One of life's greatest gifts

When I think of a friend I immediately think of my husband. He is my best friend and he knows me oh so well. After I think about my husband I then think about my sisters. We have been friends since birth and the older or should I say more mature we become our friendship continues to grow. I could say some much about my friendship with my husband and sisters but instead I want to discuss my girlfriends. In order to do this I must go back to my first girlfriend.

When I was in first grade I remember being the only African American in my classroom. I attended Liberty Christian School and when I was six race wasn’t a factor or even something that I considered. So when I met Kristina Brenen, an Italian American with long brown hair all I knew was that she was my first bestie. I remember pool parties, playing on the playground and just spending every day together from first to third grade. In my little elementary school mind I knew we would be friends forever. Well all of that changed when my parents decided to enroll us into a new school. The beauty of this new school was that it was part of our church so I knew everyone in my class! From fourth to seventh grade I was cruising in familiar territory. My girlfriends consisted of people who I had grown up with and whose parents knew my parents. We saw each other daily and on the weekends at church service. In my mind these girls would be my friends for life and nothing could ever separate us…..

Well my lovely parents decided to bust this party up and we left that school to attend a public school near my home. Oh yeah I cannot forget one important detail I WAS HEADED TO EIGHTH GRADE. As we all know middle school can be brutal and for me it was horrible. On my first day in math class I merely raised my hand to answer a question and I immediately became known as  “a know it all”. So from that day forward I kept to myself and was ok with simply knowing people but I had no interest in becoming their friend. For me eighth grade had a profound impact on how I viewed friendships and even how I viewed myself. My self-confidence took a hit and the ability to be a friend and vulnerable, all traits we seek in a good friend had died. As a result from eighth grade to high school all of my “friendships” ceased to exist once I walked across the stage when I graduated. I was ready to move on with my life and college presented a great opportunity.

So to recap my friendships from first to twelfth grade were:

  1. Seasonal
  2. Shallow
  3. Dead

I finally made it to the promised land. I was entering college with a fresh slate. I didn’t know anyone and they didn’t know me. I was ready!! Part of my college experience included a bridge program for minority students to help them transition from high school to college. It was during those two months that I forged a relationship with two girls who I thought would be lifelong friends. In addition, I formed a friendship with another girl who was part of our program. Well 20 years later I can say that out of those three friendships only one has stood the test of times as our relationship is more sister than friend. Now this isn’t to say that my other two friendships have fallen by the wayside. We still remember each other’s birthday, children’s milestones and send out the occasional “hope all is well” text but the depth and richness do not compare. As we went through college, attended graduate school, started our careers, got married and had children time began to to slip away. It is what we do with that time and how we manage our friendships during these life changes that determines the strength of your friendship.

Fast forward to today and I’ve added a few more girlfriends to my tribe, one being my work/sister/mentor friend and the other being my mommy friend (friend with kids). You add that to my college bestie and I have three girlfriends who have my back no matter what. Each one plays a significant yet different role in my life and I believe that I do the same for them. They are oftentimes brutally honest but I can accept it because I know it is for my good and not to hurt me. We have laughed together, cried together, got angry and forgave each other. I always thought that I would have a large crew but no it’s just me and my Big Three which is perfectly fine.

So what underlying themes have I learned through my thirty plus years of friendship. I’m glad you asked…

Friendships can be seasonal

I remember my mom telling me this very statement when I was high school. At the time I could’ve really cared less because I had already written off those people. It wasn’t until I moved to Atlanta that I understood what that phrase meant. The distance, life changes and even misunderstandings drove a wedge in a friendship that I thought would last forever. It was hard to walk that path but I did and overtime I was able to move forward. The ending of that friendship showed me that people move on and priorities change. It had nothing to do with me. Instead it had everything to do with them and the best thing for me was to let them go. If I would’ve tried to hold onto that friendship it could’ve affected future friendships. In addition, as a Christian no friendship or relationship should take the place of our relationship with Christ. I was able to spend more time with Him and my now husband. I was able to cultivate those relationships which are permanent not seasonal.

Friendships are necessary

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.” – John Donne. I absolutely love this quote because it is true. In life we need people and not just any people but your tribe, your community, your people. It is only when these bonds and friendships are formed that one can really thrive. We were never meant to live this life alone. I remember when I was pregnant with my first child it was my mommy friend who encouraged me and reminded that it does in fact get better and one day I will sleep again. I leaned on her so much during that time because she had walked in my shoes and she knew exactly how I was feeling and what to say. In addition, we both remind each other that it’s ok to ask for help and to not be perfect. Our friendship is one in which we have seen each other at our lowest and at the top. We tell each other the truth even when it hurts, laugh until we cry and compare stories of how our husbands fail to throw trash away. By having her in my life it keeps me grounded and reminds that the human experience is very similar. That is the beauty of friendships, we can grow and learn from each other in a way that is authentic and real. Proverbs 27:17 says it this way… As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another Proverbs 27:17. We need each other. We need genuine, honest and loving friends!

Friendships are cultivated

A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother Proverbs 18:24. If you are struggling to make friends or maintain friendships it might be time for a self- evaluation. Am I a good friend? Do I have expectations of others that I don’t even meet for myself? Am I dependable? Am I trustworthy? Do I call you back when I say I will? Great friendships require time and energy. If you are willing to give both then the return on your investment will be worth it. As with all investments there is a risk and sometimes those risks outweigh the reward but only time will tell. Developing true friendships requires being vulnerable. The greatest example of this friendship is the one that we have with Christ. He gave the ultimate sacrifice, His life as a way for us to be in relationship/friendship with Him and the Father. What better example do we have than Jesus Christ to show us how to be a good friend. He wants us to spend time with Him in prayer (communication). Our friendship grows stronger and deeper when we learn about Him in His word. He proves to us that He is faithful and dependable by his many blessings. Even when times get tough and it feels as if He is far away we are reminded that He is always there. It’s in those times that our faith in Him grows and we become stronger.

Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you. Hebrews 13:5b

So if you are looking to strengthen your crew or even establish one look to Jesus. He knows what you need and how to get them to you. He established friendships so ask Him to send you a tribe. When they arrive don’t forget to be a good friend to them as well!

Life is better when it’s shared with two or three!