There are many terms of endearment used between friends. Best friends forever, otherwise known as BFF, and BFFL, best friends for life. Two of the faves from my childhood were love ya lots or love you like a sis. A quick peek at my teen daughter’s snap chat streaks would give me a better idea of what today’s “bestie” lingo is all about. If I could only figure out what in the world a streak is?!?
One thing I’ve been blessed to (halfway) figure out over the years is what friendships built on Christ are made of. I certainly don’t claim to know all the ins and outs but I would say that God has given me many wonderful friendships in the context of living and serving in his amazing church! And that has given me plenty of opportunity to both observe and experience many of these relationships along the way.
Recently, my FIC–that is, friend in Christ–Christy and I dressed similar for Sunday morning service—not on purpose—with white pants and similar spring blouses. What could a girl do? Grab her phone and force some unnamed pastor to take a picture, that’s what! After posting the picture on Facebook, I really began thinking . . . and this is what I came up with: The Lord is the one who put the two of us together as friends, and I want to give him the glory for blessing us in that way. So that thought then turned into this question . . . What does our friendship look like, anyway?
1. We commit to time together. The easy part is to want to have a godly friendship, the harder part is making the commitment to make it happen. I think the important thing to note about our friendship in particular, and others may be different, is that because the Lord has both of us extremely busy, we commit to time together about every two weeks.
What do we do together? We share. We fellowship. We read Scripture together and discuss it. We make plans, some individual, some together. We pray. For our loved ones, and by the way, we don’t give up on those prayers. And sometimes, just to be faithful to Acts 2:42, we break bread together—well, not bread because I don’t eat bread and she doesn’t eat much of anything—but we chop and enjoy salad. Or chicken or fruit or veggies. And yes, we have coffee. Mine with raw sugar, hers just black.
2. We have no disrespectful discussions. We just don’t. We set the bar high, a long time ago—before we were even good friends—in our speech. There’s no husband (or male-in-general bashing) between us. In fact, call it weird if you want, but we covet male leadership in our lives and ministries. You won’t catch us gossiping, either. Not that we’re not tempted to. There are plenty of situations where the one of us knows that the other knows the exact size and flavor of the scoop, but the ice cream (cone or sundae?) is just not served.
To my recollection, we never openly agreed to “not” to have disrespectful discussions. It was just a conviction that the Lord had placed on both of our hearts as individual women. So when he brought us together as friends, we were given the opportunity to practice the strength and steadiness of those individual convictions. And we were given the opportunity to experience the wonderfully freeing blessing of having woman-to-woman conversations without the guilt that comes with the giving in to gossip and gab.
3. We confide about the tougher issues of our lives. The inner issues of insecurity, hopes, fears, dreams, failures. The struggles, the joys, the ups and the downs that both of us face. Not every little thing, but many things. Not all the time, but some of the time. While our friendship seeks to keep itself real and open and honest, our goal is not to bring each other’s baggage to the table for digestion or to feed off any drama that may be taking place in our lives. It’s to honestly share and seek the Lord together over whatever is burdening our hearts or joyously overflowing from them.
As this sharing takes place, there is no real contradiction with point #2. In other words, we can share without dishonoring God or our husbands or any other person. How? Because we know that we can freely challenge each other’s vision– of any logs that might be in the other’s eyes. (See Matthew 7:3) If I’m exhibiting an attitude or behavior that is unworthy of that to which I have been called, my clear expectation is that she speak to that. To my face. I am often blind to my own sinful ways. My true friend in Christ is going to show me such things with a gentle reminder spoken in love and in truth.
4. We don’t over-prioritize our friendship. As women who love and understand God’s Word, we are firmly convinced that there is an order to the love and priorities of a woman’s heart. Jesus first. Husband second. Children third. Others, accordingly, next. Although it sounds restrictive, we have seen and experienced the joys of adhering to such prioritization. We want our husbands and children to be receivers of the blessings of the friendship that God has given us, not for our friendship to hinder the relationships within our marriages and families.
I would go as far to say this: that my husband should have the freedom to come to me and tell me if he ever felt that any friendship I have makes him feel less-than, or inferior in any way. Our marriage is uniquely designed to reflect the gospel, the relationship between Christ and His Church, which means that he and I are the closest of all human relationships. This is an honor that we do not take lightly. If we are seeking Christ to be the center of “us,” there will be a supernatural balance exhibited in our other relationships, friendships. And for this we strive.
5. We intentionally push the other in her ministries. Not push as in push ministry opportunities onto the other, but push as in push each other in the ministries God has already set before us. Working together in the context of the local church for five years was no accident; the timing of our growing friendship has occurred simultaneously with our growing ministries. We set out to encourage and hold each other accountable in first in our homes, the church and beyond. This requires great vulnerability. Furthermore, serving the Lord is not easy and oftentimes, it is ordained by God himself to be just plain lonely. Our goal is not to interfere with what God is doing in the depths of our heart in regards to surrender to His callings, but it is to press the other on in that thing so that God himself will get the glory.
