The topic of friendship has come up quite often lately. My friend Rosalynn wrote about it here. Lisa TerKeurst wrote an entire study on it. Mom’s Night Out shows how moms need time-out for deeper friendships. Even the movie Mean Girls shows the dark side of so-called friendship.
Having lived in six different states, I have had to develop my circle of kindred spirits multiple times. I have learned the hard way that some people have room in their lives for you and others don’t. Sometimes people are in a stage of life where they just can’t juggle one more relationship. Others were lonely like me, and we bonded instantly. Other people have no concept that they could even benefit from friendships outside their 20-year BFF’s.
I really wish that I could have grown up near my grandparents and have nearby friends whom I have known since babyhood. It sounds so Norman-Rockwell-ish, but that’s not the life God gave me. Apparently He had something else for me to learn. I have spent enough time as the “new girl” to value the priceless friendships that come from my circle of kindred spirits. I have also experienced the discomfort of being on the outside looking in when others are oblivious to my loneliness. And unfortunately, I have also been so comfortable in my friendships that I forgot to look around for the outliers.
So how do we make sure our friend circles stay healthy? How do we avoid becoming the snobby clique that drives people away from the body of Christ?
We must ask ourselves a few questions:
When was the last time I added a new friend to my group?
The Israelites were a tight nation. Their bloodline determined their inheritance, their location, and sometimes even their occupations. Family was highly valued and friendships went back for generations, yet God warned them not to exclude the strangers living among them. We should always be on the lookout for lonely people to include in our gatherings and our daily lives.
You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 19:34 ESV
Do I exclude people based on their appearance or status?
True friendship is about love and support, not about status-building and popularity. It’s easy to be friends with someone just like us, but some of the most rewarding friendships come from those outside our own demographic. Those friends stretch our faith, challenge our paradigms, and force us to think beyond our limited experiences.
To disregard another woman because she is richer or poorer than us, or because she looks different, or because she hasn’t known us since childhood is simple snobbery. I wonder how many dear friends we miss because we never looked past the outside appearance? Or how many of our friends would be shocked if they knew that we truly just liked them for the social status they give us?
My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives? Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him?James 2:1-5 NLT
Do I dismiss some people as irrelevant?
This is a hard one to spot…unless you are the one being dismissed. Most of us have seen this familiar scenario played out: A girl was excluded by a pair of friends unless they needed something from her. (Pick up this. Hand me that.) Otherwise, she was invisible to them. There was no overt meanness…just an absolute disregard for her presence unless it served them. Their actions hurt her little heart just as badly as if they had told her out loud that she was meaningless to them.
Here is a challenge: The next time you are at church, stop and look around at the people in your small group, or who sit around you in the service, or who attend the same Bible study. Ask yourself if you have really noticed each one. Have you befriended them? Do you know where they work? How long they have lived in the area? Have you ever taken time to ask about their lives?Carefully examine your heart to see if you have treated each one as though they were equally God’s children. (I know I will fail this test come Sunday…and I hope to do better!!)
“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’” Matthew 25:44-45 NLT
My friendships are some of my most precious gifts from God outside my family. I must cherish them and nurture these relationships with humility and love. And I must never forget to keep my arms open to include others who need friendships just as much as I do!!
Father, please soften my heart to the women around me. Give me extra margin in my life to include women who needs a friend. Help my introverted self to be bold with invitations, even if they are simply to join something I’m already doing. Open my eyes to see the women around me as Your beloved daughters and not just as faceless numbers. Help me model hospitality to my daughters so that they will be “includers” and not “excluders”. Give me your grace to be the friend you want me to be. Amen.