Organized sports remain something of a mystery to me. As do boys, especially those of the twelve-year-old variety. Or the forty-year old variety, if I’m totally honest. I’m a girly girl to the core, so when my son asked if we could host a Super Bowl party for ten of his friends, I immediately started to worry about my cushion covers. And the new carpeting. And the decorative items I chose with care, which might appear less “decorative” to boys and more like an item that might be launched across the room into another boy’s waiting arms.
In spite of my fear over the state of my home, I said yes to the boys and the party because I know how hard it is to extend an invitation with the hope someone will say yes. My son entered middle school last year without knowing a single kid his age. After leaving his previous school, all he carried with him across the ocean was the memory of what it feels like to fit in. None of the relationships he built came with him, and overnight the solid feel of them disappeared and he was left grasping at air. We didn’t know how long it would take for him, or for any of us, to feel this kind of belonging again.
When all of life speeds by at a blur, when activities and sports seasons and marking periods fly by, you begin to wonder why friendship and community and belonging arrive at a glacial pace. You wonder why they require so much work, why you can’t measure them by Facebook friends or instagram followers or party invites. Cultivating a sense of belonging takes time. An extraordinary amount of time. It requires seasons of planting and watering, of watching and waiting for something beautiful to grow. We’re accustomed to insta-everything, to a quick click on the “like” button of life. But community grows over time, it requires numerous beginnings and middles and endings for friendship to grow. We can’t expect fertile soil unless we’re willing to put in the backbreaking work of adding in the nutrients that create conditions for growth.
My boy doesn’t understand this yet, but he understands football and good food. He understands boys like to throw things, hence the reason the bags of sliced apples I bought them, later resembled something closer to applesauce. He understands boys bond better when they circle around a common interest and throw down their predictions along with pizza crusts and cookie crumbs.
Together, we’re learning how to start over, how to open the door to our home and invite others in. An invitation into our lives is the first step towards an invitation to friendship and belonging. We’re learning how to plant the seeds of friendship and water them with kindness as we watch and wait for something to grow.
What does your experience with friendship and belonging look like? Have you had to start over again?
*This post is part of an ongoing weekly-ish series on home and belonging.