You're not alone in feeling alone. A 2019 study found that three in five Americans reported being chronically lonely. In this message, we're joined by Jennie Allen to discuss how to find your people and create deeper, long-lasting friendships.
David Marvin: All right! Well hey, welcome everybody in the room! Everybody tuning in online at all the Porch.Live locations in Houston; North Houston; Des Moines; Boise; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Scottsdale, Arizona; Indianapolis; Greater Lafayette; and all the different Live locations. We're continuing this series RIP to the Old Me. What does that mean?
The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that in Christ you and I have new life. God, when you trusted and put your faith in Jesus, is now producing and bringing about this new life that he has started. So we are saying rest in peace to old ways and our old life. Through this series, we've been talking about that. Let me set the table for what we're going to talk about tonight.
When I was at Texas A&M one of my last ever student… Shocker. I didn't see that coming. When I was at A&M on one of my last spring breaks, three of my closest friends and I decided we were going to go on a spring break road trip. On the day before we left, the four of us got together, and we took a coin and we flipped it. We said, "If it's heads, we're going east. If it's tails, we're going to go west, and we'll figure it out as we go." It landed where it was heads, so we're going to go east.
Here's how we decided where we were going to go. Each person of the four of us got to choose a city we'd go to. So because one person wanted to see Graceland and Elvis, I still to this day don't understand exactly why, we went to Memphis and we were walking in Memphis. Then we went to Charleston because one of the guys had family in Charleston.
Then another guy was like, "Even though it's way out of the way, we should go to Florida because I'm dating a girl in Florida." We were like, "No." He was like, "Yes." We're like, "All right, Romeo, we're going to Florida." Then we ended up going to Knoxville in Tennessee and staying with other friends. Each person in the car was a part of shaping the direction and the destination of that car.
Why do I start there? Because that car is really a metaphor for your life and my life. The people who are closest to you and journeying with you are going to shape the direction and destinations you're going to end up at and be a part of. It won't be as clear as just, "Hey, we're going to Memphis," but it will be as clear as the type of marriage that you'll be a part of someday will be shaped by the girls closest to you (if you're a girl) or by the guys closest to you.
The type of character you're building right now is being shaped. Sadly, a lot of us have been driving in what feels, to use the metaphor, like we're all alone in that car. We're going through life and not experiencing the peace and we're experiencing disappointment and loneliness that's leading to all kinds of other problems in our life.
God, throughout his Word, is emphatically clear he created and designed us to experience intimate relationships together. The adage, "Show me your friends, I'll show you your future," is something that you see all throughout the Bible.
Tonight, we have a chance to hear from a dear friend of our ministry and a woman who is leading a ministry, along with her husband, who is one of the most influential and impactful people I know of period. Her name is Jennie Allen. Jennie is going to join us. She just released a book that I could not more highly encourage, and we're about to talk all about it. You guys, help me welcome to the stage Jennie Allen!
Jennie Allen: Hey!
David: Hey! You're back!
Jennie: Good to be back.
David: Hey, awesome. Okay, like I said, Jennie just released a book, Find Your People, all about really addressing that idea of loneliness. Community is what we call it around here, but it's just intimate relationships that God says all throughout the Bible shouldn't be something that you add on or consider but prioritize inside of your life.
As I said before, loneliness really is at an epidemic. Every month, if not every week, people are emailing in and writing in and just saying, "I feel so disconnected. I feel so alone." The pandemic did not help, but really as you talk about in the book, this is an issue that's been going on long before the pandemic, and it certainly contributed to it. I want to start by just saying, what are the factors? Or how did we end up here?
Jennie: Yeah. Well first I just want to say hey, Porch! It's good to be here! I genuinely feel like this is always a coming home. I know it's my home church, but y'all are my favorites! Don't tell any of the other ministries. Being here with you, I love it. It's so good to be here. I am so grateful. I have my kids here tonight from Texas A&M and a lot of my very closest people tonight were actually… Yeah, I just feel very blessed to be here.
So yeah, what's the problem? I mean, it is a big problem. I kind of want to ask the question because I like to ask y'all questions, but this one is a little more tender to say, "Do you feel lonely?" It's a little more tender. It's a harder question to answer. Interestingly enough, it's actually harder to answer than, "Do you feel anxious?"
I think the reason it's harder to answer is because it feels like we look out and nobody else is lonely, but that's not true. Because the research says three in five people are lonely, and that was prior to the pandemic. So my guess would be at this point we're at four in five if not five in five people feel disconnected.
We have gotten to a place in our culture where loneliness is almost so normal that you don't even notice that you're feeling it. It is just part of the air that you breathe. It is something that you've lived with most of your lives, and not every generation has. So where this project actually came from for me was I was in Uganda, and I was watching two women carrying buckets on their heads to go gather their water for the day, and they were cracking up.
