Do you have a BFF? It's a loaded question. I have a love/hate relationship with the term. I have experienced times in my life when I had a best friend, and I have lived through seasons during which I felt very alone, isolated, and left out. I can look back on certain friendships that have withstood the test of time and distance.
grew up as a missionary's daughter, and then a preachers' daughter. We
moved around some, and traveled quite a bit. I have many memories of
visiting new churches as a child and especially as a teenager. Try being
the new kid, but also being slightly awkward since you are going
through puberty, and then add cultural differences, and finally outdated
clothes. I know exactly what it feels like to be new somewhere. It is
very uncomfortable to be on the outside.
When I was in the sixth
grade, my family and I temporarily moved back from France and lived in
the US for a year. Dad was the visiting missionary in a small Christian
University town. My brothers and I attended the Christian Academy grade
school there. Over the summer preceding my 6th grade year, I had been
introduced to a girl that I would go to school with, in hopes that she
would be my friend. And indeed, she was very friendly and nice. On the
first day of school, I was in for a shock. I learned that there was a
"popular" group, and that although my "friend" was a part of that crowd,
it wasn't in the cards for me. I quickly learned to make friends with
the children who were like me, you know, those who were lonely. My best
friend that year turned out to be the one African American girl in our
grade. I loved her dearly: Lashay Walker.
Somehow, my friend
situation in France didn't seem as desperate. Perhaps it was because I
had bigger fish to fry. School was very difficult. Teachers were mean.
My 7th grade math teacher picked on me all the time. My stomach hurt
almost every morning, to the point that I was even given a false
diagnosis of appendicitis, to be corrected just in time to avoid
When we moved back to the US for good, God
blessed me with a very close friend in high school, to help me navigate
the culture shock of changing countries in the ninth grade. But before
meeting this friend, I would have another difficult experience with
being on the outs. Before Dad accepted a preaching job in Alabama, we
lived in Arkansas again during the job search phase. Again, my siblings
and I attended a private, Christian school for about two months.
Friendships can be absolutely brutal if you are coming in as a new
student, and especially in middle or high school. Add to that the fact
that I had never used a locker before, hadn't been acclimated to what
kind of clothes to wear; neither was I familiar with the American dating
game, which is horrifying in and of itself; and finally the high school
culture of pep rallies, school spirit, and miscellaneous extra
curriculars, on top of odd phenomenons such as science fairs and
fundraisers. There were fashion shows disguised as Valentine banquets or
As an adult, I have grown very accustomed to
introducing myself to new people. I have learned the art of small talk.
I can easily spot a new person walking into a room. I know the face,
the furtive glances, the conscious placement of the hands (because I
have experienced all of these things, and sometimes still do).
the ripe old age of 38, I am finally realizing that some people have
never experienced those feelings. And if you have not been new, or on
the outs before, there is really no way to ever explain these feelings
to you. You just have to experience them in order to understand. Don and
I live in a small town in Georgia, and many people that we meet here
were born and raised in this town. This is mind boggling to me.
time after our move here, I prayed and asked God about these things. He
seemed to answer: "Anna, I need you on the outside. I need you to see
those people who don't fit in." And to Him, with a few tears, I said
How do you help your children overcome feelings of "not fitting into a certain group?"
am a middle school teacher at a private school here in town. Ironic,
isn't it? Since I had such poor experiences in private schools growing
up. As a teacher, however, I love it. It has been a joyful experience
for me. I watch the dynamics of my students' friendships. I feel
strongly that one of my jobs as a teacher is to mentor these children
through some of their emotions at this traumatic age. It is my honor and
pleasure to gently nudge someone towards a new student. I think that
sometimes, the "old ones" don't even notice that there is someone new.
They have so much that they themselves are worried about. You know, in
middle school, your body is changing, you are worried about your grades,
who likes you, and who your friends are. Here is the strange truth: by
reaching outside yourself to someone new, you actually find freedom from
the trap of yourself, the game of upholding an image, and you find
Christ. I believe that befriending a new person is like offering them a
cup of cold water in Jesus' name.
As adults, the game
doesn't change much. There are some who will never see the new people
around them to reach out to. They will always be more concerned about
who their friends are, if they are fitting in, if they have been invited
to the parties, if their houses, cars, and clothes are up to par, and
fashionable enough to live up to a certain "image." Just because we grow
older doesn't mean that we grow up. I am shocked at the high school
mentality that pervades our generation. I, myself, fall into it at
times. I find myself wanting to be invited to the parties, feeling left
out, wishing I could afford certain clothing items, wishing that my
house was decorated better. It is amazing how like middle school
students we still are.
And to make matters worse, we
now live vicariously through our children. So when they are left out, we
become offended for them. The cool thing is that just because we are
offended doesn't necessarily mean that our children are. I think one of
the best gifts we can give our children is to teach them how to check
out of the game; how to live by Jesus' standards, and how that opens the
door to a whole new dimension. Blessed are the unoffended. :)
is an old adage that passes through my head from time to time: "make
new friends, and keep the old: one is silver, the other is gold."
forgive my inflammatory title. Best friends, the true kind, are not
overrated at all. The best friends are the kind that allow room in the
relationship to reach out to others, that are not exclusive. Lord, help
me to be that kind of friend.
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A boy named Gideon
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