Last week I arose before sunrise to walk on the beach in anticipation of seeing baby turtles scrambling to the ocean. The waves were rougher than normal and yet it was a delightful morning. However, there were no turtles to be seen. As I strolled down the beach something white caught my eye at the edge of the water. I went to investigate and could not believe my eyes. There sitting in the foam of the sea was an unexpected gift, a sparkling white horse conch shell with nothing living inside of it. It is the most beautiful shell I have ever found.
If we open our eyes life is full of many unexpected gifts. Sometimes its simple things; seeing a rainbow, a hummingbird, or dolphins playing in the surf. Other times the unexpected gift is an act of kindness or being given an actual gift. Yet the most precious, unexpected gifts I have received are the random people God has placed in my life that become good friends.
Sometimes a friendship blooms while watching kids play a sport, meeting people standing in line at the grocery store, while your volunteering or working, or by attending church. I have experienced the unexpected gift of friendship in each of these places, but where I’ve found it the most is through small groups I have joined.
You were created for community. God has hardwired you to crave community. He puts people in your path as unexpected gifts, but you must be willing to accept the gift.
Joining a group or interacting with people does not guarantee friends. Friendship takes time, energy, and a willingness to risk opening your heart to someone. You have to be willing to ask questions and listen to people’s stories and then follow up. Send a text or make a phone call to ask about their trip or let them know you are praying for them. You have to be willing to take time to accept or offer an invitation to coffee or dinner or help with a project. Sometimes it means being inconvenienced by running an unexpected errand or taking dinner over when they’re sick. The time and energy it worth the effort of friendship.
Not every person you meet or invest in will become a friend but don’t get discouraged. Ask God to open your eyes to the people He is putting in your life. Be intentional about getting to know them. You might be surprised at how many friendships develop and you will thank God for all the unexpected gifts He has given you.