You’d think that being a new Christian and joining a church would be the beginning of a wonderful time with like-minded people. It wasn’t so for me –took me 10 years to find my sweet, wacky, out-of-the-box kind of believers — just like me!
Our church had a congregation of thousands and being a newcomer was hard going. On a whim, I joined a retreat with a friend, thinking that it would be a good way to get to know people and promising each other we’ll skip out on the teaching sessions once they get boring.
We were divided into small groups for discussion. The leader, Stanley, asked me to start the session with prayer. I was taken aback. I had never prayed aloud before, and I told him so. He prayed instead.
Next session, Stanley again asked me to open the meeting with prayer! Well, I thought, this guy is persistent. Anyway, to get rid of him, I opened my mouth and uttered my first public prayer. This was the first step of many leading me to head the prayer ministry in the same church. (Stanley subsequently went into the pastoral ministry, eventually became senior pastor of the church and then President of the Methodist Church in Singapore).
But even though I eventually joined Stanley’s fellowship group of about 50 people which had Common Interests, I couldn’t find close friends there. The Chemistry was missing.
It’s difficult to define chemistry but we all know it when we feel it. It’s that spark that tells us we are kindred spirits. Their company makes us sparkle and shine. It’s invigorating to be with them — they seek us out, and we them. Life’s possibilities get bigger, we’re challenged to try new things and travel to new places. And this is the defining factor — we laugh longer and louder with them.
But even when we find someone with common interests and chemistry, the friendship breaks if there aren’t Common Values.
For me, bearing grudges is a deal-breaker. Either we talk it out and make up, or we move on. For some weird reason, some people believe they still can stay in the midst of community while harboring angry thoughts about another. It doesn’t work. Sooner or later, the volcano will erupt.
And lastly, there’s Trust. Trust involves risk. We can slowly risk telling more about ourselves to the other, and see if they can keep that confidential. We also need to see if they have integrity. Do they do what they say they will do? Or are words just sweet nothings?
Four factors in a friendship: Common interests, chemistry, common values and trust. A client asked me if she should stay in a relationship. I described all four factors and let her decide.