Here’s a little fact about yours truly: I’m quite the globetrotter. I’m a girl with a passport on standby at all times just in case an exciting adventure should present itself. One of my favorite things about a new travel experience is researching a region, a country or a city before stepping foot on the soil. I absolutely love to know the history, culture, food, quirks and must-see spots. Armed with the right information, a huge pile of rocks transforms into the mythical Stonehenge in a flash.
A few summers ago, I traveled throughout England while studying abroad at Oxford University. What made the experience so rich was the fact that I L-O-V-E all things British. Just give me a Jane Austen book and a good cup of English Tea, and I’m one happy girl. And here’s a side note of quite embarrassing proportions. When I was in 4th grade, I competed in a little local beauty pageant. (Please insert your own eye roll.) When the judges asked the contestants who they wanted to be when the grew up, I replied, quite seriously, “Margaret Thatcher.” Of course, I didn’t give one of the usual ten-year-old replies of “a mommy, a teacher, or a Hollywood star.” Oh no! I wanted to be the female prime minister of Great Britain. Go figure? I have no idea when my obsession with England began, but I can tell you one thing, it was early. Needless to say, when I set out on my summer abroad, I dove into my research with gusto, consulting a variety of guidebooks about the United Kingdom.
Girls, you know I prided myself on picking up the vernacular learning how to “mind the gap,” “form a queue” and order my tea with “two lumps” like a local. My penchant for a good guidebook saved the day in London while traversing from Piccadilly Square to Paddington Station. Understanding the culture and knowing the destination beforehand can really pay off big time. When you know where you are going and what to look for, you’re less likely to miss the treasures.
The same proves true when navigating female friendships. This month on the Redeemed Girl blog we are discussing the beautiful gift of friendship. Before getting into the nitty-gritty of the issues that we face in these relationships, it is logical that we begin by clarifying what “friendship” is and what it is not. After all, we must know what we are looking for or we will never experience God’s best in these relationships. Trust me, we don’t want to miss a thing!
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24 NIV
One of the most famous statements defining friendship is from C.S. Lewis’ book, The Four Loves.
“Friendship arises out of mere companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure or burden. The typical expression of opening friendship would be something like, ”What? You too? I thought I was the only one.”
Essentially, Lewis says that friendship is birthed out of connection. Something unique draws us to a person and bonds us to them. His statement, “What, you too?” proves the perfect expression of how it feels when we meet someone and know that we’ve discovered a new friend.
I’ll never forget the day that my friend Angel (pictured above in the leopard print dress!) transformed from an acquaintance into one of my closest friends. I was in the midst of a full-blown-melt-down of mythic proportions when God brought her into my life. I was walking through a dark time after a heartbreak that tested my faith. The hardest part of that season was feeling so alone and thinking no one understood my pain. Most of my other close friends were married and starting motherhood, and they didn’t get my struggle with singleness or the searing pain of rejection. Then one day she stopped by my house armed with Coke, Cookies, and Chic Flicks. While I knew her socially, we weren’t super close friends at this point…although our status was about to change.
Angel sat down on my couch, handed me the breakup survival kit and said, “I want to tell you my story.” In her gentle and compassionate manner, she proceeded to open up and tell me about her own experience. She said, “A few years ago, I was engaged to the man of my dreams. It was a fairytale. I loved him. He loved me. Then we went home to visit my parents for Christmas and on Christmas night, he dropped the bomb. He broke our engagement.” She really didn’t have to say much more, I just knew. She got me.
“What? You too? I thought I was the only one.”
Here’s the beautiful thing about a good friendship—one can begin when you least expect it. Angel and I have remained close friends from that day forward, and I can pinpoint the exact moment that we truly connected on a deep level when we bonded over our shared pain.
Heartbreak is not the only glue that bonds two girlfriends together. The bond can be a shared passion for running that grows into a lifelong friendship, or the connection can begin as simply as two women who meet because their kids are the same age and their relationship blossoms over the trials and tribulations of motherhood. Anything can spark a friendship, but not anyone can be a friend. So the question remains, what is, in fact, a friend?
I like this definition: A trustworthy peer with whom we choose to lovingly live with in a relationship with unique access and service. This definition is a great starting point for our journey, it helps me because I am a women who is incredibly social by nature and such an open book that I tend to call every woman I’ve ever met my friend. I’m not saying friendliness is wrong, but my purpose is to focus on our core female friendships
These are the women that we choose to do life with, and they are not beholden to us as family members or coworkers. The nature of friendship is that it is optional. The choice to walk away is always there in a friendship, bringing with it a different set of complexities and questions.
First, a friend is a “trustworthy peer.” She knows your stuff. She’s got your back. She knows you have your lip waxed….but she’s not tellin’…. it’s in the vault.
Next, this definition says a friend is someone who has “unique access.” I think this is important to note because in our culture we use the term friend so loosely. I dare say that if most of the people whom we know on Facebook were to walk into our homes without notice, we’d be a little freaked out. But when your best friend stops by, she has “access.” After all, she knows where you hide the spare key. She not only has access to your home, but to your heart.
I call this the “refrigerator test.” I know who my closest friends are by the comfort level we feel in each other’s homes. With my best friends, I will just open up their refrigerator and dig through it until I find the Diet Coke. I will help myself to last night’s leftovers without thinking to ask for permission. With close friendships, there’s no pretense. Likewise, I know a friend feels close to me when she will do the same in my house. There’s just so much symbolism tied up in this act of openness. For the purpose of this book, those are the types of friendships we will dive into and explore: the ones that get close enough to our hearts to hurt us and to heal us.
When we get close to each other, life gets messy. Complications arise when our fears, insecurities and struggles surface. A woman can find herself lost in a dark maze of pain and dysfunction, not knowing how she got there or where to turn. Thankfully, God’s Word proves to be the light even in these dark places.
Finally, as we dig into Scripture, we will see that the last part of our definition is key: a friend “serves.” So often in our “what’s in it for me?” culture, relationships are selfish. This is not friendship. A real friendship, as God defines one, is a relationship where each party seeks the best for the other and places the other’s needs before his own.
This next statement may be a hard pill to swallow. Someone isn’t really a friend if they are only in it for what they can get out of the relationship: power, popularity, prestige, or position. When someone is “working you,” she’s not your friend.
A friend is the girl who is there for you expecting nothing for herself in return.
- A friend is there on moving day…
- A friend helps wash the dishes long after the dinner party is over and the guests have all cleared out…
- A friend listens to the breakup story again…and again…and again…
- And she will analyze and interpret the nuances of his “what’s up” that he sent via text message… looking for hidden declarations of love
- A friend senses a full-blown mommy melt down and takes the kids for the afternoon…
- A friend sits in the doctor’s office to hold your hand and hear the report…
True friends serve one another. We will examine this topic more in later blog posts, but for the sake of definition, I think it is imperative from the start that we know what is meant by the word “friend.” Frankly, the person who isn’t there in a time of need, who doesn’t listen, who doesn’t go the extra mile…isn’t really a friend. She may be a wonderful social acquaintance, an esteemed coworker, a teammate, someone you respect in your mommy playgroup, or even a sorority sister, but she isn’t a friend. Let’s reclaim this word and make it special again. A friend is a “a trustworthy peer with whom we choose to lovingly live with in a relationship with unique access and service.”
Can I hear an “amen?”
 C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves, p. 96-97
To read more from the Girlfriends Guidebook, click here to purchase.
Marian Jordan Ellis, RGM Founder & President