They were glowing and they were so happy. You could tell they were getting into trouble together, and I just remember thinking, "I'm jealous. I'm jealous of two women who have to walk down the path to get water, who knows how long. I'm jealous of them because they are requiring each other to live." Every generation in every culture has required connection to survive, and we don't.
We Amazon every single thing we need. We don't even borrow an egg from our neighbor. We are completely isolated from each other. We don't need each other, so we don't go to each other. Now we hang out together, and we especially look like we hang out together on Instagram, but we don't need each other, and there's a huge difference.
The reality is we know this. The right answer is we do actually need each other, but because we don't need each other to survive. You're so jacked up and I'm so jacked up and we hurt each other so much that it just gets to be too much trouble and it's like, "Eh, I think I'd rather just see people in a contained way. I'll go to small group maybe once a month, once or twice. No crazy small groups. Then I'll do this thing or this thing, but I'm not going to truly live in day in and day out community."
Honestly, this book was written in such a way that it was written to people who live that way. All generations prior to us until the Industrial Revolution lived that way. Eighty percent of cultures today live in connected villages where they depend on each other day in and day out. This bothered me, and it worried me.
Because I'm thinking if we live in a little dot of history that's doing community and life completely differently than it's ever been done and we know the results are (you and I talk about this all the time) everybody is anxious, everybody is depressed, everybody is so heavy, then I think we have a huge problem.
So it made me curious, and it made me worried. So I thought, "Okay, let me just go start looking and start seeing, 'How are we supposed to live?'" The sad part was, David, I felt like when I did the research, it was so broken that it felt like, "I don't even know how we change it," just because we're so isolated.
I mean, I'm curious for you guys because you're all sitting here together and I'm picturing you walking in with tons of friends, but I'm going to go ahead and ask the brave question. How many of you this week have felt lonely at some point? Okay, I wasn't wrong. All right. Everybody raised their hand, for the people through the camera.
David: Just one guy in the front row. So one of the things I really love in the book… I've been in community for eight years with four other couples and we harp on it a ton here. One thing that I really appreciate that I want to spend a decent amount of our conversation on is pushing through some of the barriers to opening up to being real, to being authentic and all that stuff and to taking wherever you're at on the spectrum more ground in deepening those relationships.
Before we go there, you talk about the term deep community. How would you define that? That's pretty broad and open-ended, but is there a way that you would say, "Hey, here's kind of the future destination to begin pursuing"?
Jennie: Okay, let's just start at the beginning: Genesis. Man is on the planet, and God says, "It is not good for you to be…" So what we're going to talk about today, my view on this, I'm going to go ahead and say it up front. It's very radical compared to what most people would say in how you're living.
I would say deep community is in your day-in and day-out life that every single thing about you is known. That you are not living in any secret, any secret. I'm not just talking about sin. I'm talking about that anxious thought that has been bugging you all day. That every single thing about you is known by someone.
Now you can't be known by a ton of people, but you could be known by two to five people, and we'll talk about the research in a minute. Two to five people is about how many people you could be in day-in and day-out life with. I'm talking about running errands together. It is not good for man to be…
Jennie: It is not good for man to be alone. I'm talking about eating together. I'm really sensitive to the fact that I have shown up talking about this to mostly singles.
Jennie: I'm excited about it because I think actually… I'm going to tell you this too. I think you have the power to change this problem in our culture better than anybody else because you have a little flexibility. I think this brokenness that we have right now of… Can I get off the topic for just a minute and come back?
David: Come on.
Jennie: Okay. In the …
David: Actually, I changed my mind. Let's not. I'm totally kidding. Go.
Jennie: In the 1920s, there was a philosopher guy who really was a marketer who wanted to sell toasters. He decided to create something called the nuclear family. It was two adults and two and a half kids. That was now the nuclear family. Prior to that, families were aunties, uncles. Have you seen that movie In the Heights? There were abuelas who parented the whole street, right?
It didn't matter if you were their kid or not, you got food, even though we don't have barely anything. "You show up at my door, you're my kid. Call me Auntie." That's how most of the world functions. Family was the people around you who you loved. You lived in a village of say tops 150, usually about 100. Any time you reached over… Bear with me.
Anytime you reached over 25 kids, you'd start a new school. That would create a new village. By nature of the size of a village, it would break off and start a new village. You wouldn't leave the village all of your life. You grew up with all of your grandparents and parents and siblings all the days of your life. All the people who you live with, they'd all be there too. You'd barely leave 20 miles from your house all your days. That's all of history. Okay?
