Did you know that you are made to be in relationships? The desire you have to know and be known by someone else makes you completely human. The Bible says we are made in the image of God and being made like Him, we long for close, intimate relationships with people. There are so many times that we forget that Jesus was so very human. One of my favorite human things about Him was how much He loved His friends.
Relationships are what make life sweet. They often make everything better, funnier, and easier to bear. Being alone was never the plan. So why are healthy friendships so rare and hard to find? Why, in this modern day culture of connection to everyone all the time, are we suffering from a loneliness epidemic? I’m convinced it’s because the enemy of this world knows the power of friendship.
David and Jonathan were closer than brothers. Mary and Elizabeth were best friends in their crazy circumstances. Jesus and John were the closest of all the disciples. These are just a few Biblical examples that portray intimacy in friendship. We are designed to be close to someone. But it’s not always that easy, is it?
As we get older, life gets more complicated. Our friend selection process becomes so broad. It isn’t limited to your school class or your ball team or your built-in sisterhood. Stepping out of our comfort zones as we grow up often means leaving behind relationships that have carried us through our childhood and teenage years. Becoming an adult can sometimes leave you at a complete loss on how to make, much less keep close friends.
So, here are a few ways to fight for friendship in your life and in your community.
First, Proverbs 18:24 tells us that if you want friends, show yourself friendly. Growing up in the same church my whole life, my family took approximately one million casserole dishes to families who had babies. They taught the young married Sunday school class and therefore, someone was always getting a second helping of our supper. Stay with me! I promise this has to do with making friends! I followed this model into my marriage and always brought food to my girlfriends when they had babies. Then, I moved away and had a baby in a state where I knew no one and had no friends. Guys, I got no casseroles, AND I WAS SO SAD. Trust me, you do not want to see a weepy, postpartum, food deprived momma. It’s ugly! I felt like I had been cheated out of my casserole inheritance.
The next time I got pregnant, I was convinced I was going to get mine. I thought of the principle of sowing and reaping and went to work. I started bringing dinner to every pregnant person I could find. I met a complete stranger at Target, got her info, and BROUGHT HER A FROZEN SPAGHETTI. Not on my watch was a woman going to have a baby without a meal to defrost. I was counting on reaping an intentional investment. I promise this is true. By the time I had my baby, a small group at a local church adopted my family and I had dinner for four weeks straight. GOD IS A GOD WHO MEASURES WHAT YOU SOW. Sow friendship. Be intentional with putting yourself out there. If you know someone that you always watch from a distance, but would like to get to know, ask them for a coffee-meet-up. Go to lunch with a stranger. (Safe ones!) Imagine the story you will tell on how you met your new friend if it happens to work out. What do you have to lose besides the loneliness? You have to make connections and do the work of getting to know someone. You will reap a beautiful harvest that may take some time. But, you will get more than you bargained for.
Second, don’t feel ashamed to desire close connection to one person. We are especially made to be close to a few. Jesus was friends with all the disciples, but He only fished with a few and He only asked one to take care of his mom after He left earth. We should all be kind. We should all be aware that the goal is not to hurt others by exclusivity. But if you feel connected in a unique way to one, that’s ok. Our hearts are fragile, beautiful things. Giving it away to many is like giving pearls to pigs. The bible has also said that confession of sins in relationships can heal us. That shouldn’t be to a group. It should be to a trusted one. God has set up intimate connection with a friend to be a source of love that replicates His heart toward you. Fight for your closeness. It’s not selfish. It’s stewarding a sweet gift.
Lastly, learn to reconcile. We are so prone to leave when things get hard but what if we learn the gift of deciding to stay? Just a few years ago, I went through a weird season with one of my closest friends. I can’t really tell you what happened that cause our distance, but it was something cold. I wanted to cut the loss and move on, but my friend made a decision to fight for our friendship and I’m so glad she did. She came to me and asked what the offense was between us and we talked, quite uncomfortably, through it. I hate conflict and because of that, the conversation was truly difficult. We knew it would take time to get back to the joy filled, fun nature of our relationship. So, we made a commitment to stay in it. We set a time that we would get together weekly. At first, my wounded soul wanted to run the other way, but I knew she would be at Chick-fil-A at 7:00 am every Wednesday morning. It cost me my pride and some sleep to fully reconcile our relationship. Today, we are closer than we have ever been.
There are, for sure, relationships to walk away from. You should never stay in something that is abusive or repeatedly selfish. But, if there is good at the heart of it, if Jesus is somewhere in the middle, give it a chance to heal. Reconciliation is one of the most beautiful things we can offer to the world. If you want to look back at your life and see a harvest of really sweet friendships, reconciliation is a tool you must learn to use.
You are made to love each other. You are right in your desire to be loved in return. Be extravagant in your hope to find a friend. You will see the fruit of your labor. If nothing else, your future pregnant self will thank you for the casseroles!