Christy Gogu   |   May 24, 2017 

Growing up in Chandigarh, I spent a lot of time playing in the streets or parks near our home, usually with boys. Playing tag on and around monkey bars, running around or playing hide and seek. My sister and I didn’t have many toys or dolls. Our parents and uncle (who was a PE teacher at our school) encouraged us in sports and other extra-curricular activities. My sister was a Table-Tennis and Cycling champ and I used to try to keep up with her.

In my teenage years, when my Taekwondo coach couldn’t find a suitable sparring partner, he’d make me fight the boys or senior girls. I remember some boys calling me ‘Kaali ma’ (which means ‘black goddess’, a nickname for the Indian mythological warrior goddess, Durga). Though it was racist, I took it as a compliment and used it to fuel my sparring. I never talked about it at home.

When I left home for college, I had some trouble fitting in. It didn’t help that our engineering class of more than forty had only two girls. Maybe I was ragged a little extra for being a little different or defiant, I don’t know. I was often misunderstood for being ‘too free’ with boys. But it was also the time that God ensured that I grew closer to Him. He gave me a great Christian fellowship group and some amazing #friendsforlife in those years. Seniors who were kind to me, teachers who mentored me, and batch-mates I could have fun with, pray with and be real with.

Looking back, it was only in those years that I was learning to articulate myself, my feelings, fears and dreams, and get comfortable with who I was. I thank God for those amazing friends I had in the hostel, friends I shared those four years with, friends who talked openly with me and taught me to open up in return. I think that was one thing that I had missed out on as a child, one important thing I was not trained in. In our family, we were not very vocal about our deepest thoughts or feelings. My sister and I were loved, encouraged to dream and given freedom to follow our dreams, but I don’t remember many times of heartfelt sharing or open conversations.

Fast forward ten years, I moved to Delhi, closer to my parents and to Rajesh, now my husband. We started attending a new church, and I was eager to make friends quickly. I'm sure some of them must have thought ‘who is this new girl barging into our tight group’ but I couldn’t be bothered. I had learnt the value of friends and I wasted no time. Even if it were just a tiny group that I could belong to, share life with, learn from and give myself to. Also, I didn't want to be like those couples in college who had no life or friends outside of their ‘relationship’. My new friends at church were freely accepting of me, Punjabi-accented English and all. They warmly welcomed me and made me feel as if I had known them for years. Even when they shared common stories of their college times, I almost felt I had been there too. I am so thankful that I am still enriched by most of the friendships built in those first years in Delhi.

“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 friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”

-C.S. Lewis

Fast forward another ten years and I still value friends who teach me to be more like Christ. Friends who question, correct and encourage me in different walks of life. Friends who don’t beat around the bush or give empty compliments. Friends who push me to do my best or allow me to just have fun. Friends who sense when something's not right and prod just enough for me to open up. Friends who feel free to ask when they need something. Friends who drop in just because they were in the neighbourhood. Friends I think of when I hear a certain song or eat a particular dish. Friends who call or visit after years and we just continue from where we left. Friends who make me feel special with their thoughtfulness. There is so much I am learning and growing in my appreciation of good friendships.

God is amazing in that He designed us for friendships. The good kind. The kind that builds us up in different ways. But these friendships don’t come easy. They need work, time, patience and a lot of love. You have to put yourself out there. You have to risk being rejected or judged and be okay with it. You may have to risk being considered presumptuous or suspected of having ulterior motives. But if we just stay put, without reaching out, without taking the first step, expecting someone else to reach out first, we might have to wait a long time. And time as we know is precious.

These days, people are cautious, even in churches. We don’t want to be misunderstood or taken advantage of. We don’t want to get too involved or we fear getting hurt as we have in the past. We often tread on our tippy toes (yes, I am the mother of two little girls). It's good to be intentional about who we choose to spend time with. But sometimes we can go too far and it feels calculated, even manipulated. And we can become less sensitive to the neighbour who needs a good Samaritan.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
― C.S. Lewis

God shows us times when we are called to give and times when we are to receive. I often took pride in being able to give but God has taught me to be humble and receive. Receive encouragement, receive correction, receive an act of kindness. I am also learning that I need to receive people into my life when it may not always be convenient. To share my time and my resources with people I may or may not have much in common with. Yes, there are times when we need to say no to things, programs, events or activities. But if I want to be more like Jesus, I need to learn to make time for people at the expense of my comfort. In today's busy world, a small gesture of reaching out can mean a lot.

Who are your friends? Who do you seek to hang out with?

Visit them or call them over for coffee. Reach out, today.


Photo Credit: Unsplash

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Christy Gogu

Christy Gogu is currently pursuing a doctorate in the field of Design. She lives in New Delhi and loves traveling with her husband and two young daughters, hanging out with friends over a cup of chai or dessert, watching movies and exercising.

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