Families took care of each other. Families were friends and families were singles. They were adopted into families. You would have an abuela. You would have aunties. You would be an auntie. You would be an uncle. That's how it always was until in America somebody decided they wanted to sell more toasters.
So they decided to go two adults and two and a half kids. That's a family. Build a fence. Get an alarm system. Sell a toaster. You need your own because you're not going to borrow your auntie's next door because that's too far to walk. You have to go over the fence. It's just trouble, so get your own toaster. And they sold toasters. The whole idea worked.
This is why I think y'all could change the whole wide world. Because you could be an auntie. You could love people's kids. You could go into people's homes. You could say, "I want you to adopt me. My parents live in…" I almost said Africa. Sure, maybe. I mean, it's probably not very many of you, but yeah. So Africa.
You need an abuela. You need somebody. Everybody knows what the word abuela means, right? It's grandmother. Okay, I'm just making sure. So you need that. We need this. This is the sadness for you, especially in this room. If anybody should be ticked off that this is the way the world went, it should be singles.
God said it is not good for anyone to be alone. So something is broken. You're supposed to be a part of a unit. You're supposed to take care of your neighbors. You're supposed to take them a casserole. I don't know if you learned that yet, but we're in the South. If we don't know that, nobody knows that!
We have to get that right. You need to know how to make something with cream of mushroom and rice. That needs to be top of mind. Boys, too. Come on! Ritz crackers with some butter on top. That's how it goes. That is how it goes. When somebody's mother goes in the hospital, you know what? You don't know their mother, but you know them and you take them a…?
Jennie: I'm teaching y'all something tonight! So what I know is because we're carrying the whole wide world's problems, right? How many problems did you read about today? We don't take anybody a casserole because we're so tired. Because we heard the problems of the whole wide world. "I'm worried about Ukraine. It's hard to care about my neighbor." So I can't remember your question exactly, but…
David: Toasters answered it. Yeah, it was good.
David: No, it is so true. And Uber Eats and all the different things is only… It comes with both a blessing and a curse. The question was around deep community. How would you define that? Because to your point, or you started with, "This generation could change that." One of the ways they can change that is by being involved and being connected to local churches and other families that may not be biological families.
There are also some things that we can pursue. A hundred years ago they may have lived in a village with 100 people, but they still were not known. A lot of that is really practically written in Scripture and captured in this book. So I don't know if there is a definition you'd say is, "Here's what I mean by deep community."
Jennie: Well, I wanted to start with a problem because I think if we understand what's broken then we can start to imagine what could be. If we can imagine how it was… Why I like to start with the problem and the cultural shift that we're a part of is because it really kind of comes down to Ritz crackers and butter.
It actually comes down to doing life together in such a deep way that we don't miss each other. That we actually see each other. That we don't feel alone in the midst of a room like this because for me, I have about 12 people down here that I'm related to or is one of my dearest friends that for the most part in the last two days, I've talked to all of them. They're in my life. We're going to go out to eat after this. We're doing life together.
So I think it starts by being known. I will answer that question. I want to pull up the circles that describe these different things. So we know that you're Christians a lot of you and you know that God is supposed to be in the center, right? I could give that speech, but I'm not going to give it right now.
That does matter a lot. Because if we go into relationships and try to get all of our needs met from each other, that's going to always go poorly. That's called codependency. You're putting your dependence on someone else, and that can lead to all kinds of brokenness. So the reason God has to be in the center is if I go to those people who are in my life regularly and say, "Meet a need for me. Meet a need for me. Meet a need for me," it probably is never going to happen.
However, if I go and say, "I love you. I'm here for you. Today I need you to be here for me." That's okay. We can be needy. It's just that if we expect people to be God, it breaks down. But outside of that, we have an inner circle, and then we have acquaintances. That white circle in the middle is actually the village.
It's actually the place where I would say about 50 people that you know by name that you actually can think of, "You know what? If something happened to them, I would want to help them." The reason I want to set this up first before I get to your answer is we have to understand what categories people fall in.
Because if we're trying to take someone in our village who is in our 50 and we try to stuff them into our inner circle, it's going to feel awkward if we haven't seen them in three weeks and we're trying to confess our sin to them the first time we see them. So what I'm saying is that inner circle of two to five people… That circle is scientifically what capacity we have.
The 150, the acquaintances? That's typically what the size of a village would be. Then the middle, the 50 would be the people who you'd actually be taking care of. My brother-in-law lives in a place that's kind of like a village off the radar. When I told them I was going to do all this work on villages, he said, to your point, "Well yeah, that's great and all. Unless you wake up and you're in a village of cannibals."
David: Good point.
