Take a moment to read Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16.
During the summer I was 17 I had the opportunity to travel to New Zealand and Australia for a month with a group of nearly 40 other high school students. Half of the students were from Nebraska and half were from different states. Prior to this trip, I had never been away from home longer than a week. I had never flown abroad. And I had never been on a train, seen the Pacific Ocean, or experienced other cultures beyond America.
These weeks brought so many unique “firsts” I could never replicate: I spent time with kangaroos, held a koala, snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef, had a walkabout in the Outback, and boarded with a New Zealand family. All those things were exhilarating, of course…but what I hold close more than 20 years later is the fast and strong bond anyone can make when they show friendlessness to and acceptance of people unlike us.
This experience was the People To People Student Ambassador Program, founded by President Eisenhower, as Pastor Michelle shared in this week’s message. When our Nebraska group of students first met the other half of our traveling group from the Eastern U.S., we wanted nothing to do with them. We were actually offended that we would have to be with them for weeks!
Cut straight to the last day of our South Pacific adventures, after all of the highs and lows we shared, being vulnerable, sleepless, and exhausted: I was surprised that I was sobbing while saying goodbye to friends from Ohio I had only met days ago, touching my hand on a window pane to say one last goodbye. That was pure human connection.
As we meditate on the reflection questions of “What has God called you to do?” and “Are you thriving where you are at now? Physically, Emotionally, Spiritually?”, there are times when the answers to these questions become all too clear, and in fact, quite magnified. Our fulfillment comes from how we give of ourselves and how we mingle our soul with other souls. This can look like the simple gift and action of friendliness.
True friendliness, fueled by the love we receive from Jesus, is everyone’s calling. Friendliness keeps us connected, so we can survive together.
Whether we are demonstrating it in our community or 1000 miles across the globe, friendliness matters because it means we are being who we are meant to be.
God, thank you for the gift of friendliness. May we apply this gift in our lives, be welcoming, and receive a welcome from others. We pray that our small gestures of friendliness–a hug, a meal, or a listening ear–would be a reflection of your love and grace. Amen.
Written by Joanna Clay
Joanna and her husband, Matt, live in Lincoln with their two young daughters, Emery and Madisen. The Clays have been members of the Sheridan community since 2014. Joanna is Senior Content Manager for a San Diego-based healthcare coaching company called Practicing Excellence. She enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, longboarding, binge-watching historical dramas, and connecting with others over life’s big questions.