Friendship is truly one of life’s great gifts. I can say that now that I’m in my late forties and have decades of relationships and life experiences behind me. I had no real understanding of the role my girlfriends would play in my life as a young woman, nor the challenges that would await me as a human being, but the richness and depth of those relationships has sustained me through those unimaginable difficulties. They’ve also kept me laughing inappropriately loudly at the right times, let me be sad without trying to fix anything, and go from the superficial to the profound without taking a breath. They’ve believed in my dreams, celebrated my accomplishments, mined spiritual truth with me and kept me honest. Not all friendships remained resilient throughout the years, but my sweet group of ‘besties’ that weathered the storms have become a huge factor in my emotional well-being today. After yet another soul-warming, cup-filling afternoon with them recently, I began reflecting on the factors that have made this group of friends so necessary to my life and health – like eating and breathing and watching episodes of Fixer Upper. I’d like to visit my younger, insecure self and assure her of the investment she was making in these girls, that it would one day reap incredible dividends. So, relax. Don’t worry about the differences. Be gracious. Be honest. Be patient. Give yourself permission to need them a little. That’s some of what I would say. On that note, I’ve put together a few thoughts that might help y’all to nurture life-giving relationships that stay with you throughout the decades. Some of these thoughts are echoes of my own mother’s advice to me as a young woman. Firstly, if you want to have friends, be a friend. It’s an oldie but a goody. What am I prepared to offer – string-free – to another? One of my dear friendships began because my Pastor told me that a lady in the church had been struggling after the birth of her first child and encouraged me to drop in and see what I might offer to do to help her. Twenty four years later, and eight children between us, that initial offer of unconditional love has blossomed into a robust, reciprocal relationship. We need to know that we are offering strength to another. If we approach friendship with a desperate sense of need, we will quickly drain the resources of the other, and burn out the potential of that relationship. My conviction about what Jesus has done for me, and how the Holy Spirit continues to resource and sustain me, has convinced me that I am called to carry weight – people weight. That simply translates to a conviction that I enter relationships prepared to carry the heavy end – not in a self-righteous way but in a humble, servant kinda way. Like Jesus. He sure carried the heavy end for us. When both friends carry this belief, it results in an incredibly rich and rewarding friendship. On the flip side of this belief is also the recognition that it’s okay to need help. Being vulnerable and honest with the right people is tremendously freeing! The trick is to put out the ask without expectation. If I know that God will supply all my needs (Philippians 4:19), then I’m not inconsolably crushed when a friend fails to come through for me. God will provide another way, different means, fresh resource. Hanging all our need on one friend is pretty suffocating. My mother taught me never to have a ‘best’ friend but many friends. She explained that the Gospel is inclusive – a best friend is exclusive and closes down opportunity to draw others into your world. I’ve also discovered that I am a multi-faceted person and not all my friends can share every point of passion or interest in my life (like my undying love of Star Wars), nor can I possibly relate to every aspect of theirs. Creating a safe platform in any relationship for vulnerability requires me to be willing to share, a commitment to keeping confidences, absence of judgement, good listening, great encouragement, and responsiveness to the issue at hand. We can create that tone for our friendships by proving ourselves consistent and trustworthy. If we sow the right things, we shall certainly reap the right things in due course. I’ve got more to say – as usual – so I’ll be back with Part 2 later!