Jennie: And I was like, "Yeah, that's bad." But what he means is people hurt you, and no village is perfect. Our goal is not just to gather people around us or to live like people used to, right? The goal is to live as Christ called us to live, but because culturally we have under our feet something that's so broken, we have to start with… We need some practical pieces there that we haven't had.
So if it's not good for man to be alone, then we shouldn't be eating alone. We shouldn't be living alone. We shouldn't be spending all of this time alone. We should be bringing people in to our everyday lives. I'm not saying it's wrong to live alone. I'm just saying you'd better know why you're living alone.
Again, I'm going to say some radical things tonight, but I would really question, "Why are you living alone?" Because there are a lot of people who are lonely, and it's easier to do life together if you're doing it in proximity with each other. To your question, biblically, how do we do this? Let me start with this.
Hebrews 10, verse 24: "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." And then there's another passage where it says, "But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called 'Today,' so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness."
So there's a real result in not being together and encouraging each other. There's a sense that we don't want to be hardened. Do you know…? Have you ever been across from someone and they feel hardened to you? You may not use that word, but if you thought about it you probably would. They just feel cold and they feel disconnected and they feel distracted and they feel like, they're not tender? They're listening to you, and they're not empathetic. Anybody?
I mean, I'm sure we've all been that person too, but I think we notice it more in someone else, right? So when that hardness happens, you're not connected. So there's a chicken and an egg here in these verses that say you have to gather together and you have to encourage each other as long as it is called today. Stir up courage. You have to stir up courage so that you don't get hard, so that you don't get hardened by sin.
So there's a sense that as we're going alone, we're getting hardened in our sin. Our hearts are getting hard. Well, guess who wants to be alone? Hard people. You want to be alone. It's why you want to watch Netflix: because it's hard to be tender. It's hard to actually share your guts out. It's really hard to… Even right now I would say this. I don't know.
You're way cuter and younger and it's probably easier for you, but for me, it's hard for me to pick going out over Netflix and my robe. Am I? That's not y'all. Y'all are like out on the town. Y'all are keeping everybody in business. Okay, good. Okay, so check. You're out. Then once you're out, what David you're asking me about is vulnerability. How do you get there?
So the next thing is you have to say things that actually help you be known. Because if it is not good for man to be alone, then it is not good for us to be alone in anything, in any secret, in anything that we're going through. It's not good. I'm not saying it's never good to be alone. Obviously, Jesus was alone, and David recommends we do the same thing.
So I'm not saying there are not times that we be alone, but in general, there's a sense that our hearts get hard the longer we're alone. Some of you know this because you have a grandad who is alone and is cranky. That's what happens. We really do. We trend toward being cranky. So the verse says, "But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called 'Today…'"
Stir up courage. How do you stir up courage? I need to know what you're afraid of. If I'm going to stir up courage for you, I have to know what you're afraid of. I think we should show them that Mad Libs thing.
David: Oh, for sure.
Jennie: Because I think this is a good point to talk about vulnerability. Yeah.
David: Yeah. Alex, throw it up.
David: So I told her as we were talking before this, I think one of the challenges is putting language around being transparent and open and authentic. I think at Watermark we do a really good job of providing practical tools on being open about your dating relationship, purity, your finances, all of those things. An area that I can struggle with is articulating the feelings that I have. I told her this was helpful for me to read, so do you want to expand on it?
Jennie: Yeah, so I wrote this because I'm really bad at sharing my heart. I'm really bad at doing… What happens, and my friends over there are going to be like, "Yeah." In fact, you can just, "Amen," because they all know. I'm not good at telling you how I feel. When I sit down and we're going out… They're good. One of my friends over here, Lindsay, she cries. She'll call me in the middle of her cry. She'll be bawling and she'll call me and she'll be like, "Ah…" I'm like, "Okay. I need to go over there. What's happening?"
I don't do that. I cry really hard by myself in my closet. Then I get up and I think about it for a long time. Maybe by tomorrow I'll tell you, "I cried really hard in my closet yesterday." No, I'd probably leave out the closet because that's weird. I'd say, "I cried really hard yesterday." But I'm not good at just off-the-cuff being like, "Do you know what I feel?" So I awkwardly did it to David back there. Almost just because I knew we were going to talk about it. David was like, "How are you doing, Jennie?" I was like, "Honestly, I'm not very good." He was like, "Okay."
David: Thanks for being here.
Jennie: I was like, "Yeah, I had…We had to bury my cousin yesterday prematurely." I named a couple of things. I was like, "I just feel kind of braced, like I don't know what's going on." He was like, "Okay." I did it somewhat intentionally because I'm learning to awkwardly do it. I'm just going to tell you right now. I think David genuinely wanted to know how I was. Did you?
