Can you think of anything more complicated than friendships between women? Seriously! In grade school I didn’t have a BFF but mostly because we moved a lot. In middle school I had a best friend and then in high school I had a best friend but I remember trying to stay out of the “group friend” scene. I just didn’t understand how the whole dynamic worked. From a distance I could see that things often went downhill quickly, too much of it was about boys and the pettiness was absurd.
In college though the Lord brought many amazing, godly gals into my life and I had a blast. I still had to look out for the typical girl cattiness and learned who to avoid; however when I surrounded myself with girls that were truly growing in Him, things were wonderful!
I still have a lot to learn though. Over the past few years I have experienced mommy friends, church friends, school friends, wives of my husband’s friends, soul sisters, workout friends and the list goes on. Wow, can you say complicated? The more I learn though the more humbled I become and realize that it really takes a lot of work to be a GOOD friend.
I try hard to not be a high maintenance friend but over the past few weeks I have been struggling with where I stand with a few of my friends. As I have been sorting through this the Lord has challenged me to evaluate what kind of friend I have been to them instead of looking at how I feel about them or how they have behaved toward me. Ouch that is hard!
At the same time I was sent a book to review called The Friends We Keep:A Woman’s Quest for the Soul of Friendship by Sarah Zacharias Davis. God has impeccable timing doesn’t He? The first few chapters I thought that this book had nothing new to offer me, but as I began the second half of it things began to seep into my soul.
I want to share some quotes that resonated with me. I hope you will pick up a copy of this book because it has helped me sort through some things and (as God likes to do) it has repeated some things that He already was guiding me through. Sometimes friendship can be easy but the deeper you allow people into your world the more complicated the dance can become. But the real joy of friendship comes when we learn to navigate through these waters, the calm harbors as well as the rough seas.
And even though as a young girl I sensed the danger involved in “group friends” they cannot be avoided forever. I learned how precious a circle of girls can be in college through dorm life. Some of my roommates, suite mates and girls on my hall are still friends that I keep in touch with and call kindred friends although we now live states and even countries apart!
Davis addresses friendships like these found in “community”:
Says Carol Lee Flinders, “Life in an intentional community is like being inside one of those rotating cylinders full of water that rock collectors use to polish their rough treasures. Little by little, over the years, a lot of the roughest edges get smoothed away. Maybe we even begin to shine a bit.”
Living life alongside someone else, cohabiting in joy, disappointment, accomplishment, or betrayal-this kind of living is not relegated to a convent, an AA meeting, or a club gathering. But choosing to engage in community, to continually and consistently open our lives to others and allow them to peek inside, to listen, and perhaps to speak or stand in silent solidarity can only change us. Perhaps it softens our sharper corners, perhaps it invites contemplation and thought, perhaps we choose to act as a result, but we cannot emerge from community unchanged if we enter with great awareness and intentionality. Those rough edges are buffed to a shine then reflect what is inside. And isn’t that the very gift of community?
Can you relate to that when you think of some of your groups of friends? I certainly can as I think of college friends and mom friends. We are in a home group and this “softening of sharp corners” as we allow people to “peek into our lives” is the hopeful result of this group as we “live life together.”
But Davis also addresses some hard questions about friendship that I have never heard or read discussion about. How do we know what a friend needs when they are hurting? When do we know when a friend needs space and what does that look like? Is it ever okay to let go of a friendship? How do we gracefully handle when a friend lets go of us and walks away?
These are hard questions that I have been walking through in recent days with a number of friends all at once and God in His amazing way helped me sort through some of this through this book. Davis has an interesting way of not really coming to conclusions but using enough stories and asking enough questions to shine some light and clarity on a sensitive to the heart issue.
In every friendship, no matter how close, we inevitably feel the spaces between us. The unspoken words, the hurts we don’t share because we weren’t asked or because no one was listening, the perceived slights we don’t express-these fill that empty space and make it grow wider, ballooning between us, pushing us farther apart. The expanding space has the potential to explode, permanently injuring those in its path, and it can be lethal to relationships. What do we do with that space? Do we talk about it? Do we force the air out of it? Do we let it run its course?
There is another type of space between us. It is the space we need to save ourselves or even to preserve our relationship. Interestingly enough, one of the Hebrew words used to indicate “salvation” is also used to mean “space.” And there are times when that space can save us. Space can give us perspective, time to breathe, time to listen. …..
How do you give space to a friendship without letting it drift away? Space, like silence, makes us uncomfortable sometimes. We don’t know what to do with quiet, emptiness, and loss. And all of those things create space. But space allows us to grow, and without it we are stifled, our growth stunted. When we grieve we want to rush to feel better so that we don’t continue to hurt, rather than allow space for that grieving. And when things aren’t right with another person we care about, we often rush to fill the space forcing things to surface that are not yet ready.
….So how do we give our friendships what they sometimes need? Space is sitting with your friend in silence, space is allowing her to find her way in her time, space is sometimes suspending judgment, space is not always needing to have the right words or the right advice and space can be simply walking away for a time, even just to stand a short distance away.
And how do we know what a friend requires? Let’s be honest: we play games sometimes. I don’t know if men do this, but I know women will at times push others away or choose not to respond to their overtures, not because they want to be left alone, but because they want someone to try harder, to hunt them down and say literally, “I am here for you.” Other times we need the space, want it, but we just don’t know how to ask for it. Men would roll their eyes at this contradiction and ask how they are supposed to know what it is we really want.
