One movie I really enjoy is “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, I love the idea of a huge family where everyone is really close and there is always food and festivity happening! There are obviously downsides to this as well (that the main character struggles with!) but I still love the idea of such a warm, close knit community!
The Desire for Friendship
I have a great family but it is also a very small family, when I was 5 we moved away from the region where our extended family live to go to Greymouth and then later on Christchurch. I have one sister (who is amazing) but she left home when I was 12 because she is 6 and a half years older than me and she was going to study in Dunedin.
When I was at high school I didn’t really have friends and didn’t really fit in anywhere. However, God gifted me with a strong personality and convictions so most of the time I didn’t mind not being popular or having friends but I did long for the kind of relationships I read about in books that involved constant phone calls, sleepovers, and secret sharing; for friends who would plan surprises and celebrations for me and who I could do the same for.
Now as an adult I am making up for lost time and have so many wonderful friendships that bring so much joy to my life including my very best friend – my husband Eoin! I am so happy to have so many great friendships now but I also really valued my earlier experiences because looking back I can see how God used them to shape me and bring good from them!
God’s Greater Plan!
Romans chapter 8, verse 28 says “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
This verse is in a passage that talks about suffering, endurance, and future hope; it is not talking simply about how God will give us good things (even though he does!) but it is talking about how even in bad situations, God can bring good out of them for his people.
If you had asked me when I was a teenager whether I wanted a group of close friends to share high school with I would have said ‘Yes!’ but then I would have missed out on what I have learnt from the experience of being lonely and desiring special, close, friendships.
Today one of the things that makes me saddest is people who feel lonely, insignificant, left out, or picked on. There are few things that wring my heart as much as the idea that someone doesn’t have friends (or sometimes even family!) who make them feel like they’re special. I feel I have deep wells of empathy which I can draw upon (and do without even thinking) because I have had the experience of lacking friendship.
One of my goals in life is to make sure no one around me lacks someone to celebrate them, tell them they’re special, befriend them, and generally make them feel loved! Since I know what it is like to experience this and desire this I feel like it is easier to spot that in other people and be able to come alongside them, it is like God has given me radar vision for people who need someone to love them!
The Blessing of the Church Family
When I came to university I started attending a new church and I really came to understand the depth and breadth of the church family and how much of a gift it is! I came to understand how the church family is just like our immediate family – God puts you there and you are meant to stick with them through thick and thin – it is both challenging and incredibly encouraging.
Being in a church that really emphasises the responsibility and joy of being joined together in the body of Christ has fulfilled more of my childhood longings especially since our church has such a diverse range of people from all over the world! I have been given the huge, warm, close knit family I dreamed of!
How has God shaped you?
I want to finish on the question of how has God shaped you? What experiences have you had that at the time you would have gladly traded away but are now grateful for? How have they impacted your life and how have they turned you into the person you are today?
Sometimes it takes a chance to pause and reflect to be able to see how God has used a sad experience and turned it into a good outcome but if we take the time to look then I believe we will see that as Paul says in Romans, “ And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Jessica McPherson is a Press Service International young writer in Christchurch.