David: Um, yes. Of course, of course, of course, of course!
Jennie: I got the sense he kind of cared.
David: Of course.
Jennie: I also have learned it's okay to be a little awkward, and I will risk being awkward. I will risk being awkward with the chance I could feel connection than be fake and disconnected.
David: Wow. That's good.
Jennie: I think nothing we talk about tonight, nothing I wrote about, nothing is not awkward. It's all awkward. So I wrote this because I'm awkward. I'm not good at sitting down with my friends and telling them how I am. So what they have to do, and they do often for me, is they basically say, "Bull crap," and that I'm not telling the truth.
They'll be watching me. I'm like, "I'm good. Everything is good. My kids are okay. So-and-So has a little problem." They're like, "Bull. You're not telling the truth. I can tell, Jennie. You look not good. What's wrong?" Thank you, but it's true. Something is often wrong and something that I don't want to talk about.
So I wrote this for myself. I wrote it because I thought I almost am like a kindergartener. I just need to fill in the blanks. So this is what I wrote. "This week at work or at home, I was busy with __________ and I felt __________. I think I felt that way…" I literally wrote this for myself, y'all. I'm not kidding. This was a fill-in-the-blank so I would be more vulnerable.
"I think I felt that way because __________. I wish that __________ would happen. Very few people know that __________ is happening in my __________ who knows I need __________, but I'm afraid to ask for it. I'm hesitant to open up because…" And this is where I want to stop. We're going to all answer that. "The greatest way you could love me right now is to __________."
Those are the things, the simple little things. That's just, we could probably all fill that out pretty fast, but why is it so hard to say that to other people? Why are those parts of our lives: our fears, our thoughts, our struggles… Why are they so hard or awkward to say to each other? Yet that's where courage can come in. That is what we're supposed to do together.
If we're fighting something as ugly as the hardening of our hearts because of sin… It's a really cute verse. You've probably seen it with flowers somewhere. "But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called 'Today,' so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." But y'all, we're fighting the deceitfulness of sin, the deceitfulness of sin. That's what we're fighting by encouraging each other.
So those little things that we don't share with each other? That means we can't fight for each other. At the end of the day… One of my fears in this book was I'm writing a book about friendship, and I'm a really urgent person. If I could go to war, I'd go, except I wouldn't because I don't like blood or dying or getting shot or anything else.
I just need for it to matter just because, you know…? It matters. It's important. I want to do things that are important. So I'm writing a book about friendship. I was like, "I just…" but I never felt that way about it because to me it was war. We're all so discouraged. We're all so tired. We're all so beat down. Everybody is anxious. Everybody is stuck.
We're all alone. What if we weren't alone and that changed all the rest of the things? We talked about it backstage, and the real question was, "Why am I hesitant to open up?" which was one of the blanks. I think there are lots of reasons, but you said one.
David: Yeah, I mean, I think one thing you addressed, and we've talked about here, is one reason we feel alone is because we're not known and you can't be loved if you're not known. Because if I don't know the real you, then I can't actually love the real you. I can love a fake version of you and you'll know in your head, "Oh, he says he loves me, but he really loves the version… He doesn't even really know me." So that contributes to our loneliness, and there are barriers that make us unwilling to open up.
I said I think one of the barriers that I can feel is not even a fear of being known or being authentic, but being a burden. I think often we can feel like, "Man, if we all just sit around and say everything that we're all carrying and put it on everybody, we're going to be here for 75 days. Secondly, you're carrying enough walking in here with all of your family and your life." So what would you say to somebody who is reluctant because they just don't want to make their problem somebody else's problems?
Jennie: So you have to know who to share your problems with. Please don't share them with everybody. David, I awkwardly put in that position because we were about to talk about this. I might've told you on another day, too. I just think you like me more than maybe you do.
David: I do! I was kidding. I love you. Of course I asked that in love.
Jennie: So you have to know who. You can't do that with everybody. Guys, do you know what that's called? A really cranky person. So don't do that. You have to have your people. The difference in complaining and transparency and vulnerability is complaining seeks relief. Transparency seeks healing and connection.
When you're seeking vulnerability, to be vulnerable with someone else, you're seeking to be known by them, probably to know back from them something. You're seeking healing or you're seeking even help by just sharing it. You actually have pathways. Why therapy works a lot of times is you have pathways that open up with somebody empathetically listens to you.
So when somebody listens to you… Courage can come, that verse, by sitting across from coffee with someone else and having them mirror feelings that you're feeling back to you. They're not even saying anything; just empathetically listening to you. It's a lost art. We don't do this very well. There is something in your brain that actually heals (your wife is a counselor) when you do that. That's why a lot of people pay for it, because we're not very good at this.
