“To live a life alone with God does not mean that we live it apart from everyone else. The connection between godly men and women and those associated with them is continually revealed in the Bible….”
~ Oswald Chambers
We talk a lot about friendship on (in)courage–the need for it, hurting from a void of it, healing from the ministry of it and sometimes to offer advice for the care and keeping of it.
Maybe it’s a silly thing to bring attention to, but did anyone else happen to notice that in(RL) ~ a celebration of friendship and community ~ is the same month as Easter this year? Within weeks of ~
remembering the sacrifice, torture and murder of the King of Kings…
rejoicing in our forgiveness, redemption and salvation…
exalting in his Resurrected Life and Glory, the means to which gives us new life…eternal life…real life
we’ll gather together as sisters to celebrate the joys of friendship in real life.
“Real life” always means something that matters, doesn’t it?
Having been plucked out of my comfort zone to land in a place that has taken a while to regain my equilibrium, God has me in a position to listen and learn. I’m thrilling to this experience of new country and culture, but I’m equally thankful to see personal things I’ve been missing for years. God is gently revealing my blindspots; change is unavoidable.
I’m learning to appreciate the women in my life in new ways.
Don’t miss that key word–appreciate. It is much too easy to take for granted those you love; I’m challenged to become more intentional in expressing my appreciation to others.
One of the best ways I can think of to actionize my appreciation (OH YES I just made up a word! Bam!) is by initiating acts of friendship. Don’t we all appreciate it when someone else is the first one to extend a gesture of friendship? So I’m asking you to join me in getting better at being the one to initiate. Especially because that person you’re thinking about doing something for is possibly desperately needing you to reach out.
Are you willing to be the one to BE the one?
Here are a few ideas to get you started; I’d love to hear your suggestions for how we can practically speak friendship and love into the lives of those very real people in our lives!
22 Acts of Friendship
- Start with yourself. It isn’t irony that prompts me to encourage self evaluation; discovering more about how and why I’ve related to others the way I do is the first step to me addressing my blind spots and becoming the better friend I’d like to become.
- Pray. While I don’t want to over-spiritualize practicality, praying is also first-step friendship initiation. Prayer should be two-fold: asking God to give you a sensitive heart, communion with Him to heal your own wounds, and discernment to pursue healthy friendships; and seeking God to have the eyes to see those who need your friendship and to prepare their hearts to receive it.
- Forgive. If you’re holding a grudge or have become embittered towards a friend, you do not have a choice; you must extend forgiveness. With both hands clutched tightly to Christ, believe more than He can heal your shattered pieces; trust that He can redeem and restore what was broken and lost. Dear lovie, there is always something good you can take away from painful circumstance. It will make you a better friend to others if you let it.
- Be persistent. When you take the bold step to initiate friendship, rejection can be hard; don’t let it hinder you from trying again. Yes, while you might become “the one who always initiates,” you might be the only person willing to pursue someone who needs pursuing. And sometimes she’s the last person you suspect needs pursuing….
- Extend grace. When you consider the incomprehensible sacrifice that God extends to his children through Jesus, it seems reasonable that we should lavish grace on one another. Imagine how your relationships might change if you give the benefit of doubt rather than suspect the worst?
- Show up when you know there’s a need. One of the most indelible acts of friendship in my life arrived on my doorstep. With our impending out-of-state move looming, Michelle showed up with cleaning supplies in hand. When I answered her knock, “Put me to work” were the first words out of her mouth. That was so much better than a vague “Is there anything I can do to help you?”
- Pick up the phone and call. Never have we been more connected, yet paradoxically, increasingly isolated. Do not email or text or even Skype–just call! You’ll be a rarity among your friends and your voice (i.e. your interest, effort, intention) will register as important to the receiver.
- Mail snails. You know how you feel when you receive a pretty “thinking of you” card or note instead of junk mail or bills? Imagine committing to sending one out a week; at the end of the year, 52 people would have been encouraged by your thought. Always act on that prompt! One time I received a letter from someone I hadn’t seen in years, and it was a life-giving answer to prayer.
- Shower your friends with surcies or little love gifts. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to give a small but meaningful gift; my favorite example to explain this concept is when my college roommate bought me the good, soft tissues when I had a cold and was using dorm toilet paper to blow my nose. Her thoughtfulness spoke love so deeply I’ve remembered the gesture for decades. Shocking is the beauty in a roadside bouquet of (free) wildflowers! (Thank you, God.) Thoughtfulness is always the gift.
- Babysit for free. If you know someone who needs a break, give 2-3 hours so they can run errands, see a movie, walk in the park without wiping noses or behinds or tying shoes!
- Be fully present. When you’re together, leave your phone behind. If that isn’t practical (i.e., your children’s school might call), resist the urge to do anything related to social media.
- Listen actively. This, in part, goes with #11, but rather than anticipate your response let your friend speak until they’re done. If you pay attention you’ll notice how often people cut one another off mid-sentence.
- Double a recipe. Whether your baking cookies, simmering soup or making a casserole, be intentional about making enough to share every once in a while. Then phone a friend, tell them you were thinking about her, and drop it off. We often do a great job of preparing meals in time of need, but why not do so “just because”?
- Drop in for a quick visit. Now, before you strike this one off your list, give it a chance (~smile~). If you’re in a friend’s neighborhood, why don’t you throw caution to the wind, knock on her door, hug her neck, and tell her you were just thinking about her. If she invites you in, great; if she doesn’t, her house is probably a disaster zone (which all most of us have experienced before). Assure her you aren’t staying but you wanted to let her know how you felt. It will leave a loving impression.
- Trade shoes. When you find yourself making judgments against or frustrated with a friend’s actions, train yourself to consider what prompted her choices. Remember, you only know part of her story, she’s likely a master at hiding her pain.
- Tell the truth. Be the friend who tells you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. I can receive constructive criticism if it’s shrouded in love and I KNOW the person cares enough about me to say hard things.
- Bite your tongue. Stop gossiping about others behind their backs unless it’s to praise their walk, their works or their womanhood. Make your goal to be the person whom it can be said of, “I’ve never heard her talking about anyone else.”
- Don’t take it personally. Seek and develop healthy friendships that allow room for dissenting opinions. I recently joined others in a spirited but respectful conversation about a very controversial topic; I left the conversation unmoved in my position but having high regard for those who offered an intelligent, mature discussion on the matter.
- Look for middle ground. Wonderful advice offered to me years ago from a pastor’s wife has helped me time and time again: When you find yourself in the center of a “fight,” even if you’re certain you’re “right,” realize there’s your side of the story, there’s her side of the story…and the truth lies somewhere in between.
- Sharpen. Be intentional about becoming a Proverbs 27:17 friend.
- Set a standard. Goodness–if we all lived Ephesians 4:29-32, we’d all truly be THE BFF!
- Support. When my father passed away a few years ago, I was deeply touched by those who traveled hours to attend his funeral, people who never met him but loved me. At my daughter’s high school graduation, I couldn’t believe the friends who came to a party we hosted for her. It taught me to support my friends by attending the important events in their lives…the good and the not so good.
I could keep going but I’m interested in hearing from you! Would you share a specific example of a sweet friendship gesture that was unexpectedly extended to you? I’d love to hear your practical suggestions to add to this list.
Tomorrow we celebrate real life in the victory of our King. As I end this love letter to you, I’m praying specifically for you to find hope and healing only in Him, and then to share the love that pours forth to the people He brings into your life.
Dare to be the one to BE the one!
With love from Robin, who day by day is learning to be a better friend. Happy Easter!