By Rachel Baker, Crosswalk.com
Eleven years ago I was a newlywed headed into a great adventure with my husband, Kile. We said “I do,” loaded up a moving van and headed from Southern California to Northern Colorado. Kile was taking a job as a youth pastor, his first foray into ministry, while I would be looking for a new job once we arrived.
Kile jumped headfirst into ministry and I started pounding the pavement; sending out resumes and making phone calls. It wasn’t long before I started feeling incredibly lonely. Here I was in a new town, as a new bride, at a new church, in a new home, where I knew very few people. Suddenly, I was homesick.
The adventure didn’t feel so fun anymore. My husband would get home from a long day and I would talk his ear off—having saved all my words for him.
I needed a friend.
Tina and her husband had moved into the area the year before us to serve at the same church. I don’t remember exactly when Tina and I met, but what I do remember is that she asserted herself in my life when I needed her most.
When Kile and I found a 100-year-old rental to move into she showed up and cleaned it. When I was feeling down and isolated she invited me over to her house for fresh baked cookies and Friends reruns. She showed me around town, introduced me to new friends, and welcomed me into her circle.
Tina taught me how to make friends as an adult, how to be intentional and connect deeper with girlfriends, and how to welcome newcomers into my circle. We all need a Tina in our lives, or perhaps you are a Tina who can teach us.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/digitalskillet
1. Connect Deeper by Being Available
In the days of our early friendship, I feel like Tina made herself very available to me. She showed up at my house with meals, helped me unpack, sat with me at church while my husband was working and was just available when I needed her.
I lean a bit on the side of cynicism, so at first, I struggled to understand why she wanted to be my friend. Why was she pursuing me? What was in it for her? She quickly melted all my icy walls with her warmth and kindness. Turns out she wanted nothing from me, but something for me. She wanted me to feel safe in my new community and welcome at our new church.
I learned from Tina’s gestures and availability that friendships are often forged by time. Time was something that Tina was able to give freely in that stage of life, and it was time that strengthened our friendship.
Tina’s friendship gave me life in a season of loneliness. Her friendship also taught me how to be a friend. So, if you’re feeling isolated or lonely today, take one out of the Tina playbook and make yourself available to the people already in your life. Being available doesn’t necessarily mean sitting on the couch watching reruns, it might mean calling a friend or sending a video.
Being available might be writing a handwritten card, or dropping coffee by for no reason at all. Availability might just be the first step to a deeper friendship, it’s a simple step that only requires intention and time.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Kikovic
2. Connect Deeper by Being Present
Have you ever spent time with someone who constantly checks their watch or phone? How has that landed on you?
Years ago a friend of mine brought her newly work-issued Blackberry to dinner with a group of girlfriends. Throughout our dinner, her phone pinged and vibrated. With each ping she slyly checked her email and responded to her employer, this continued throughout the meal and right on into dessert. Finally, the whole group had had enough. As if staging an intervention we took the phone away and demanded our friend’s presence.
Now, we had enough relational equity to be able to call our friend out and ask her to be with us both mentally and physically—had she of been a doctor on call or in an emergency situation of course we would have let the phone slide—but that night she was simply being owned by her digital device.
Years later I’ve caught myself, several times, doing the same exact thing. I can easily become distracted by this little piece of technology and miss the person right in front of me. As I pursue deeper relationships I am beginning to learn that mental presence is just as important as the physical.
As we approach our friendships it pays to give our girlfriends not just our availability and time but also our mental availability and presence. Next time you grab coffee with your friend put the phone away. If you’re on a tight schedule, let your friend know and then set a timer to go off 5 minutes before you need to leave, this way you can be fully with your friend while you’re with your friend.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/IPG Gutenberg UK Ltd
3. Connect Deeper by Being Real
A couple weeks ago I sent a video message to one of my best friends. My face was blotchy from crying as I shared some things that were heavy on my heart. As I cried I kept apologizing for crying, which was utterly ridiculous. My friend didn’t want me to apologize for crying, she wanted to be there for me and to be a shoulder for me to cry on.
These are the types of friends that I need in my life; friends who allow me to show up fully, who love the real me and who likewise know that they can be real with me. Being real means that we are available and present for the highs and lows of life, but furthermore being real means that we really care for each other.
Sometimes this means that we need to say difficult things to each other, it means that we need to point one another to truth. Being real means that we have a foundation of trust and time in relationship with each other, relational equity, to back it up.
As 1 Thessalonians 5:11 prompts, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." This type of encouragement can truly only come from a relationship forged by trust, availability, and presence.
This week, engage with your girlfriends in meaningful ways that encourage depth. Ask them how they need to be encouraged and how you can pray for them. Likewise prepare yourself to be real and transparent with your girlfriends.
Photo Credit: Unsplash/Ben White
4. Connect Deeper by Being Loyal
One of the deepest anguishes I’ve felt in recent years was when a friend, who I loved deeply, broke my trust. The experience was painful and as a result I spent far too long protecting myself from getting hurt again. Despite the pain there were many lessons to be learned, lessons in friendship, faith and forgiveness.
I learned that even though I had been hurt, leading with loyalty in friendship is worth the risk. I learned that forgiveness is often hard-fought when the wound is deep. I learned that forgiveness and reconciliation are two completely different things, but most of all I learned, or more so was reminded, of the type of friend I wanted to be for others. I was reminded that keeping a friend’s confidence is essential to a real friendship.
As we engage with our friends remember to be above reproach, be true and trustworthy. When we grow deeper in our friendships on the foundations of time, presence, and truth, loyalty should be a natural outcome.
Loyalty does not mean we give our friends a free pass at bad behavior or that we remain in unhealthy and toxic relationships. Rather, loyalty means that we keep our friend’s confidence, that we extend them grace and that we assume the best of them.
The reality is that the longer we are in relationship with our friends, the higher the chances are that we might hurt each other. Maybe this week you can connect deeper with a friend by seeking forgiveness, and possibly even reconciliation. Perhaps connecting deeper right now means working towards restoration and setting a new foundation of commitment to one another.
John 15:12-13 sets a pretty high standard for friendship, “ My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
While this directive may feel unachievable or almost too much to ask, I deeply believe that striving to love each other as God loves us can change lives, heal the wounded and deepen not only our earthly relationships but our relationship with Christ. By loving each other well in friendship we radiate Christ to the world.
As we approach our relationships today, tomorrow, and in the future let’s pursue our friends with full abandon. Let’s show up and be real, giving of our time and presence. Let’s lead our friends in this and show them just how deeply we value them. Through this type of love we honor ourselves and our friends, but more than anything else, we honor God.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Hian Oliveira