It's sad that we have to, and I'm certain that there are times that you should. What if we all became better counselors for each other? Curt Thompson says, "We are all born into the world looking for someone looking for us, and that we remain in this mode of searching for the rest of our lives." We come as babies. A baby comes out. It's in the world looking for someone looking for them.
So when you're sitting across from someone next time, I want you to think about that person as looking for you to look for them. Because we go at that wanting to get things because we're all so starving for this. We're starving for connection. The three main things that we're looking for are to be seen, soothed, and safe, again from birth. We always are. It never stops. Seen, soothed, safe.
That is actually the best premarital counseling anybody could ever give you guys, specifically the dudes. You make your wife feel seen, comforted, and safe? Done. Anything you want forever. Those women are happy. Because it's our deepest longing. It's what we want. It's what we're craving.
So when we find that in any kind of relationship, there's a sense of, "I could share the thing that I don't want to share." But it's still hard, and I would say it's always hard. It's still hard for me. I was so bad at this that… Yeah, I was really bad at this, and I've had to practice getting good at this. It's been practice. I don't know that there's another word for it.
Mine is a little bit of what you've said. I don't want to take the oxygen out of the room. I don't want to be a burden to people. I'd rather be there for them, but it was deeper than that. I think I didn't even want to know myself what was hard. I don't even think I wanted to admit to myself. So what ends up happening is that's a hardening in itself too, and you cut yourself off.
You cut yourself off from needing God. You cut yourself off from needing people. When I talked about villages earlier, I think about us and what they did for survival and what 80 percent of the world today does for survival, we could view that in an emotional sense right now. If everybody is lonely and everybody is disconnected and everybody is anxious and everybody needs that courage to be built up in them, I think we could on a purely emotional level say, "This is so desperate that we're going to get into each other's lives in a really profound way."
David: That's good. There are five ingredients, and I wish we had more time to just go through all of this. There are a couple other questions I want to ask, too. There are five ingredients of deep friendships that you described that I thought put language around those things in a really helpful way. Could you give us those five and really a sense? You've named a couple of them already.
Jennie: So proximity. You have to do life together. Your friend is out of town? You have to have somebody who can look you in the eyes and say, "Hey, I don't think you're doing well. How can I help you?" The next one is vulnerability. You have to be transparent with each other. They have to know. A lot of this I took from looking at villages that proximity was the fires that people used to build in their villages and they'd all come together after the kids were in bed. They'd cook together. They'd do life together.
In villages if you go, there are no doors, so vulnerability is this idea of open doors and you live and open life with people who you're close to. The next one is accountability. That's the surprising one. Not at this church. We're really good at that, but most cultures aren't right now. Yet throughout history they have been good at it, and you've seen those tribal elders who…
When I took my son back to Rwanda, they grabbed him by the collar, and they were all parenting him, everyone, people we didn't even know. People on the streets were parenting my Rwandan son because that's what they do. They parent each other's kids. They help hold each other accountable.
Then the next one is a shared mission, to do something beside each other. To do something arm-in-arm is very bonding. It helps you to not feel alone. Now that could be at your workplace. That could be volunteering in children's ministry, which I highly recommend all of you should do. It could be serving somewhere, but it also could just be playing pickleball.
My mom does it with bridge. She's in a bridge club, and she is on mission there with her friends. They have a thing that they're doing together. Then the last one is consistency. You don't leave when it gets hard. I think that probably might be the hardest part. We do tend to leave when it gets hard. I think that's, if I look at problems today, that's another one just…
Friendships are disposable. If somebody hurts you, you walk away. The reality is we were meant to work through conflict, and conflict was actually supposed to help us get closer to each other. So a good fight is actually defining of a good friendship. You can go through conflict together instead of bail and walk away.
So staying and being consistent and then clocking hours together. It takes about 200 hours for an acquaintance to become a good friend, an inner-circle friend. So for you to just quit someone who has made it to your inner circle, that means you're going to have to start over and spend at least 200 hours developing a new friendship. So those are the five.
David: So in this stage, I think you would say… Because when you come into young adulthood, you form these incredibly deep friendships in college, and then you leave and you move to a new city and you're having to recreate. You're feeling like, "I'm never going to be as close to this Community Group as I was to my college roommate, some of which were believers and we had those deep connections."
I think you would say, "You have to fight for those types of relationships." They may have come more naturally when you shared a dorm room or shared a house with six of you living together, but today because you're not in that environment, you can still have friends who live somewhere else, but you have to fight today. So to the person who is saying, "Man, I feel like I'm fighting, but it's not reciprocated or I feel like I'm always the one initiating," what would you say?
