Choosing, Forging, and Keeping Terrific Friendships

“You will not make it in life unless you are really good at choosing, forging, and keeping terrific friendships.”

Timothy Keller, a well known and respected pastor who hails out of New York, stated this in a video I recently watched for a church leadership class. It’s fitting, really, that for the whole month of May our training devoted itself in the art of relationships. Questions that stirred included, “What makes a friend? How do I choose them as an adult? Am I a good friend?”

Keller friendship (1)Keller went on to explain that “Friendship is the only love that is absolutely deliberate. It will not push itself upon you.”

That makes me stop and think–I need to choose well in regards to my friends, but how do I chose well? What are the characteristics of a friend that I should seek after? Or vice versa, the characteristics that I must display that will make me an affectionate, loyal, loving friend?

The video progressed to explain four things needed to create a friend: constancy, carefulness, candor, and counsel.

Constancy

I must be faithful and dependable. Proverbs 18:24 challenges us with these words: A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” To me constancy means I am that faithful friend, one who can be called (or texted) in the middle of the night. I come over when you’re overwhelmed with a pick-me-up coffee and a smile. I show up, time and again, without question. I let you in, all of you, and don’t shy away when life gets particularly hard or messy. A true friend sacrifices their time in order to be there for their people. I am determined to be a constant friend.

Carefulness

To be a faithful friend I need to be aware of my friend’s well-being and emotional state. This is the second aspect of a good friend. When friends are walking through perilous times in their lives, I am sensitive to their needs. I am unable to rejoice in my life when my true friend is unwell. On the contrary, when my friend is rejoicing, I am celebrating with them. I am acutely aware of their emotional and mental health, and display empathy. I am determined to be a careful friend.

Candor

I will be a truth-teller. I speak into my friend’s lives with frankness and honest expression. Ephesians 4:25 says, “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” I know someone is a true friend when they are not afraid to share with me things I need to hear, but might not want to hear. Do I wield the truth to my dearest friends, even if it’s uncomfortable? Am I speaking God’s Word into their life when lies deceive and they are lead astray? I also recognize their giftings, remind them when forgotten, and spur them on in serving the Kingdom of God. I am determined to be a candid friend.

Counsel

friend Sarah DLastly, as a true friend, I am to counsel those I love and have chosen to be in my life. James 3:17 shares, But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” When I am counseling a friend, I am first seeking after truth from Scripture. I am always ensuring that my counsel is pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, and finally, sincere. If my counsel does not align with these characteristics, it is unwarranted and therefore not useful. I am determined to be a counseling friend.

In my lifetime, I have encountered many a friendship. Some friendships turned out to be more seasonal, some have lasted over half of my life. The beauty of a friend is that they are irreplaceable, and a gift from God. C.S. Lewis beautifully sums up friendship in the Four Loves.

“In friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting–any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”

As I am reminded of Keller’s four characteristics of a good friend, I am also reminded that God is always at work, even in our friendships. He knows that in order to make it through life, we need friends to cleave to in adversity and to rejoice with in happy times. Friends are a reflection of God’s goodness and faithful love toward us.


sarah-dohman-squareSarah Dohman is a nurse, kayak enthusiast, coffee addict, microbrew lover, globe trotter, adorer of friends and family. She has a weakness for donuts, runs in 5k races, and cannot get enough tea and books. She loves writing more than talking (and she talks a lot), can be seen at Target frequently, and is loving life in her thirties. She believes God has called her to this space to bring joy and encouragement through words to friends and family, near and far. You can find more from Sarah at her blog or on Twitter.

 

 

One Another Friendship

Last week a beautiful thing happeneda friend dropped by. No planning, no consulting our schedules to pencil in a playdate in six weeks pending the weather, possible illness, and the unforeseen mishaps that are bound to happen. Just a knock at the door.

As we sat amidst my laundry, watching little ones play we chatted about what was going on in life. As we took breaks to feed children or put a grumpy baby to bed, we coached the littles on friendship 101. Don’t pinch. Give her space. You can play with it when she is done. Gentle. Be slow to anger,she didn’t realize that hurt you. Yelling isn’t how we talk to our friends.

Friendship Holly HawesIt is good advice for us all.

Later, they will learn to keep confidences, cheer one another on, and be includers. To care for one another’s broken hearts, and forgive one another.

