intimidating. So here are a few tips to help you take the first steps toward IRL community.
I finally sent that nerve-wracking text message. It was an invitation to a monthly Bible study in my home. Not everyone that I invited came. In fact, some ladies flat out ignored my invitation. Others came only once and never came back. But a small handful have kept returning each month and because of this I am witnessing -- no, experiencing! -- friendships blossom.
It would have been easier to let fear win -- to never have sent the text message. Sitting at my computer and relying solely on social media for connectedness would have been less vulnerable, but that would have left me wanting, as it always does. So many of you know exactly what I’m talking about, so let’s determine that this year will be the year we habitually pursue IRL community.
Kelli LaFram is actually Kelli LaFramboise, but no one can pronounce that, so with the permission of her family she writes under the shorter pen name. Her neighbors have started referring to her bunch as the LaFram Fam. In addition to writing for Hello Mornings, Kelli leads a Bible study in her home and serves in the children’s ministry at her local church. Kelli is an elementary school teacher and her hobbies include blogging about God’s word, listening to audiobooks with her children, drinking good coffee, and hand painting faith-based signs (but not after too much coffee). You can find her at www.quietlyreminded.com and https://www.instagram.com/kellilafram/.
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