My first lunch with my friend Tim did not go well.
He was a new guy at church and we worked in the same area of the city, so I figured it would be a chance to make a new lunch buddy. About ten minutes into the meal, I changed my mind.
It all started with Tim rambling on about baseball for ten minutes. I don’t care anything about sports, and I’m pretty sure I mentioned that, but he went on talking about it anyway. Finally, I redirected the conversation to marriage. We had both gotten married that year and I figured if we had anything in common, it would be the difficulty of our first years.
I got vulnerable and shared some of my first-year frustrations — the constant bickering, negotiating, and conflict over the most menial things. I also shared a couple of embarrassing stories, hoping it would help him relate to me. But as it turns out, he had no idea what I was talking about.
“Lisa and I are getting along great,” he said. “It’s amazing how God has fit us together perfectly already. I love her more every day — and quite frankly, the hardest thing about marriage for me is the fear that we will die and not be married in heaven.”
I looked at him with a blank expression and tried to muster my most sincere, “That’s great.” But behind my fake smile I was thinking something like, I will never get lunch with this guy again.
A year passed without another lunch invitation from me, and if it hadn’t been for Lisa, there wouldn’t have been another one. Lisa pulled me aside one day, told me Tim hadn’t made many friends at church, and asked if I would consider reaching out to him. I didn’t want to say yes, but I did it for Lisa.
As it turned out, the second time around wasn’t so bad. Tim and I had more in common than I realized, and within a week or so, we went to lunch again. The weeks, months, and years went by with countless other lunches following. Eventually, Tim became one of my dearest friends, and our first failed lunch became a joke.
There’s an element of the story that isn’t so funny when I look back on the way our friendship came about: It’s the way I almost wrote off Tim because of nothing more than a bad first impression. And if I had written him off, I would’ve lost more than lunches with him — I would’ve lost the times Tim has made me laugh hard, the times he has talked me through frustrations, played with my kids, and invited my family over to his house — not to mention the fact that he has inspired me, more than anyone, to read my Bible more regularly.
Choosing Our Friends
We’ve all got Tims in our lives — people we’ve written off based on bad first impressions. Most of us just move on and make friends with someone else, and I suppose that’s not a bad thing, necessarily — you can’t become friends with every person who might end up being your buddy. But I do think it’s best to keep an open heart, to give people a chance to be someone other than we initially think, to recognize that God might be orchestrating more than an awkward first conversation.
As C.S. Lewis says:
In friendship … we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another … the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting — any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, ‘Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,’ can truly say to every group of Christian friends, ‘Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.’
The next time you think you’re choosing to spend time with a potential friend (or choosing not to), approach the moment with reverence. God may be choosing someone for you.