One another is really what friendship is about. As Christians, friendship is not simply based on common interests or places in life, but on the fact that as followers of Jesus we are family. Beyond stage of life, race, or ambition we are called to relationship. Because of this the one another includes the other.

Romans 12:10 Love one another with {Sisterly} affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

While the Bible doesn’t have a top 10 list of friendship do’s and don’ts, when I think about the way a family should treat one another, I continue to gain more insight into how redeemed sister-friendship works.

Come as you are

…But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

There is no need to clean yourself up to join the family, and we shouldn’t permit the facade of perfection to remain within our friendships. Family gets to see all sides of you. Morning bedhead. Messy room. Struggling and succeeding. There is vulnerability in sharing your real life, and this is exactly where we begin to connect deeply with one another as sister-friends. Past the Pinterest projects and small talk is the part of your soul made for real inter-dependence.

Confess

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:16

I vividly remember the first time I sat across from a friend and confessed an area I’d been struggling that I hoped to never say outloud. Years later, I don’t remember even what I actually confessed, but I remember the deep relief and healing I felt as she said outloud that God had already forgiven me and she forgave me as well. We need people in our lives who can tell us the truth, hear us out, and pray for us.

Holly Hawes FriendshipMartin Luther famously said, ‘All a Christian’s life is of repentance.” Indeed, we are people who not only say we are in need of the change God can bring in our life on day one of following Jesus, but  also on every day after that. In our relationships this means  we are to be sisters and friends who are real about the places we are struggling and are pointing one another back to the good news of the gospel.

Forgiveness

…bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:13

Friendship has a certain quality of commitment that is never stated in vows, signed on a legal document, or even agreed upon in a conversation. Instead, day in and day out we begin to do the things that make relationships last and slowly a foundation is built. Part of that foundation must be forgiveness or the relationship will not stand the test of time. People do fail, and no one but Jesus is perfect. We are able to forgive one another because we know that God has forgiven us.

I’m With You

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15

As sisters we hold front row seats to each other’s life. We must cheer each other on both in times of joy and pain. I find that most people are great at half of this verse. We have the encouraging cheerleader party thrower types who celebrate well when a friend gets a promotion, begins a romantic relationship, has a baby, or is just excited for the new hobby she started. On the other hand there are the mercy-filled empathetic type who sit and weep with those struggling with illness, infertility, loss of a job, disappointment, or marriage trouble. We default to one side, but miss out if we don’t learn to give both rejoicing and weeping.

You Have a Gift

For as in one body we have many members,and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them Romans 12 :4-6a

For some reason, it is difficult to see in ourselves the ways that God has made us and gifted us. We need our sisters to point out how they see God at work through us, and how our gifts are needed. So next time you see a friend excelling at something, let them know. Because we are not alone in this journey. We were designed to encourage, help, and serve those whom God loves, those He created in His image.


Holly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years, and works part time holly-squareas a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail,  and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.

A Focus on Friendship

Author: Kimberley Mulder

My “one word” for 2017 is friendship. At the beginning of each year I spend some time listening to God and observing my journey thus far to discern what one word I am to focus my attentions for the upcoming year. It is always something that God is cultivating in my life, maybe pruning, but always bringing greater life.

To begin my year’s focus , I prayed about my friendships, and discovered a deep gratitude that rescues me from the seeping insecurities about them. When I forget to approach these relationships as God’s gifts I mire in doubts that others care for me, that I fail people too often, that people are rejecting me. These are fears founded on my sinful nature, for I do fail friends, but what God, and my lovely friends, are showing me is that they forgive me and love me.

In addition to cementing this foundation of gratitude for the friends I have, God has been showing me his friendship. I have found great delight in reading an account from the gospels as if I were there as His friend. I observe in my mind’s eye what is recorded, and His Spirit fills my imagination with details of the setting, with personalities of the characters, with words and actions that may have occurred. And I interact with Jesus, asking questions, listening, following and watching him. I am sure this imaginative imagery is not an accurate depiction of what occurred in real time 2000 years ago, however, through it Jesus is present to me as a friend!

One word FriendshipNaturally, I have to read a book or two about my “one word” and so I started with one on spiritual friendship – “Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship and Direction” by David G. Benner. It is a rich explanation and exploration of soul friendship. These are the friends who nurture your soul and care deeply about your whole self. These are the companions God has given you on your transformational journey with Christ. They are vital gifts from God! The guidance in the book has already blessed my relationships.

