Unexpected Friends

I had lunch yesterday with a friend of mine. She has a very different life than me. She's single with no kids and is working on her master's degree. She's also my youngest daughter's hockey instructor. We first met her when we went to buy my daughter's first set of hockey gear. I wrote about our first meeting with her in one of my first blog posts, Finding God in the Sporting Goods Store. She's been a blessing to my daughter, but as my daughter got to know her, I realized I wanted to get to know her, too. She's been a staunch supporter of my daughter's hockey dreams, offering advice and encouragement. But hockey aside, she's also smart, funny, vibrant and genuine. Definitely someone I wanted to get to know.

Somewhere over the course of the past year we became friends. We occasionally go out to lunch and regularly text back and forth. She broadens my perspective on the world simply because her life is different from mine.

On my way home from lunch yesterday, I realized I am blessed. While the vast majority of my friendships are with women who are in the same place in life as me, my world is enriched by some amazing friendships with women who are in different ages and stages of life. God has made such a huge variety of people in this world, and our lives are enriched when we get to share them with people who are different from us.

We naturally tend to gravitate toward people who have similar likes and dislikes and who are in situations similar to ours. But, if we avoid relationships with people who are in different places in their lives than we are, we miss out on the joy those people can add to our lives and the joy we can bring to theirs.

We've all heard the saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover," but too often that's what we do when choosing our friends. Too often, we automatically rule out friendships with people who don't seem to share a common interest with us. Sometimes, we'll get a second shot at a relationship with that person, but most of the time we simply miss out on the richness that person can bring to our lives.

The Bible tells us that each of us is "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14) and even goes so far as to call each of us "God's masterpiece" (Ephesians 2:10). I don't want to miss out on the great variety of temperaments, talents and viewpoints that God has created. But to get to know those people who are different from us generally takes more effort than becoming friends with people with whom we have obvious things in common. Many times, we're not willing to put forth that effort, so we miss out on the masterpiece God made in someone else.

Looking below the surface trappings of our lives to see the people underneath is what God wants us to do. He wants us to see others with His eyes. 1 Samuel 16:7 says "The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” We want to be able to look beyond our obvious commonalities or our obvious differences and see underneath to the masterpiece that God created.

We also want to encourage our kids not to dismiss people they know as possible friends based on surface knowledge of that person. Encourage your kids to look beyond obvious commonalities and search for ways to connect with other kids who may be different from them. We can't expect our kids to be friends with everyone, but we can teach them to look for opportunities to be friends with a variety of people.

When we look beyond the surface picture, we might find that our single next door neighbor has a wicked sense of humor, or your child may find that the shy kid who sits next to him at school is actually a whiz at soccer. It simply takes a minute of our time and a little effort on our part to reach out and befriend those people in our lives who may seem different from us. I've found that those friendships always enrich the lives of both people involved.

So, today, look around your world with new eyes and see if you can identify someone in your life that might make a pretty good friend even if they are at a different place in their life from you. Encourage your children to see the kids around them with new eyes -- to look at all of the kids they know as potential friends. Who knows, you may find a new friend in the sporting goods aisle. I did.