Friendship is, indeed, a precious gift to behold. It is also something that, to many, can hold memories of pain, scars and failed expectations. I can think back to my childhood and remember my first friendships and the memories that first formed my ideas of what friendship looked like. I’ve thought about all of those growing up years from preschool to middle school, high school and then college. Then I moved into the season of newly married, and next became a young mom. Friendships were a bit harder to navigate as I learned to juggle adult responsibilities. But as I look back over several decades of friendships, I realize that, in every season, I was gifted with them. Some required more giving, some more receiving, and some were more lop-sided than others but there throughout all those years existed this thing called friendship. After all, we are humans and humans are made for relationship. We were made for one perfect and complete relationship with God, our Creator. And so it is only fitting to say that He is the only One who perfectly satisfies the deep longing within. Understanding this is the key to successful friendships. For truly, our hearts will be restless until they find their rest in God alone. When we hold fast to this and live this out, friendships become a gift rather than a confusing mess of failed expectations, drama and gossip circles. Sometimes we make the mistake of clinging to that “one person” whom we think or hope will be everything that we need (or want) in a friendship. When we come to Jesus to fill the void that only He can fill, we begin to take on the right lenses through which to see and friendships take their right place in our lives. Don’t get me wrong, like you, I’ve been caught up in the messes of wrong expectations and had to navigate my way through some sticky spots but when we go back to the Gospel and remember our hearts truest need, we are freed from the expectations of others.
In Christine Hoovers book, “The Church Planting Wife” she states: “I put way too many parameters on friendship: they have to go to my church, they have to have the same-age kids, I have to like their husband, they can’t be in a different life stage, they have to be on the same page spiritually. I don’t have one friend who is all of those things to me. I have Jo, my lifelong friend. I have Melanie, who makes me laugh and whose family connects well with mine. I have Jessica, who prays for me and asks me good questions. I have Marylyn, who encourages me. I have Emily, who shares similar struggles and tastes with me. I have Aimee, a neighbor with similarly aged kids. I have Claire, a mentor and listening ear. I have Lacy, a fellow pastor’s wife. I am loved well by these women and I hope I am a blessing to them, too. But when I look for one person to be my best friend, I fail to see the blessings of these different kinds of friends: fun friends, good conversation friends, encouraging friends, and praying friends.”
What a freeing gift to behold when we remember from whom this gift of friendship comes. And even in seasons where friendship might be sparce, we have Him who is not far from us. This, Emmanuel – “God with us” first fulfills the deepest longing of our hearts and then graces us with the added blessing of all different kinds of friends for us to enjoy like a feast where the bounty is spread vast and beautiful. But we must open our hearts to receive the things we least expect – we give and we receive, we welcome and we let go, all through the changing seasons and we are better as a result of knowing these friendships were made for us by the master Creator – eclectic in design and bounteous towards us.