Then there is the guidance I am giving my daughter regarding friendships and “friending” online. She is a pre-teen and her world is dictated by peers. We recently walked her through the positives and negatives of using social media, building her foundation to connect and care for her friends. We have given her expectations and guidance to treat everyone as she wishes to be treated even as she encounters peers who aren’t held to these same expectations. We are trying to give her the tools and abilities to build her ship with her friends to sail together through these adolescent years.

Friendship Kim MulThis leads to our family’s newest adventure in friendships. This summer we did not sign up for any camps or classes, we are not taking any trips and our schedule is REALLY empty. (Hear my gulp of faith mixed with fear that God will fill all these days with good things?) Instead, I have been telling every friend and neighbor to come visit us, play with us, eat with us. Come summer break, we will be issuing invitations regularly to hang outs, picnics, trips to the library, you name it. And reiterating to everyone to drop by which is counter-cultural, at least in our neighborhood. This is a giant leap of faith for me – one in which I think we will be learning quickly how to build and maintain our family’s ship of friends!

I urge you to pray over your friendships, to see them through God’s eyes, to find resources that infuse life into your relationships and will help you train your children to model true friendship to a world addicted to “friending”.


Readers, how could you work on a friendship today?

2016-11-02 13.10.06Kimberley Mulder is a contemplative at heart who deeply enjoys the company of Jesus in the day-to-day of caring for her family of 5 (plus a dog and a cat), teaching English to immigrants, growing her garden, and writing. Currently, her walk with Jesus is taking her more deeply into writing as she leads a spiritual formation group at her church, and records the reflections and connections Jesus gives her to share with others.  She treasures the truth that God’s Word does not go back to him without accomplishing the purpose for which he sent it, and that that Word is embodied in our lives. (Isaiah 55:11)

Remembering Carol: A Legacy of Devotion

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”-Hebrews 12:1-2

A dear, dear friend of mine, Carol, joined this great cloud of witnesses on March 19th. Carol was a quadriplegic and our friendship began when she hired me to be her personal caregiver. Over the last 7 years, conversations,visits, and most importantly, our hope and faith in God deepened our connection. At her recent memorial service, I was struck by the legacy she left behind—a legacy of faith, hope, and love.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” –1 Corinthians 13:13

Carol’s faith was unshakeable. At the tender age of 18 her life was changed by a devastating spinal cord injury, and though she never married or had children she had many who drew near. She changed lives due to the way she followed Jesus under trying circumstances. She never turned her back on Him.

Before her accident, Carol was quite the athlete. She played both basketball and volleyball in high school and  loved long runs around her home town. For anyone, quadriplegia would have felt like torture, but particularly so for such an active young woman. Many would have lost hope and succumbed to bitterness and resentment, but  Carol spent 41 years in a wheelchair and still shined.

conversations,visits, and most importantly, our hope and faith in God deepened our connection. At her recent memorial service, I was struck by the legacy she left behind—a legacy of faCarol demonstrated a joyful attitude and lived with a fervent hope in Jesus, and she went to him in prayer constantly. She was a cheerful soul who loved the balmy days of summer and cherished spending time in her yard amidst her vibrant flowers. I recall many an afternoon spent on her back patio sharing lives, watching  hummingbirds swarm the feeder, and discussing the things of God. A true prayer warrior, Carol frequently asked me for prayer for herself, dear friends, and family. I asked for prayer as well,  knowing she would be sure to pray for me. 

hummingbird legacyI will especially miss how Carol loved those around her, myself included. She shared the love of Jesus with everyone she came in contact with, especially the many women who became her caregivers over the years. She loved big, and I always left her house feeling the warmth of her love.

At the memorial service, a short video clip was played in which my friend shared her testimony of unending faith and hope in God which had been undeterred by her trying circumstances. It will always be  treasured in my memories. She truly lived her faith out loud, leaving behind a worthwhile and lasting legacy—a life devoted to Christ.


sarah-c-squareReaders, Who has left a lasting imprint of faith and love in your life? Tell us in the comments.

Sarah Clews is a wife, mother of two little girls, and prolific reader. She received her BS from Corban University in English and still loves writing. She helps her husband run their martial arts school, and in her free time, enjoys sewing, experimenting with makeup, and reading blogs.

