Friday, May 25, 2012
The 3 Types of Friend Every Woman Should Be--Part 3 (the finale)
My original, working title for this series of posts was “Friends are Friends Forever,” but I nixed that title because it was just a little too Michael W. Smith-ish. I Googled it, and that song actually came out circa 1983. It’s practically a classic by now. That song and its place in Christian pop culture deserves a blog post all its own. Maybe some other day. J Today, we finish the discussion on friendships in the life of a Jesus-loving woman.
The first two types, friendship with older women and friendship with younger women, are sort of a revolving door. You’re almost always going to have people in your life who are older than you and who are younger than you. You always have the potential to be someone’s spiritual mother or daughter. This third type of friendship, friendship with peers, is probably the most obvious mental image you get when you think about friendship (or when you hear that classic MWS song…but I digress).
The third type of friendship present in the lives of women who love the Lord is friendship with their peers. I probably need to clarify what I mean by the word “peers.” For this discussion, “peers” refers to a friend at or near your age who is in the same stage of life as you. They are having similar life experiences to you and are dealing with the same life issues.
This is the most obvious type of friendship, of course. From the time we’re born we spend time with other kids our age. We learn to ride bikes around the same time, we’re struggling with long division (nearly killed me) at the same time, we’re reading the same books. Making friends this way continues all the way through high school and college, as you become comfortable with your own identity and refine who you enjoy spending time with.
As we age, we find ourselves continually drawn to people in a similar stage of life. If you’re engaged or newly married, you find yourself spending time with other engaged/newly married couples. If you’re the parents of toddlers, you want to compare notes with other parents of toddlers. When I was in seminary, those of us who were single all lived in the same apartment complex on campus. We had Christmas parties, celebrated birthdays, and went to the midnight showings of Harry Potter together.
In my third year of seminary, I met Mary Margaret. She came into my life at a time when I was wary of making new friends. I had recently had my heart broken by another friendship, so even though I liked Mary Margaret immediately I was cautious of becoming close to her. Nearly three years later, though, I am so glad that I did.
MM and I are in a similar stage of life. We were in seminary together, so we shared in each other’s school-related trials and triumphs. We’ve walked alongside of one another as we graduated seminary and waited to see where God would have us serve next. We’re both single and waiting for a godly man. At this point in my life, most of my friends are married and having children. That doesn’t mean that I’m not still friends with them—on the contrary, I’m Aunt CC to my friends’ children, whom I love like family. But being able to relate to someone who shares my same values, and who is dealing with singleness and dating in the church, is really priceless at this point in my life.
Mary Margaret and I were both raised in the church by believing parents. We’re both the oldest of three with 2 younger brothers. We share a similar life’s calling: MM’s calling is to minister to high school girls, while mine is directed toward college students, primarily girls. It was easy for us to bond over cheese dip and a love of girls’ ministry.
MM is a heart friend; we share our struggles and know that we can count on one another for prayer. This, I think, is the most important part of our friendship and really any friendship between two believers: I know that I can count on Mary Margaret to encourage me in my faith. She always points me toward the Lord. We hold each other accountable to things; we talk about what the Lord is teaching us; we exchange prayers and scripture and ideas. We have the freedom and safety to express our hearts to one another, with no fear of judgment or betrayal. It means the world to me to have a friend like her, and I’m thankful that God brought us together the way that he did.
Does this mean that I am lacking friends who don’t share my values or who are in a different stage of life as me? No way! I have friends—best friends, even, who are single/married, with children/child-free, in church/out of church…you get the idea. And it is my responsibility to care for them and love them like Jesus—basically, to be the best friend to them that I can be. For the purpose of this discussion, though, I wanted to point out how beneficial it is to have a peer-friend who is in the same stage of life as you are. With this type of relationship in my life, I feel encouraged that someone else is dealing with the same issues as me. I feel less alone. And if I can help just one other person feel less alone, and more loved by Jesus, then I have accomplished Kingdom work.
There are other types of friends, of course. I’m certainly not limiting it to these three. But every Jesus-loving woman should be fulfilling these three roles in the lives of other women. I know it isn’t easy. I’m having to forge new friendships in one area of my life right now and it is downright terrifying. But the benefits to having friends who are both younger and older than you far outweigh the risks. And having those heart friends who are your age and in your stage of life is the sweet spot in the middle.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. I Thessalonians 5.11