“A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly.” Proverbs 18:24a (KJV) My first grade self stood by her desk and recited this verse in unison with the rest of my class at Temple Christian School. We had knee length skirts, a teacher that smelled like sweet cinnamon (or that might have been the scratch and sniff stickers she gave out), and we memorized…. boy did we memorize those Bible verses. King James Version ONLY, of course. This one in particular has always been a guiding light for me. I took it at face value, practiced it, and it has proven true. To make friends, BE a friend. I learned as a child that a smile, a kind word, a show of interest are all it takes to make a friend. Sure there have been a few people along the way that haven’t really wanted to be my friend, and I’ve screwed up a time or two with aloofness or laziness, or just plain dysfunction in relationships. Over all, however, I have a wealth of wonderful friends who make my life absolutely blissful. Here are a few of them:
1) My husband. The absolute best friend I have. We have our share of disagreements, and crazy baggage, but when it comes down to it, he will do anything to help me. He’s the one I call when I’m in trouble, the one I cry to on a bad day, the one I laugh with about stuff I’d never tell anyone else. Without his help and support, homeschooling, working, running a household, and being part of a home church network… all that makes our life bright and beautiful… would be next to impossible. Plus… there’s the whole he’s-a-total-hunk thing. ;) 2) Friends who’ve gone before. These are the trailblazers, and they’re vital to getting through new challenges. I’ll never forget being pregnant with my first baby and scared to death of delivery. Not long before Mackenzie was born, another friend who was also pregnant, had her baby. It was my first up close knowledge of someone who actually gave birth (besides my mom of course). But Kelly, a girl my age, gave me the confidence to know I could do it too. She delivered little Abby and made it look like a picnic. Her help was so valuable to me and seeing her go through it gave me courage. My friend, Janet, is my homeschool pioneer, expert, consultant and coach. She’s been there. She’s done it. Her son actually graduated and is in college. She has also blazed the trail of a second marriage and the difficulties it can bring. Her calm “been there, done that” advice has saved me, dried my tears, inspired me, and kept me going more times than I can count. You need this kind of friend, one who’s willing to share her expertise and experience with you.
3) A friend who’s different. Beyond basic human kindness and respect, common ground isn’t necessarily required for good friendship. One of my dearest friends, Karen, and I never run out of stuff to talk about. Once, she pointed out to me that we are different. Her areas of expertise are different than mine. We shared a smile about how often that just WORKS for us. We complement each other, learn from each other, and just plain have fun. There’s a kindred spirit between us, and a deep love, but our life experiences are vastly different. It makes for one of the richest relationships in my life. My friend Bex is single with no kids. I’m married for the second time with a three member circus of offspring. She grew up midwestern, I’m southern. She grew up with spotty church attendance and I was my church’s poster child. But we laugh, we love, we’ve shared deep conversation and we know companionable silence. Her differences challenge me to get out of my own comfort zone and off of my high horse. She makes me better. Don’t be scared to befriend people who aren’t the same as you.
4) Life-long friends. There’s something to be said for a friend who’s been there through it all. A friend who knew you when you went through your big hair phase, who knows about your first boyfriend, who wore jelly bracelets and/or two pairs of socks and a side ponytail with you, who knew you before your braces came off. This group includes my sister, Angela, my friends Christy and Amy. The inside jokes are endless. We know the miracle of loving each other through and in spite of life’s huge changes like marriage, motherhood, and moral dilemmas. I don’t live close to any of these three, but one line of a text, one conversation, one picture, and a lifetime of understanding makes deep friendship possible and successful. There is no hiding from these three. But why even try? They’ve already seen my stupidest and most adolescent behavior, so what do I have to lose??? My goal is to continue building on a lifetime of history and if the visit to New Orleans adventures with these three are any indication… we’re nowhere near done making embarrassing memories to share. The older I get, the more precious this becomes.
Remember that first grade me? She also learned part “b” of that Proverb. “… and there is a friend who sticketh closer than a brother.” It’d be silly to leave out that Friend. As rich as I am in beautiful friendships, there are some places we must go alone. No human friend can get there. In those dark places, my relationship with God has been my comfort, my shelter, my steadying hand. That Friend extends the ultimate love to me, which enables me to risk the imperfect love of other people. The decision to open my heart up to the Friend above all friends has truly been my life’s greatest choice.
So what are your favorite things about your friendships? Who are the ones who’ve surprised you? Helped you the most?