Jennie: I'd say my dream and my prayer for this project has been that tens of thousands of initiators are sent into the world. Because the initiators are the people who can change everything. If you want friends, which some of you are introverts, and you're like, "I wish I didn't even show up tonight…"
Listen, you are actually better at this than you think. You're actually really good at that inner circle. You're good at that deeper connection. God says it's not good for you to be alone either, so it's not that you don't need to be alone. It's that you don't need to be alone all the time. So you're pursuing this with the margin that you have for people as much as you can. I would just say that initiating can change everything.
I've heard stories recently, because some of the people got the book early, and the stories they've said are things like this. "I was sitting next to these few women. Every single week we were watching our kids do gymnastics, and we would just scroll our phones. Because I was reading this book, I just talked to the person next to me for 30 minutes while we were sitting there anyway and we completely bonded. She completely opened up to me, and we have game night on the calendar next week with our husbands."
This is how the world changes. You just notice who is right in front of you. That village is supposed to be the people who you don't think much about, but they're probably in and out of your life on a daily basis anyway. They're probably coming to mind right now. You text them and you say, "Hey, I really want to set a more regular time to see you because sometimes I go a week without seeing the same people week in and week out, and that makes me sad. I just want to know that every week, I'm going to see you and we're going to hang out together."
Whatever the small change is. A girl today sought me outside and said, "I bought a fire pit because of your book. I bought a fire pit in my backyard and my husband, and I just started inviting people over." Because a fire is a great thing. You can just sit there and look at it. It's so fun to look at fire. Love it! I love looking at fire.
Then you don't have to cook for them. Tops, s'mores. Keep them in the pantry. That's what we do. So you don't have to make this hard. This can be little changes that you walk out and make, but it will require what you're saying, which is initiation. If you don't initiate, you will not have friends.
David: That's good. I want to give you a chance to say anything else you'd leave them with. I'd love to put that chart up one more time because I think that in a society as a culture we're so feelings driven often, and we're also ironically feelings illiterate in that we don't often take the time to be introspective and actually navigate. Not just listen to my feelings but to listen to them in a way of, "Hey, what is this actually telling me?" To be a good enough friend that sits there with you. I think one thing that I was challenged… Not that one. The, what did you call it?
Jennie: I called it Mad Libs, emotional Mad Libs.
David: Mad Libs. I think you would say, "Hey, if you fill this out or if someone shares something like this with you, there's a balance between immediately correcting them and telling them not to feel that way and also just giving them the space and creating that environment and saying, 'Man, that must be really hard.'"
That's not always something I'm great at. In fact, I think as a culture we could probably grow in the church of doing that better. What's the balance between somebody shares this and then you're speaking into it and also just trying to foster an environment where they can share that? You guys, it may be wise honestly to take a pictures of this right now and share with your community and talk with your community about the things…
This may be the most profound thing honestly you walk out of here with. It at least was profoundly helpful in terms of language for me. I think I'm asking, how do you incorporate this and still be a faithful friend?
Jennie: Actually I'm going to share something that I want you to do tonight. Y'all are young. I don't care what time you have to wake up tomorrow. You're going out tonight. Let me tell you why. You are. That's your assignment. You're going out.
David: How about that?
Jennie: You're going out. You're going to grab… I'm serious. I don't care if they're strangers. You're going to grab four or five people. I know! Somebody is going to get married because I just did this. I want you to grab no more than five or six people to sit at a table together. I want you to go out tonight. Here's why.
One of my friends is here. Her grandmother wrote her a letter. Today is 2/22/22. The next time this will happen is 3/3/3033 that there are this many numbers in a date. She said, "This won't happen again for a thousand plus years." A thousand plus years that you'll have a date that you have today. It's funny. I don't know. She handwrote these letters to her grandkids.
She said, "I want you to do something you'll never forget on 2/22/22. For the rest of your life, you'll tell your grandkids, 'On 2/22/22, I did this thing.'" Okay? I'm going to give you your thing tonight. You're going out and you're going to vulnerable, awkwardly so. You're never going to forget it. You're going to sit across from each other and you're going to celebrate.
I don't know what that looks like for you if it's like cooking s'mores or what, but you're going to celebrate. You're going to do something. We're at church, but just whatever you have to do that you're going to celebrate. You're going to do that tonight. I say you all take that with you and you try to answer it.
Take a picture of it. Can we put it back up one more time in case now they realize, "I might get married, so I might answer the question." You're going to share with each other the answers. This isn't a big deal, but it is actually what's really going on behind the things going on. That's what I want you to learn.
If you share the thing that's going on behind the things that are going on, you have connection. What happens when you start to have connection is your anxiety goes down. I don't know how it happens. You could tell me or your wife could tell me, but physically. It happened to me the other night.