Sometimes we don’t know what our friend wants, even when we’ve known her through many of life’s seasons. Sometimes we don’t even know what we want for ourselves. And sometimes when we get what we need, we find we don’t need it anymore. And anyway, even if we do know what to do for our friend at one time, it may not be that way the next time.
The point is we can never stop paying attention. A friend once asked me if I thought our mutual friend needed space or presence with what she was going through. It was a good question, and I responded truthfully that I just didn’t know but that I was trying both.
Even when we truly want to do the right thing by our friends, we sometimes just don’t know. And so we persevere. We learn sometimes by pushing too hard and sometimes by giving too much space. and if we are the ones who are given too much space, more than we wanted, when we feel let down, as though others weren’t there for us, what then? The fact is sometimes we are let down by our friends. Intentions may be good, efforts misguided, or they may have nothing left to give, and the result is simply that they are unable to be there for us in the ways we expect them to be.
What I have learned from my own experience is simply this: there are times in friendship-perhaps even in every relationship-when we need to simply accept what people are able to give. That is part of being a friend; in fact that is part of living among others in any type of community. It is necessary to put away the expectations, the goals, the fixing and longing for how it could be, and simply be and allow our friend to do the same.
Umm…so this is hard stuff for me. Heart stuff. I am learning how to give space, accept space, and allow my friends to just be what they can and are instead of demanding of them what I want and what I need. I suppose this is what friendship is supposed to look like as we mature. But it is hard and it means dying to myself and not always having the happy, let’s go out for coffee kind of friendship. It also means not looking to my friendships to make me feel filled up and whole. They can love on me and add to my life but I need to look to the true Lover of my Soul to feel whole and complete. That part can be hard too. When my friends slip into my center instead of my Savior being my center…I quickly become off balance. It is good though. I am growing.
This may not have made a lick of sense to you, but if you are a women I think you must be able to identify with some of it. If you can’t relate it is my fault not Sarah Zacharias Davis’:) And if you are a man and you are reading this, I’m sorry you probably will never understand:)
I included below the summary of the book and author info from the publisher. You can buy the book at your local bookstore or http://www.amazon.com. There is also a summary of a new Bible study series by the wonderful Kay Arthur called the 40 Minute Bible Study series. Good stuff too! Thanks for letting me share my heart. Oh I almost forgot:) Leave me a comment and one of you will be randomly picked to receive a copy of The Friends We Keep! Yea!!
Summary for The Friends We Keep
During a particularly painful time in her life, Sarah Zacharias Davis learned how delightful–and wounding–women can be in friendship. She saw how some friendships end badly, others die slow deaths, and how a chance acquaintance can become that enduring friend you need.
The Friends We Keep is Sarah’s thoughtful account of her own story and the stories of other women about navigating friendship. Her revealing discoveries tackle the questions every woman asks:
• Why do we long so for women friends?
• Do we need friends like we need air or food or water?
• What causes cattiness, competition, and co-dependency in too many friendships?
• Why do some friendships last forever and others only a season?
• How do I foster friendship?
• When is it time to let a friend go, and how do I do so?
With heartfelt, intelligent writing, Sarah explores these questions and more with personal stories, cultural references and history, faith, and grace. In the process, she delivers wisdom for navigating the challenges, mysteries, and delights of friendship: why we need friendships with other women, what it means to be safe in relationship, and how to embrace what a friend has to offer, whether meager or generous.
Summary for 40 Minute Bible Studies
The 40 Minute Bible Study series from beloved Bible teacher Kay Arthur and the teaching staff of Precept Ministries tackles important issues in brief, easy-to-grasp lessons you can use personally or for small-group discussion. Each book in the series includes six 40-minute studies designed to draw you into God’s Word through basic inductive Bible study. There are 16 titles in the series, with topics ranging from fasting and forgiveness to prayer and worship. With no homework required, everyone in the group can work through the lesson together at the same time. Let these respected Bible teachers lead you in a study that will transform your thinking—and your life.
•The Essentials of Effective Prayer •Being a Disciple: Counting the Cost
•Building a Marriage That Really Works •Discovering What the Future Holds
•Forgiveness: Breaking the Power of the Past •Having a Real Relationship with God
•How Do You Walk the Walk and Talk the Talk? •Living a Life of Real Worship
•How to Make Choices You Won’t Regret •Living Victoriously in Difficult Times
•Money & Possessions: The Quest for Contentment •Rising to the Call of Leadership
•How Do You Know God’s Your Father? •Key Principles of Biblical Fasting
•A Man’s Strategy for Conquering Temptation •What Does the Bible Say About Sex?
Sarah Zacharias Davis is a senior advancement officer at Pepperdine University, having joined the university after working as vice president of marketing and development for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and in strategic marketing for CNN. The daughter of best-selling writer Ravi Zacharias, Davis is the author of the critically-acclaimed Confessions from an Honest Wife and Transparent: Getting Honest About Who We are and Who We Want to Be. She graduated from Covenant College with a degree in education and lives in Los Angeles, California.
Kay Arthur, executive vice president and cofounder of Precept Ministries International has worked with her teaching staff to create the powerful 40-Minute Bible Studies series. Kay is known around the world as a Bible teacher, author, conference speaker, and host of national radio and television programs.