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Entries in Friendships (2)


Because we know there is something better

Over the years, I have often found it frustrating that I have allowed the relationships in my life to discourage me. Especially troublesome is the reality that the worst friendship experiences I have had have been with Christian women. When I read articles about the wonderful fellowship I'm supposed to be having with my female friends, my cynicism takes over. That has not been my experience. At times, I have felt that we have turned female friendships into an idol. 

Of course, family friendships have also been discouraging to me. I think most of us would be willing to admit that marriage and parenting comes with a lot of heartbreak at times, regardless of how good those relatioinships are in general. I'm sure I've done my share of heartbreaking as a wife and mother. But why have I always let these things overwhelm me? I am not naturally stoic, and as much as I try to be, I cannot manage it. When I fully understand that everyone is sinful and we must not put high expectations on anyone to be perfect, why is this so difficult?

I wonder if it isn't because we know that something better is waiting. We know that when we are united fully with Christ in the new heavens and earth, we will no longer experience heartache, betrayal, or sin. How does our being made in the image of God, carrying his imprint upon us, our being one with Christ unconsciously affect our expectations?

I remember being a child and wishing things were different. I had a fairly happy childhood, but when things didn't go well, I would always resort to wishing that my family life was different, that my dad would be home more, that there wouldn't be so much strife, that my friends were different. It always boiled down to the people, not necessarily my circumstances. God has made us for relationships, whether we are the type who manage several or those who are content with a few. But however many people we allow into our lives, we want our relationships with them to be good. And I wonder if part of my frustration has been because I know what awaits me, and I am frustrated in my waiting.

God is not encumbered by sin. There is no fear of rejection from him. We need not feel uncertain with him. His word tells us that he loved us while we were yet sinners (Rom 5:6). He loves us though we are often unlovely. He sent his son to die for us, and his Holy Spirit to be with us to prepare us for our eventual reunion with him. We were not destined for this earth; we were destined to be with him.

It brings to mind the opening paragraphs of Augustine's Confessions: "you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you."

There is never going to be a human relationship which will exactly mirror what I will ultimately have when I am in heaven. When I am tempted to feel discouragement over relationships, instead of mourning, I ought to think of it as a reminder of what is to come.


Friendships where you feel safe

A number of weeks ago, my pastor's wife and I were having a visit, and she shared an idea with me. It was her belief that the usual social gatherings for women are not always a place for us to really get to know one another. She proposed that she, I, and two other women gather four times over the summer to share with each other how we came to faith, and to share some spiritual markers in our lives. Each of us would be given an opportunity to share, and on the others, we would listen. My pastor's wife shared the first week, and invited us to ask questions. The first week was wonderful. The discussion we had was deep, loving, and God-honouring. It was far and away better than any "women's gathering" I'd ever been to. We discussed theology in action.

Yesterday, was my turn, and in between the time of the first meeting and yesterday, I pondered what to share. When we are given the opportunity to share about our lives, we begin to look back and we realize just how much there is. It forces us to see that God has been active in our lives in a myraid of ways in the little moments when we weren't even paying attention. 

All of these women know me. One of them, has been my friend for 19 years, and she really knows me. And after I shared, she said that she learned something new about me. The other woman there, I've known for 19 years as well, and through our discussions, I am learning more about her. I'm getting to know my pastor's wife better, and coming to her love her more. I think the best friendships develop at a relaxed pace. Sometimes the worst friendship experiences I have had are the ones where early in the friendships, we shared too much.

These gatherings are a place where we feel safe, and that is what comes from honesty within the Body of Christ. I don't mean that we tell more information than is necessary. We aren't sharing things that our husbands would rather we not. There is no husband bashing, but there is discussion about marriage. We are not confessing lurid details about our sin, but there is simply a recognition that we are struggling with it daily, as will always be the case in these mortal bodies. There is not revelation of details that would shock, but there is a willingness on all of our parts to reveal that we are weak, that we need the Lord. All four of us have dealt with the challenges of marriage, struggles with teenagers, family issues, and two of us have dealt with the death of a child. One of us has dealt with the death of a husband. 

I don't think transparency is about the details we reveal. Rather, it's the willingness to be honest while maintining discretion, and a willingness to accept who we are before God and in Christ. It's a willingness to learn from others. I think true transparency will begin with humility and it will be discreet. It's a recognition that none of us has arrived, and when we begin to think we have, we are in serious trouble.

When I was in eighth grade, I was bullied, and that was a huge watershed in my life. I shared that with my friends. Even as I spoke, I realized how much of an effect that has had on me. For many years, being the tomboy I was, I put my nose in the air regarding female friendships. Who needed them? I'm beginning to value them so much, and I think it's because this summer I have been developing good friendships that begin with the common bond of Christ. In addition to these ladies, another friend and I are growing in our friendship as we study a book together. 

Friendships with women can develop in many contexts. Some of us like to shop, make crafts, or sit and chat over a nice meal, but these friendships I've been involved in over the summer, I believe, are the best way to develop friendships: small, intimate groups with women who love the Lord, and desire to grow in him. It's a small group with a different kind of focus, and I am so grateful to my pastor's wife for gathering us together.