Embracing Vulnerable Beauty

Author: Kate Franken

“Do you have children?”

“Are you married?”

I get that these are questions most women often ask as a cordial attempt to get acquainted. Their success rate in forging a connection amongst my female counterparts is high, but their ability to alienate someone in my current stage of life is just as steep.

beauty-vulnerableMy 20-something self detested being asked such questions. With each passing year, as I became more and more the minority, my reflex to cringe upon hearing them became quicker. I hated how they made me feel vulnerable. Because once I revealed my single, childless state, the magnifying glasses seemed to emerge from in front of puzzled faces. Attempts would be made to put the pieces together as to why I fell short in growing a family my own. Suggestions would be made as to how I could fix the problem they found in me. Some would even be so bold as to ask, “What’s wrong with you?”

I sought to avert situations that might turn into an  exposé of the supposed truth of my circumstances, so I clung to the safety of masks, walls, pretenses, hermit-like living and the lie “I’m okay.” A hard heart became my shield. I thought it would protect me.

Fortunately, God grabbed a hold of me. He knew there was more for me than a hidden life. He placed His love over the clenched fists that were wrapped around my semblance of control and tenderly loosened my grip. He squeezed me tight until I could finally see He was everything I needed. He taught me to sing a new song, one of surrender. He revealed the beauty of vulnerably giving one’s life.

He led me through one story to the next and spoke to me through the printed divine wisdom locked firm and true in the pages of the Bible.

David

David confronted Goliath, the towering 9 foot something  Philistine beast, with five smooth stones and a sling. David stood before this man, known to be the strongest of warriors, without any protective covering to shield him, having previously declined the King’s armor. He relied solely on his faith in God to deliver him and he victoriously prevailed (1 Samuel 17).

Paul

Paul identified himself as the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15-16) to point to the saving grace of Christ. He remained fervent in preaching the good news of Christ, knowing it would inevitably result in violent persecution.

Jesus

Jesus came in human form, sharing in the sufferings of humanity, to pave a path for us to follow. In the years that He walked this Earth, He sacrificially gave of Himself to the needs of others. The most vulnerable moment in all of human history was His crucifixion, in which He gave of His own life so that we may have life eternal.

A theme was evident. When they chose faithfulness to God, they made themselves vulnerable and it pointed to the beauty of God’s faithfulness. Then God carried this theme from the pages, I loved, to the existence I lived.

His Disciples

The lyrics of this new song God was teaching me penetrated my heart all the more as I sat again and again across the table from godly examples both married and single. I entered into community and found my heart ministered to by the stories of others. They sat unmasked before me, drawing my eyes to Jesus. With their vulnerable words, they were His disciples and they were doing the work of the Great Commission.

God knew just how to prod me into being vulnerable myself.  He knew I was drawn to beauty.  He created me that way. And beauty is what I saw in the women across the table from me, in David, in Paul, and in Jesus.

vulnerable-beautyI now look at vulnerability with new eyes. When I see vulnerability, I see courage, unthwarted by imperfections. I see a resistance to the chains of fear and shame. I see a softened heart. I see a confident trust in what God has done. I see rest with a rightly placed hope in Jesus’ perfection and not one’s own. I see a healing agent. I see love shining through. I see an expression of who God is. I see it to be altogether beautiful.

God did not leave me the same, once He got ahold of me. He freed me. He told me I was more precious than jewels. He wrapped me in the security of Christ. He made me content with my mistakes, scars, brokenness, and the truth that “I don’t have it all together”, knowing God’s grace is sufficient for me, and His power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). He has changed me into now being the woman that vulnerably shares her story of God’s saving grace to minister to hearts of others, and has given me a heart to encourage others to walk forth with a vulnerability that speaks of His goodness,inviting others to grasp its beauty.


 Readers, It is important that we seek to understand others and their experiences. There is a great treasure hidden in friendship with those that are different than ourselves. Our circumstances do not threaten our identity when our identity is rooted in Christ which empowers us all to hear the story of the other.

kate-squareKate Franken is a 4th grade teacher and a volunteer coordinator at her church in Oregon. She enjoys indulging in raw conversation whilst savoring a cup or more of coffee. Her hunt for good books and podcasts is endless. She finds refuge surrounded by trees, on hiking trails, with her two dogs in tow. She is especially fond of mountaintop views, wit, “best teacher ever” love letters, breakfast, a painted sky, and Jesus. She has a heart for connecting people to His church and encouraging others into relationship with Him.

