I love making new friends and gathering people together. It gives me joy. So I often find myself initiating. But a few weeks ago I felt tired and discouraged by always being the person making the first move.
It seemed like invitations from others were at an all-time low. My need to connect was at an all-time high, but my relational energy was not.
So I invited myself to my own little party … a pity party.
I felt like I wanted to quit being the initiator.
I started an internal tally of how many overtures had come my way in recent weeks. Then I compared the total to those I had offered. I felt like giving up the whole initiation “gig.” I started thinking that life is somehow made up of either initiators or acceptors.
It seemed some people are called to get the ball rolling in relationships, and others play once the ball shows up.
Should I just stop initiating and wait for things to come my way? I had a choice to make.
The conundrum made me think about people I cross paths with regularly who long for connection and community. I thought of people at work, in my neighborhood and even in my church. I asked myself, “Why do these people not invite others to their homes or even just out for coffee?”
It could be that many people are too busy or too insecure to take that first step but are afraid to admit it. Others have been hurt or disappointed in the past. But I think there’s more to it than that.
The after-effect of digital friends
There is also the reality that social media has become a poor substitute for real connection and friendship. It gives the appearance of friendship without most of the risks. Many of us are connected online to more people than ever before. Yet we’re lonelier and less relationally connected than ever before.
Is it possible that having mostly digital friendships actually drains us of the energy to pursue face-to-face relationships?
This is a serious problem, and not just for you and me. Friendship is a necessary ingredient in healthy societies.
It’s amazing how little it takes to connect with people. But when the first move usually comes from you, it can cause you to wonder if it’s really worth it.
Friendship requires initiation, sometimes a lot of it. There are not only two types of people — initiators and acceptors. It’s more accurate to say there are those who are driven by fear and those who are motivated by love.
What do I mean?
We demonstrate the gospel by building great relationships
One day while driving I saw the motto of a local construction company printed on one of its trucks. The motto “We exist to build great things” reminded me of Jesus and inspired me. Jesus built great people. And he calls us to do the same.
Doing anything truly great usually requires risk. Initiating relationship or connection with people is risky. They may take us for granted or even reject us. So we need to think about what’s driving us to initiate with people.
Our love for Jesus and for people needs to be the driver. When we initiate primarily to have our needs met, it’s more likely that we’ll feel resentment and bitterness when people do not respond.
So we need to consider why we’re really reaching out, not just how much we’re doing it. It’s so important to check our motives and be honest with ourselves. Are we truly willing to give our time and commitment to other people? Or are we focused on what they can give us?
Jesus built great people and great communities by initiating from genuine love. We can do the same.
The reality is that demonstrating the gospel takes a community.
How do you handle relational fatigue?
Initiating is not only risky, it can also be genuinely tiring if it feels one-sided.
But Jesus did not only initiate while he was here on earth. He initiates with us tirelessly every day through his Holy Spirit. We love because he first loved us. We continue loving because he continues pouring out his love into our hearts by his Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).
How do we initiate with others? Sometimes I think about that great cloud of witnesses described in Hebrews chapters 11 and 12. I imagine them cheering me on whenever I choose to initiate with someone.
There are choices I make before I step out of the door each day. I commit to being ready to take the awkward step of asking people I love about their faith in Jesus. I commit to being willing to ask how I can support or pray for a co-worker.
Last month, as I pondered the worth of making more space in my heart for others, I chose to initiate.
I connected with some new and old friends. I kicked my husband and boys out of the house for a few hours and hosted a brunch. That meal turned into a sweet connection for each woman around the table. We’re now meeting weekly and encouraging each other in our relationship with Jesus.
Have you been given the gift of initiation?
I’m grateful that God has given me the gift of being able to consistently take the first step in relationships. I know I have needs as well. But to choose to give up initiating would be choosing not to enjoy a gift I’ve been given.
As followers of Jesus, we all have the gift of initiation. Some of us find it more natural than others. And at times it can feel like a burden. But if we’ve accepted an invitation from Jesus, then we’ve also accepted the role of being inviters ourselves.
Some of us find this role a comfortable fit, and some do not. But all of us need encouragement in the task of initiating with the people we live our lives alongside daily.
Missionhub exists to provide great ideas and encouragement as we follow in the footsteps of the Great Initiator, Jesus Christ.
Photo by Eli DeFaria