It’s a much bigger word than it seems. The dictionary offers several definitions: 1) the state of being a friend; 2) a friendly relation or intimacy; 3) friendly feeling or disposition. I found it so interesting that the first definition including “being” the friend.
As I have recently perused comments posted on several different blogs and articles regarding friendship, I noticed a theme that occurred quite regularly from women. Often when the post contained a message about women needing friends, more than not there was a response from a woman who said she had no real friends. Often the comment is something like this: “I have been a good friend … I have been loyal … I have reached out …” And then it takes the dreaded turn. You know the word. B-U-T.
Someone said that “if you have one true friend, you have more than your share.” That’s hard for me to wrap my mind around. I must say that I am graced with several amazing friendships. I have what I believe to be several true and lasting friends. I often wonder if the person who said that was a Christian and was regularly involved in the ministries of their local church.
I’m sure some women reading this would say a resounding YES. Yes, even the church can be a cold place. Yes, even Christian women can be heartless and uncaring. Yes, what is touted as an open small group is actually a woman’s small clique. Yes, there are mean girls even in women’s ministry. Yes, there is competition and cruelty among the women of my church.
But how do we change this if it’s happening? I realize it will never be corrected permanently this side of Jesus’ return because we’re all just that imperfect. But I do seek answers for the woman who feels so isolated, lonely and desperate. What can I say that will help her to find healing and peace and contentment? It’s easy to sometimes say to someone: Jesus is our Friend, and that is enough.
And yet, is it? Because there are so many “one another” passages in scripture, I find it hard to believe that we are to do the Christian journey alone. There’s something about community (friendship) that is a vital part of our spiritual growth as women. I believe the need for one another doesn’t have to be an unhealthy one.
Certainly friendships can be painful. I have been hurt and have been the one who has hurt someone else. But I have chosen to believe that even through the difficult times, friendships are worth it! I have had lots of goodbyes in my life. I’m so thankful that those goodbyes haven’t ended the journey I’m on with some of my friends. I have women in my life who have allowed me to be miles and months away, and who love me still and love me well. They have chosen to BE my friend, through the ups and downs and the good and bad times of our relationship. I understand that there are times we can not be this or do this. For lots of reasons (history, culture, circumstances), some people have to let go and release a relationship that is unhealthy for them. We aren’t called to do more than we are able to do. Some women are so broken and bruised that they can’t remain in a relationship with someone who is too busy, too forgetful, too preoccupied and too random. For both of them, that friendship is probably a burden rather than a blessing and indeed it is best to move on.
But moving on means pressing on. I believe the key for us as women is to continue to pursue friendships. As a pastor’s wife, when it comes to friendships, I have it easy and hard at the same time. Typically, when I go to a new place, women want to be my friend. That can be wonderful and terrible. I’m so thankful that I took the advice of a pastor’s wife long ago and chose to be friends with women in the congregation where my husband has ministered. And although there has been difficulty and challenges in choosing that road (e.g., I can’t be bffs with everyone), there has also been great blessing and opportunity. In opening myself to others, I am able to genuinely and authentically grow in Christ before and with them.
As I pursue Christ, and as I pursue new relationships, I find that there’s always some connection that I make that is very fresh and inspiring. Had I held back and fretted over friendships lost, I would never have gained something amazing. Waiting on someone to look my way or to choose me often leads to frustration or bitterness. I have discovered that friendship truly is “the state of being a friend.”
It’s mostly up to us to grow in God’s grace regarding our friendships. We have to intentionally pursue relationships. It may take some time, and require some patience, but I believe God has a plan for us to all make and have friends.