Meet my friend Amanda (pictured on the right). I first met Amanda five years ago when she started teaching third grade at the elementary school I was teaching at. When I was pregnant with Cora she was pregnant with her son Mason. Cora and Mason were less than two weeks apart. Amanda and I hung out in the same circle of friends occasionally, but it wasn’t until after Cora went to be with Jesus that our friendship grew. I would describe Amanda as a “giver”. She will do anything for you. She always has such a willing heart and she never makes you feel like an inconvenience. After Cora went to be with Jesus, she was a friend who was constantly showing up with a meal, organizing fund raisers for my family, sending me texts to see how my day was, and she was never afraid to talk to me about Cora. Amanda always makes me feel so loved and important. To this day I am not sure why she even wanted to be around me because I was SO sad all the time! I love our friendship because it is one of the sweet blessings the Lord gave me after loosing Cora. She has been a friend who is willing to experience “real” life with me and I know you will love what she has to say about friendship…
Don’t you remember when friendships were so easy ? You didn’t really even have to think about them. It was as simple of sharing the parts of a “Best Friends” necklace. It seemed that putting our part of that necklace around our neck is all it took to solidify a friendship. Secrets were easy to tell and easy to keep. Topics of discussion were on who’s house would we sleep over at, what games we will play, and who will do each other’s hair first.
But somewhere along the line we experience “real” life. And oh, how we wish friendships were still as easy as placing that necklace around our necks.
Lisa Whelchel’s book Friendship for Grown-ups – What I Missed and Learned along the Way is obviously a book on friendship – finding it, loosing it, learning from it, finding it again, trying to build it and maintain it. It’s a personal story, sometimes VERY personal. And at times that made me feel a bit uncomfortable and unable to connect. But overall, this book really gave me an opportunity to rethink how I approach my friendships. It made me re-evaluate how I am as a friend and how I can be a better friend. It was such an easy read – and for the most part I didn’t want to put it down. I think I would have enjoyed it more had it been more informational than biographical.
What I appreciated most about this book was Lisa’s insights on how important grace plays in our friendships. Lisa shares, quite poignantly, “Isn’t that what we all want? To be seen, in all our glory, for better or for worse, the good, the bad, and the ugly and still be embraced.” This is what God has done for us as His children. And I know that this is what I should be displaying in my human relationships as well. Lisa states that “grace is nothing more nor less than the face that love wears when it meets imperfection, weakness, failure and sin.”
So I’m reminded of how truly special those friendships can be in which grace is given and received. We don’t need to pretend to be perfect Christians (there is no such thing), we don’t have to keep all of our frailties and failures inside. Because when people think that we are perfect, without insecurities or faults, connection doesn’t happen. “Vulnerability creates connection faster than almost anything”. I have experienced that first-hand. Some of the strongest and fastest growing friendships for me have been the ones that even through my fears, I was able to become open about my true feelings, my own sins, my own weaknesses. And also have that reciprocated. Because we all know that when we hear that our friends struggle with the same things as we do – everything all of a sudden feels a little bit better – we are not alone. But it is so hard. And I feel like I’m only on the brinks of learning this. And as hard as this has been – to become vulnerable with a friend – I have seen that THESE are the friendships that are the most dear and strong for me. Having safe friendships that allow me to be honest and open without having to be afraid of my “badness” are about grace and love. How truly refreshing to have that friend to go to in which I can be strong and positive one minute and a whiny baby the next; sometimes sure of what I know and what I feel and other times having thoughts and emotions that are all over the place with no point to get to.
I am thankful for this lesson of grace. It is not about trying to fix each other (although I do believe that friends should point each other to God’s truth and desires at the right times). I am reminded that being vulnerable with friends (while being careful that I have chosen safe friends), will grow us closer and will allow us to travel this road, as messy or as clear as it can be sometimes…together.
Whatever part of the journey you are in with your friendships – there are some great lessons that can be taken from Lisa’s book. If nothing else, I don’t think there is any way you can finish the book without feeling truly blessed for the positive and strong friendships you have in your life.