Words of Awareness

There are those in life you hope you never hurt. Those who have walked with you through sacred space and have defined friendship for you. Some of my very favorite people in the world I have known since high school. These women,17 years of friendship, and thousands of memories have created some of my most treasured relationships.

As teenagers, we couldn’t get enough of each other. Our parents would take turns hosting slumber parties, and feeding 6 growing young ladies. We were in each other’s classes, we sat by each other before school, during lunch, and took over the couches at each other’s houses after school. Sundaychurch together; Wednesday nightyouth group, church camp, mission trips, family vacations, we were in life together.  In short, we were inseparable.  

The hours upon hours we spent together knit us together as a group, and my friendships with these particular women helped shape me into the woman I am today.

Intertwined with the sweet, I can also identify the bitter memories. Flashbacks that remind me of when I did not act with kindness, or patience. When I tore at those who are my sisters in Christ. Proverbs 18:21(ESV) says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”  My unruly tongue lashed out hurtful words. Language that caused heartache and tears. I am grateful that in these instances I was met with grace and forgiveness, and our solidarity endured. It’s scary that such a small muscle in our body, paired with the thoughts in our brain, can so quickly break down another human causing sometimes irreparable damage.  

Becoming aware of the power of my tongue presents a daily challenge.  Do I build others up, or do I tear them down?  Am I choosing to speak life-giving words into those around me, or am I squandering away my speech on gossip and folly?  I am prayerfully examining my heart, and asking God to give me words of wisdom, truth, and healing.

I will always be grateful for the beauty of the words that have been spoken to me by my girlfriends. We have laughed together, prayed for one another, spoke truth into one another’s lives when we needed it, and offered the grace found in the truth that not one of us is perfect. We knew exactly how to build one another up, and spur one another on in our relationship with Jesus. United we lived out 1 Thessalonians 5:11,“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up”(ESV).  Even today, we have a string of text messages filled with Bitmoji, funny quotes, prayer requests, and promising words.

I have been given a group of women who are life-givers and truth wielders. I realize this is rare, and I am grateful. I also recognize that stewarding these friendships holds weight and brevity. I hold a holy responsibility as a friend: I am asked to care for these women and their hearts with tenderness and attention to words that perhaps go unspoken.  I allow myself to be vulnerable, and in turn ask that they do so as well.  We don’t hide from each other when things are hard. We seek each other out and offer one another grace and wisdom.  
I am challenged and called to action when I think about my group of girlfriends. Can we cheer each other on, and celebrate the successes of the other as if they were our own? Can we hold our tongue when it is powered by our flesh instead of our spirit? Can we rest in our Savior trusting that He will give us the strength to be who He has called us to be? Will we have the courage to be aware of how our actions and words might impact the lives of others? I hope so, and I hope you will join me in the attempt.


Readers, Will you join Sarah in the quest for speaking life instead of death?

9b24d-sarah2bsquareSarah believes God has called her to this space to bring joy and encouragement through words to friends and family, near and far. You can find more from Sarah at her blog, and you can find her stories for Anchored Voices under the tag Sarah.

Hope at Camp

Author: Chara Donahue

This past weekend, I got away from my little city and drove through even smaller towns to reach the wilderness and find camp. I retreated into the forest shade to find quiet that soothed my mind from the intensity of creating summer fun for four young children. As I prayed and prepared to teach workshops to women, coming from all parts of the Pacific North West, I looked out upon the lake of Camp Tadmor which boasted a giant inflatable slide, kayaks, and paddle boards. My kids are too young for camp, but I dreamt about someday bringing them there.

I envisioned the fun they would have, and the ways they might encounter God in this sacred space that whispers shalom. Many of my friends experienced camp as teens. In the church, I’ve heard the term “camp high” tossed around as though it were an experience universally shared in high school. I remember the people I knew at that age, my circle of friends, people I loved. They were also in search of a high, just not any camp high.

