Friend of Mine
One Sunday, after preaching three sermons, I dragged my utterly depleted body from the pulpit toward my office. It was early afternoon, our senior pastor was out of town, and I’d been doing my best for Jesus since 8:00 a.m.. My mind felt like the lukewarm, melted iced-coffee sitting on my desk. “He does this every week?!” I muttered as I grabbed a crumpled up note freshly shoved into my staff mailbox.
I flopped into my chair unfolding the note. The self-affirmation junkie that I am I secretly hoped it was a member singing my praises. Best sermon ever? Hailing me as the next Beth Moore?
Not so much. The shaky cursive read, “Your bad haircut and dark roots are distracting from your presentation. You might want to get your hair done.”
Laughter or tears; which would it be?
After trying to honor God all morning, shabby grooming was the only apparent take away. “I have three kids, two jobs and one husband. Who has time to get her highlights done?”
Immediately I slid open my phone and dialed my friend, Sadie. “Please tell me I’m cute and my hair is okay.” I pleaded. Snickering, she reassured me that Jesus did not care much about hair, and as I hastily prepared to hang it up, she paused to be certain I was listening, “You do know you really are great, right? And I love you.”
A good friend is salve for the soul.
You’ve Got A Friend In Me
Gratitude enfolds me after a call like this. In a world where loneliness is cited as an ever present reality, Sadie is a treasure. Psychologists, social workers, researchers, pastors and even radio hosts will tell you that loneliness is a pandemic in our culture as people feel increasingly isolated despite every bit of technological prowess. Forging meaningful relationships does not come easy.
Friendships among women are often tangled at best. Most of us smacked into this reality during middle school and the sting of gossip and judgment stalked us well into adulthood. To strike up a new friendship creates anxiety in a distracted, individualistic world. “So... will you be my new BFF?” makes for a desperate sounding lead line at a social gathering.
Yet God designed us all for connection with others and deemed it essential to the well-being of our souls. So how do we finesse the fine nuances of friendship and which qualities make us graceful friends for others? Consider the following:
1. Friends offer camaraderie
C.S. Lewis once said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” Meaningful friendships may crop up through a shared journey, such as with a mentor who has gone before us or a Thelma and Louise sort of pal to ride shotgun. Consider how teenagers band together, how mothers of newborns unite, or a batch of new employees connect and gut out orientation together. The sweat and tears of a shared experience remind us we are not alone.
2. Friends offer candor
After a speaking engagement, one friend said, “You talked way too fast and you should never wear those sandals in public again.” As a professional communicator, her unimpressed honesty was key to my growth. Friends offer grace-filled correction and criticism while standing ready to also receive it.
3. Friends cheer us on
A local mom signs off her emails with the valediction, “cheering for you.” Life often requires a full cheer squad to survive a seemingly ordinary day. Friends who consistently wear the “#1 Fan T-shirt” and who invest in our dreams help us see the beauty we self-critically miss. Women who grab your shoulders, force eye contact and say, “you’ve got this,” help us go boldly into the interviews, meetings or doctor appointments that loom large in our lives.
4. Friends keep us calm
As influencers, the temptation to place our identity in success is tremendous. When personal or professional tensions mount, friends can call us to a place of balance by reminding us the sum total of life is found in places of peace. A calming friend will call us toward back-deck conversations, a nap, and a rested soul. They pull us beyond striving and into perspective with reminders that accomplishment does not define us. They call us home.
Life Moves Pretty Fast
According to Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”
The sheer velocity of our lives is perhaps the greatest barrier to developing connections. Friendships often feel forced when we search outside the natural rhythms of our lives. Perhaps we pressure ourselves into a small group or church connection that is not a natural fit. We join an athletic team for a sport we dislike or a play group with women three towns over and wonder why we cannot make it work. Rather than try to wedge new circles of women into an already tight spot, what if we looked around at those already in our space?
Are there potential partners for the journey nearby? Women who slug it out in the same trenches? Consider for a moment the impact of two people living with candor and camaraderie, cheering on their shared colleagues or neighbors. Women who link arms with others, right where they are can encourage and bring forth saner moments in their same weary culture. They hold the potential to transform the places they dwell together: whether the trenches of motherhood or the boardroom—or both.
Consider the power of your influence lived out alongside others, transforming the places where you live each day. The power to transform our rapid-fire, lonely culture is in each of us as we connect with others.
Written by Tracy Bianchi
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