I started to share the things behind the things that were going on, and I took a deeper breath and my shoulders rolled back and I could breathe better. So you're going to do that tonight. You're going to go somewhere right now. You're going to pull out your phone and text somebody in the room. You have to have been in the room.
You can't do it with other people because they're going to be bugged. You only can do it with the people in the room. Will y'all do this for real? Come on! Go to Sonic. It's open. People are, like, pointing to girls. Like, "I'm going to go with her. I'm going to go with her." I don't care because the point is this: you can do it.
The point is we can go deeper. The point is next time you're going to run an errand alone, you can ask a friend to go with you. The point is instead of working out by yourself in the morning, you could make a little workout group. The point is you can make choices that cause you to not be so disconnected.
David: That's right.
Jennie: That is my prayer for you and that you all go share your souls out and fall in love.
David: Oh man! What would you leave them with? And that may be it.
Jennie: That's it.
David: Then we can pray. That 2/22/22 thing, I'm like, we have to go do something!
David: There's going to be a thousand years. What am I going to tell my grandkids? I'm going to Sonic, and I am getting rid of my toaster! Oh man, it's such a gift. Can I share one thing, and then will you pray for us? Then the band, you guys can come up. Because I'm going to have Jennie end, and then you guys can play.
Today at my house, my wife called me during lunch. I was talking to Sam. My wife said, "There's a gas leak in our house. It smells like gas like crazy." She has a 3-week old, our two other kids. I was in a meeting, and I basically was trying to go, "I'll call you right back." She was like, "You're not calling me back. There's a gas leak. It smells like gas."
I was like, "Okay, I'm leaving the meeting." I'm walking out, and Sam says, "You should tell her to call 911. Call 911." So of course I call 911. I get to the house, and long story short everything ended up being okay, but they went through and tested it and basically confirmed what the problem was. It's kind of irrelevant, but everything was fine.
I share that because whenever there is a situation where there is a fire, there's a problem. There's something going on. We know what to do and who to call: 911. Really what I love about this book is when it comes to the challenges and problems and heartaches and heartbreaks and highs and lows of life, there isn't a 911 to call, but God has given us the blueprint in his Word to instruct us in how to create the relationships of the people who come around you.
Because when you're going through a catastrophic thing, you're not going to call me. You're not calling Jennie. If you were here, we'd pray for you and come alongside. You have the chance to have people in your life who know you intimately in a way that nobody on a stage ever will. You can be known and you can experience peace that comes from that. So it's an easy thing. I told you, and I hope this doesn't insult you. I've done community here a long time. It's Watermark's middle name.
David: I was so encouraged as I just saw ways that I want to be more connected to those who I run with and experience more of the connection God designed us to experience. So thank you for articulating and creating a resource I think is going to really serve the church. I would highly recommend it to everyone here. With that said, will you pray for us?
Jennie: Yeah, I will.
God, you built us. You do this. You are this. You are Father, Son, Holy Spirit. You always were. You always will be. You in yourself are communal. That's who you are. So we come before a communal God, knowing that we are communal creatures who are craving something that you said in us is a good thing that we are craving. This is not something evil. This is something good.
In fact, we are not meant to live alone. For every way we have lived independent, isolated, built fences in our lives around our souls, God, would you tear them down and would we be brave enough open the door, to let people in, and to imagine what it could look like? Help us to imagine what it could look like if we were truly known, if we were truly seen, if we were truly soothed and safe, God.
That's what you desire for us. That's how you actually change us. That's how our hearts change. That's how they don't harden up. That's how they don't get calloused. God, we take a deep breath and we say something awkward and we admit it's hard. As we do that, we feel… Deep breath. As we do that, the person across from us thinks, "Hey, maybe I am safe here. Maybe I could share my thing." We defeat the Devil together.
God, we want to see the darkness and the bondage fall in our lives. We know that your Word says that you have not given us a spirit of fear, but you've given us a spirit of power, of love, and self-discipline. God, I believe the reason we are in so much fear is we are trying to fight the fear alone.
So God, I pray tonight that there would be awkward conversations happening all over Dallas, all over Austin, all over the places where people are watching, God, on this night that won't happen again for a thousand years. God, I pray the bondage would fall and the way it falls, God, that we wouldn't overcomplicate it. That we'd listen.
Most of us know the answer to our problems. Most of us know the truth. Most of us haven't been seen and soothed and safe in a long, long time. So would we be people who provide that, make spaces like that, who cry with each other, mourn with each other, laugh with each other, hug each other, and be together encouraging each other as long as it is called today. You have a good plan. Help us live it out. In Jesus' name, amen.