It wasn't too long after I meet my friend Jon that he started saying "I love you bro" before I left his house, or before I walked away after spending time with him. It sounded super genuine but it sort of weirded me out to think of saying it back. Telling your pastor, "I love you too" was the very definition of #awkward. However, it grew on me over time as I got to know more and more of Jon's heart of friendship for me. After awhile saying "I love you" seemed natural. I even started to say it some of the other guys that I am closest with in my life. The Bible teaches over and over that we are to love one another, so why would we not express that love by saying it?
Another thing I learned from my friend Jon was how great it feels to get a text message or an email of encouragement. Just that small gesture of asking "how are you doing" or "I'm praying for you" means the world. And it is so easy to do! I have been working really hard to develop that same heart for people in my own life. I have a 40 minute drive home from work and I often use that time to call someone just to check in on how they are doing. I have also started sending more text messages to friends just letting them know I appreciate them, I'm thinking of them, and asking how I can pray for them. It is wonderful to connect with people when I see them, but there is something even more touching to know that you are being thought of when you're apart.