Soon my sessions were over and it was my last night at camp. My good friend and I decided a trek underneath the star-filled sky was a must. We set off into the misty dark and tried not to twist ankles or awaken the marshy edges of the sleeping lake. We settled for a while upon a deck floating gently on the wet tranquility. The night sky drew our gazes into its generous splendor, and we stared side by side into literal space. We enjoyed a clear view of the Milky Way’s trail, watched meteorites calling for wishes upon their failing majesty, and saw mythic constellations slowly make their nightly arc. With backs flat on floating boards and eyes drawn into the depths of  the unveiled universe, my friend and I reminisced about the years in high school, and told tales not previously shared with one-another.

My  stories from these times are best told in open spaces where the ears of children are distant.

It is not that I won’t tell my children these stories. They will surly view them as an origin story for the mother they know, but I can assure you that most of my teenage anecdotes will lend themselves to the genre of cautionary tale rather than inspirational autobiography.

But on this night, with this friend, she offered me space to not be a preacher, to not be the seasoned mother, to not be the redemption story, but to just be. As bats zoomed by and jetted slightly above the shiny still of the water, I felt the freedom to say “yeah, it was foolish and ultimately, the hurt was only bearable because I fell into the arms of God. But every once in awhile, it was so dumb that it makes a hilarious story.”

I told her about the sheer stupidity of some of my choices that could have easily cost me my life, the times God tried to get my attention and I withheld it, and I told her about friends who were terrible influences but I still deeply loved.  I told her of my favorite intoxicated philosopher who would discuss the deepness of dreams, the crack addict who came back from jail clean and Christ-focused, and my favorite drinking buddy with whom I had countless conversations about the God who now rules my life.

All of these people have long been out of my life, many of them even encouraged me to leave their circles. They saw violence sweeping into my life and knew I had to find a safer space. So I said goodbye, and honestly I don’t look back often; I don’t seek them out, but I do cherish the memories of friendship, however tainted, I had with them at that time. On this night my friend allowed me to leave behind the heavy tone in which I tell these stories from the stage, and tell them with laughter that sings “I still can’t believe that was my life.”

She also gifted me with the privilege of listening to her stories. She let me into her past spaces, and honestly, they are like those I hope for my children. Stories not populated with drug addicts and witnessing knife fights. Reports of innocent expectations and choices made out of wisdom. Highlights of what a life submitted to Christ early on could look like. As she dove into some of the funny and sweet chronicles of her life I listened with peace and hope. They simply made me feel happy.

Many of my close friends know the darkness of my story before Christ. They know how dangerous relationships ended, and that I would have been better off if that had never been a piece of my life. I know it too, but it is part of who I am. I can be grateful for the scary, the mourning, and the horrors that fill in a chapter of my story, because I truly have seen Jesus work it for good. It is He who gets the final say on the theme of my life.

I am living a story always being redeemed; all Christians are. It pains me when people preface how God met them with “Well, it’s not one of those dramatic stories.” Praise God that it isn’t! Any story about how someone finds the purest form of love in a dark and fallen world is powerful. The truth is that we are all a mess, and it is a miracle when Christ meets us in the midst of it. We should not shame a repentant person for the things they have turned from, but offer them room for their whole lives to step into the light. We must also not overlook the glory found in stories long-balanced on the narrow path. We must treasure narratives different than our own because without them we miss the beauty of diversity found in the story of God. May we be space-makers, place-setters, and room-prepares, just as Jesus is.

 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? ~Jesus (John 14:2)

Jesus makes space for all that come.

 

Hope in Being Single

Author: Sarah Dohman

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It makes me a little nervous to write about my relationship status (or lack thereof).  It’s personal, and frankly my philosophy for sharing my being single has been on a need-to-know basis only.  It’s for me to know, and you to find out.  I think it keeps the mystery alive.  However, in the spirit of obeying God, and living my life based upon faith, not fear, I’ve decided to write about my experience of singleness as a young woman at 30.


Let’s start back before 30, actually.


In high school I had a group of girlfriends who committed to not dating.  Most high school relationships end, and they took a stance to remain single so that they could focus more upon God.  I joined the bandwagon.  I focused on developing friendships instead, and I’m glad I did.  


In the beginning of my 20s, I carried on developing friendships as well.  I began a very long process of applying to nursing schools.  My focus was growing in my relationship with God, and studying nursing prerequisites including numerous hours of biology, chemistry, psychology, etc.  I continued not to date because I didn’t find any young man worthy of giving up my free time.  I felt enormously happy being fancy free.  I developed an interest in travel, and given the opportunity, I packed my suitcase as quick as I could.


