“Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold,” sing Girl Scouts around campfires across America. That’s easier sung than done in today’s fast paced life.
Have you been in this woman’s shoes? My friend and her husband moved halfway across the country from both of their families to start new jobs. They had one child, about 4 months old. This woman literally didn’t know a soul when she scouted out a house for her family to move in and unpacked the mover’s boxes. Eager to put down roots, she looked for a church. The couple started to volunteer and serve in the church nursery. The logic was this would help introduce them to other couples in the same season of life. All went well. My friend learned where to buy groceries, figured out who had the best Chinese takeout, and programmed the closest Target into the GPS. She still needed to find new friends. Friends make a new place home.
Eight months later – the child was celebrating her first birthday. My friend planned a party and decided to invite all the families they had met at the church nursery. She figured connecting with these families could be done best over birthday cake and wall-to-wall one year olds. Party day came, and not a single family showed.
Have you been starving for friendship, and can’t find a nourishing relationship anywhere? I’ve been there. We’ve all been there.
Maybe you’ve just unpacked, again, and aren’t sure you have the energy to start new friendships. Maybe you’ve just lost a husband or a parent who was a best friend, and you can’t imagine anyone taking their place. Maybe you’ve been hurt in the past, and just don’t want to risk heartache.
As my friend shared her story, I heard the hurt in her voice, the frustration, the embarrassment of throwing a party no one attended. After a long pause, I mustered the courage to ask her what she was going to do.
I expected her to tell me she was going to look for another church, confront the folks she invited, or call the Pastor. (Doesn’t everyone call or email the Pastor when they have a negative experience?)
My friend’s answer knocked me back on my heels. She said, “I am going to try harder.” She said friendship was something worth fighting for, worth investing in. In her own way, she was echoing Christian author C.S. Lewis who writes, ““Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that gives value to survival.”
My friend was not content to survive in her new home, she was determined to add value to this new life.
Jesus sojourned on this planet for three years. With everything he had to accomplish, he carved out a special place in his life for friendship. He prioritized it. He cherished it. He taught us to do the same and made us his friends. (John 15: 12-15)
Scripture records that he visited Martha, Mary, and Lazarus three times. He ate in their home, laughed, fellowshipped, and cried with them. This sounds very normal, because it was. Here we have four single adults living life together, seeking God’s will, comforting one another, confronting one another, and at the end of the day sealing a friendship.
So for the woman who’s asking herself: How do I have that? How can I have what Jesus had on earth with his friends?
Here are a couple of thoughts:
Make the time.
I know we are all busy. Our children, our husbands, our jobs, meals, laundry, sleeping eight hours a night are all competing for our attention. Friendship requires cultivation. You can’t phone it in, you can’t facebook it. You have to have conversations, look people in the eye, and share experiences to spark a friendship and keep it glowing. Scripture records three visits Jesus made to his friends’ home (there were probably more) before there were cars, direct flights or skype. Jesus made the time to physically visit with his friends (Luke 10:38, John 11 and 12). Make the time, set it aside.
Make the first move.
As you work, attend church, bump into women in the normal course of life, ask yourself if any of these ladies are people you could see yourself becoming friends with. Ask those ladies to coffee. Make the first move – a couple of conversations later you’ll know if this person is going to be a ministry or a potential friend. We are called to love everyone, minister to everyone, but we are only called to friendship with a few. If you have only ministry in your social circle, you are going to find yourself exhausted and empty. Save room for friendship. I love that John tells us that, “Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people.” (John 2:24) Be discerning in friendship and ministry, there’s a difference, mark it well, and freely offer both.
Mark the difference between annuals and perennials.
I was in college when a speaker shared that she always viewed the friends in her life as flowers in a garden. Some friends were for a season, and after a time with a shift in life, or interests, they faded from her garden. These friends were annuals; she enjoyed them in the moment, but was realistic about how long they would be in her life. Some friends were perennials; they stayed friends regardless of moves, life stages or even the frequency of getting together. Those friends came back year after year, didn’t have to be replanted, they put down deep roots and wintered well.
It’s okay to have a garden full or perennials and annuals. A lot of women love movies like Steel Magnolias. Two hours and a box of tissues later, a lifetime of friendship is summed up in a nice neat package. They make it look so easy. We log onto facebook, peek through the windows of a bunch of people’s lives, post a couple funny sayings, “like” a couple of our friends funning sayings and then call it a night.
This is not how real friendship is made and you can get disappointed when things in the real world aren’t happening fast enough for you or when your “annuals” fade in a season change. Friendship is hard work – and there’s no short cut.
Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died. He was touched by Mary’s love for him, when she anointed his feet with perfume. He appreciated Martha’s hospitality. Those experiences happened over years, through hard times, and in sweet fellowship. If friendship had been easy, I think we would have read about Jesus having more friends while he was on earth, than the few we find.
Friendship adds value to life. It’s worth the hard work. Ask the Lord to bring the friends you need into your life, but more importantly ask the Lord to make you into the friend another woman needs.