A few months ago, I was feeling like my friendships were really scattered, both physically and emotionally. I've had the wonderful blessing of good college friends living in the area, but living on opposite ends of the metroplex is like living on opposite ends of the world. I've also been fortunate to meet so many amazing women in the past year – I feel like God has been placing people in my path that are important for me to meet, learn from, and love on – but when they come from all sections of my life, it can be a little hard to figure out how to devote time to all of them. Not that a friendship is dependent upon how much time you spend together or how often you see each other (because it's certainly not!), but my heart was longing for a place where I could be vulnerable, confide, and be held accountable. I started to pray that God would reveal the kind of friendships He was wanting for me... not necessarily ones that fit my schedule or made me feel great about myself, but ones where He could pour into me, and use me to pour into others.
Over the course of one week in August, I had four other girls mention to me that they, too, were looking for something similar. They were all around the same age, and all newly married or engaged. (OK, GOD.) So, I asked if they were be interested in a monthly dinner where we could ask each other the real, heart questions. We've been meeting, and monthly dinners have turned into bi-weekly dinners, often with a couple of us meeting for coffee or a yoga session on our "off" weeks. These friendships have turned into attending church together, going to classes with each other, and regular encouraging text messages. But the heart of what's going on can be so easily seen around the table.
I don't usually get out the placemats or the nice dishes, but for these ladies it feels like a special occasion every time they walk in the door. Someone brings a bottle of wine, and someone else brings a dessert, and I usually cook something simple for our meal. We eat slowly and then stay at the table for hours, sharing our hearts, our burdens and our blessings. I thought I'd have to come up with conversation-starters – maybe some questions in case it gets too quiet? But I've never used them. More often than not, one of us will say, "So, ___, how was your week?" and then the ball doesn't stop rolling from there. I truly believe it's just knowing that we're coming together in a posture that's focused on Christ that makes this a space of honest vulnerability. We're not looking to find our best selves here at the table. These women aren't there to confirm that my selfish thoughts and actions are "ok"... they're there to tell me, "yeah, that's normal to feel that way. But have you prayed about it?" or "That reminds me of this friendship I have... I've had to learn to see her in a new way." I often hear, "God's been teaching me a lot lately" or "I'm having trouble wanting to read my Bible... what do y'all do about that?" We leave feeling refreshed and renewed because these friendships aren't focused inward... they're focused on the anchor for our souls. They're about drawing nearer to the Lord.
For most of my life, I haven't really known how to have friends. Often, I had one best friend who was everything to me – so when that friendship would fall apart, I would find myself devastated and wondering what I did wrong. In college, I was introduced to life with a group of friends where I didn't have to "pick" someone to buddy-up with (and, in fact, these friendships are still ones I'm blessed to have today). But I was still fearful of investing, and incredibly selfish about my time. I was nervous of what people might think of me, so often I just skipped out on what everyone else was doing.
God has been gently teaching me since college that friendship isn't to make me look pretty or to put me in a group that gives me an advantage. It's to grow me, challenge me, mold me, and use me. As with everything else in my life, I'm learning that it's an area where I can lay down the me-focused thoughts in my mind and ask God to use me to serve. "Just let me be your servant here, and I know you won't let me say something I regret. I can't fear being judged if I'm here to serve you. I trust you'll restore my soul through this if I serve these women instead of trying to serve myself." Give, give, give, instead of take, take, take.
And I realize that by putting myself mentally down on my knees to wash the feet of others that I'm also putting myself under the waterfall of God's goodness. It's humbling, and wonderfully overwhelming.
All of this to say... if you're looking for friendship, if you've been hurt in the past, or maybe you don't even know how to be a friend... lay down your expectations. Lay down your worries. Lay down your pride. Lay them at the cross and declare, "God, I want what you want. Please show me what kind of friendships you want for me. Please show me how to serve others, and how to serve You." And then listen. Open up your heart, and open up your table. You never know who might show up.