Getting out of my comfort zone and making new friends
My grandparents spent most of their lives as missionaries in Bolivia. Working with the Ayore tribe, they told wild stories of what their lives were like each day, and I’ve always loved hearing them. As a kid these stories amused me, and now as an adult and a parent, they astonish me. Up until this year, I never thought I could relate to their tales. Then the other day I was talking to my son about making new friends, and I was reminded of a story my grandparents told about their first few weeks with the tribe. I realized right then that we have more in common with them than I’d thought. And so do you.
My Grandfather's Story About Making Friends
One of the first things my grandfather wanted do upon arrival was teach the tribe’s elders about Jesus. It seemed simple enough. He’d shared his faith with many people, and felt prepared. With a good translator alongside him, Grandpa shared the gospel in the simplest terms he could several nights in a row. And each night he returned home frustrated.
“What’s wrong?” Grandma would ask.
“They just don’t get it,” Grandpa replied. “I tell them about Jesus, how he died for them, and how three days later he rose from the grave. And they follow along like they get it, but at the end when I ask them who it was that died and rose they smile at me and say, 'the Moon.'” Grandpa just couldn’t figure it out. Were they just being difficult?
He didn’t give up, though, and just a few weeks later he got the chance to hear one of the tribe’s stories:
Long ago there was the Moon and the Tapir. Both of them wanted the Ayore people. The Moon wanted to love them and take care of them, but the Tapir wanted to deceive them.
One night the Moon came to the Tapir and said, “To show how much I love the Ayore people, I’m going to die.”
Not to be outdone, the Tapir replied, “I’ll die, too, to show how much I want them.”
They both died that night. Then three nights later the Moon rose again and the Tapir did not. The Moon was living, but the tribe’s people continued to follow the Tapir and be deceived.
Hearing their tale made my grandpa realize that the elders weren’t trying to be silly or undermine him in any way when they responded. Rather, they’d heard a similar story before, and they were trying to relate. My grandfather returned home that evening excited because he understood the tribe more, and their ministry grew simply because he listened.
So how does that crazy story apply to you and me?
(I'm so glad you asked.)
Here are 3 lessons I'm learning about getting out of my comfort zone and making new friends
First, much like visiting a tribal people, parenting pushes me out of my comfort zone. For example, I’m naturally introverted. Before I had kids, I never thought I’d be signing up to help with classroom parties, volunteering with students at church, or approaching other parents while we wait to pick up our kids. Parenthood forces you out of your shell and into a great big world where you come into contact with a lot of different people from different places. Maybe not Ayore people, but different people nonetheless.
Second, I need to remember to listen. This reminder has been particularly applicable to my family. Recently we moved to Germany, and my son’s been struggling to connect with the kids at his new school because they like different things. Just like the experience of becoming a mom made me step out, this is forcing my sons to think differently as well, and it can be frustrating. Like my grandfather, each person we meet has a history and stories, and if we don’t stop to listen and get to know them, we might not feel like we’re connecting.
Third, disconnection is not what God wants for me. The Bible is full of stories about people traveling to new lands, stepping out of their comfort zones, and having to learn new things. Whether moving, volunteering, or making new friends, God presents us with opportunities to meet new people each day, and my grandparents’ experience taught me that sometimes the best way to connect is just to listen.
What new situations do you find yourself in? How have you connected with the people around you?