In my early-mid 20s, I began to watch my best girlfriends meet, date, become engaged, and eventually get married.  I also attended many other church friends’, old roommates’, and family members’ weddings.  I love a good love story, and it was so lovely to share in my friends’ joyous moments.


Now, at 30, I am the “single friend”.  I am one of the rare few in their early 30s at my church who is not married.  I attend weddings without a plus one.  I travel to places by myself, sometimes quite far.  I am the single girl amongst a group of married couples in the community group I attend.  I don’t intend to make anyone feel awkward, but sometimes it happens.


My purpose in this post, I suppose, is not to gain pity.  I’d say 99.5% of the time I am completely satisfied in my singleness.  I have an anchored hope in Jesus (that’s for you Chara), and I’ve allowed Him to fill that need for a relationship.  I’m not saying I don’t want to get married, because I do, but I am also realizing that God has a plan and purpose in my singleness.  I am able to readily serve others, I can foster healthy relationships with friends, I am able to seek out opportunities that might be a lot more difficult to do if I were married or had kids.  Whether or not God will fulfill this desire of my heart remains unknown, but in the meanwhile, I am seeking after Him, and I know that He is good.  He is good if I do get married, and He is good if I don’t.

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So, if you are reading this post and you are dating/engaged/married with a “single friend” in your friends circle, here is what I recommend you do: 

  • Encourage them.  Pray for them.  See James 5:16.
  • Ask them what God has been teaching them.  Share with them how God has been working in your life.  Single friends can learn from their engaged and married friends, and vice versa.  
  • If you are getting together with other couples, and you are contemplating whether or not to invite your single friend, invite them.  We are single, not contagious.  Don’t avoid the single friend because of potential awkwardness in a group setting.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve loved being the third wheel, or fifth wheel, or whatever wheel.  My best friends and their husbands are particularly good at inviting me along to activities, and I rarely ever feel left out. 
  • If you’ve ever said this to your single friend: “I can’t believe you aren’t married, you’re such a great catch,” or “It’s just not the right timing for you,” or the ever-so-grating “God’s just not finished with you yet,” please, for the love, stop.  God doesn’t complete you when you get married.  In fact, God continues to stretch you spiritually in marriage.  According to my married friends, marriage amplifies all of your imperfections under a magnifying glass.  The church needs to quit placing marriage on top of a pedestal, and fix our eyes upon Jesus instead.  
  • Lastly, try and remember what life was like as a single person.  It’s exciting, it’s freeing, it’s terrifying, it gets lonely.  It’s full of adventures, and it’s the perfect time to focus upon God and serving His people.  Singleness is an opportunity, and you too were once in this stage of life.  

If you are reading this post and you are single, here’s what I’ve been learning/working on:

  • Seek out opportunities to serve your church & community.  It’s really easy for singles to avoid getting plugged in.  We are often known as floaters, going to and fro as we please.  However, there is something to be said about plugging into one church, one community group/house church.  No one church body is perfect- that’s why we have a merciful Savior.  For the past 6, nearly 7, years, I have been plugged into a local church, Outward, and I can’t even describe the support and love I’ve received by this body of believers.  We are all vital members of the church (single, married, divorced, widowed), who are all needed to plug in and serve others in the church as well as our community.  See 1 Corinthians 12.
  • Pray, pray, pray.  Pray that God will continue to reveal Himself to you.  Pray for your future marriage.  Pray that God will use you mightily, even if you don’t get married.  Pray for those who do not know Jesus.  Pray for those who do know Jesus.  Learn to pray about anything and everything.  See 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
  • If you have the desire to be married one day, surround yourself with married couples at all stages in their relationships, particularly ones who are seeking after Jesus.  Ask them to be transparent with you.  Ask them the tough questions.  Break bread with them.  Babysit their kids.  These will all aid in preparing you for future relationships, parenthood, etc.  Singles are often put off by hanging out with married friends, but I highly recommend it. Be the third wheel, or the fifth wheel.   

I’m sure there is more to be said, but I don’t want to lecture, I just wanted to share from my heart.  So there you have my thoughts on being single … 



Find more from Sarah @  http://sarahelizabethjoy.blogspot.com/