I have to share one thing about this. I confess that I was not the one to push my bestie off the faith cliff in her music ministry. Why? I’m not sure. I saw it in her. I knew it was God’s thing, working out in her. I knew it was coming. And to have been the one to push her over the edge in her calling would have been one of the most precious opportunities for me. The lesson learned? It wasn’t my job. God is sovereign and His ways are higher. He actually gave that privilege to one of her other friends. And so, I’m not jealous to be my friend’s everything. I’m certainly not possessive of her gifts and directive of how God decides to use them. I’m here to enjoy them and her, to be someone whom God uses to lift my friend up for His Name’s sake!
6. We make and forgive mistakes. There have been times that I have sinned against her and likewise, times she has against me. No need to go into great detail here, but just know that with friendships comes hardships. Ours is absolutely no exception. The key to this is the key to any relationship, and most definitely with relationships built on Christ, and that is . . . humility.
Our great pastor once said that humility is an encouragement to the church. So it is with those of us who make up the church and the friendships found within it. We can’t have meaningful friendships or the blessings of them without the authenticity and unity that comes from humbling ourselves, one to the other. The truth is, asking for forgiveness moves us toward our Savior and toward our friends and loved ones. Not asking for it, and thereby covering up mistakes, causes us to move away from the Lord and from one another. Let this not be in our friendships or in our church. It’s hard to look directly at our sin and bring it into the light so someone else sees it as raw-ly as we do, but it truly is the only way.
7. We balance each other out. God does not make mistakes in putting people together. I learned that a long time ago when I saw how he graciously brought my husband and I together, both our strengths and our weaknesses together, to balance us out in our marriage and family. I re-learned it, when many years back, I sat at a church staff ministry meeting, and looked around the table. I realized that God either had a great sense of humor in bringing us leaders together or he had a bigger plan to use both the strong and the weak points of our individual callings and bents in ministry for the greater good of his church. Although the former is highly evident, I chose to focus on the latter. And still do.
The same is true with many of our close friendships. Balancing each other out proves to be a continuous blessing! For example, I am easily discouraged, my friend is not. She thrives on the words, “It’s going to be great!” while at the same time, my face frowns with an intense look of doom. She tends to stuff things, I am an un-stuffer. I have a keen way of getting things to the surface so that we can move past superficiality. I think she would say that she likes that about me. The point is that our God is amazingly creative in making each of us unique and yet drawing us together in unity. I am thoroughly convinced that this is so that we can, ultimately, as his people, model unity with diversity— which is what we see in the Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Three persons in the one Godhead, equal in essence and nature, they are different in function and role and yet, undoubtedly, unified!
8. We don’t let our friendship become exclusive. I have touched on this a bit already, but it is so important that I want to stress it. I am not her only good friend, and she is not mine. Sometimes, especially with women and girls, there is a tendency to create an atmosphere of “us” and “them.” What a shame! We are privileged to have one another in the Body. Every one of us, every one of them. In fact, there is no real us and them. According to Jesus’ plan, which will not and does not fail and therefore, we can believe it to be true now, we are to “be made perfect in one” because he is in us and the Father is in him (see John 17:23).
Does that mean that we are the closest of close to everyone we know and that we share everything with everyone? No. It has been said that we can look to Jesus’ example for this type of discussion. His love, grace and sacrifice was for the masses, but he did not call everyone out to be apostles—only the 12 (Matthew 10). Even of the twelve, he did not spend equal amount of time with each . . . he had what has been termed an “inner circle” including James, John and Peter who walked with him in his most intimate times of life and ministry. Apply this generally to our friendships and we can easily see that it is natural and yes, even healthy, to be sincerely friendly to all, to have multiple close friendships and to have a few others, who even yet, are friends in the depths of the term friendship.
As you can see, friendships built on the Lord Jesus Christ are special. They are an absolute blessing and are created for purposes beyond the people themselves. What I’ve shared today is not to be taken as prescriptive, as in “this is how your friendship should function,” but rather, descriptive of the one of the many, many Christ-centered relationships that God himself has put together! It would be my hope that what I’ve written would first and foremost, draw you nearer to Jesus Christ himself. Secondly, that it would challenge you to seek out godly friendships and not forsake the call to sincerely love the brotherhood (and sisterhood).
In closing . . .a few challenges! Have and maintain God-glorifying friendships that point others to the love of Christ. Call each other sisters. Cry together. Laugh out loud together. Pee your pants together. (Nobody said it would never happen to you.) As daughters of the King, we have the right and the privilege to live together in joy and harmony as we look forward to our inheritance. In fact, we can and should coin a new term of endearment for one other . . . Let’s call it “BFFEL.” That is, best friends for eternal life.
Was that creatively catchy or a bit too corny? I think I’ll text my bestie and get her opinion.