Friendship has never really been my strong suit. At least not the idealized version of friendship from my favorite books and shows while growing up.
Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn
Frog & Toad
DJ Tanner & Kimmy Gibbler
Theo Huxtible & Cockroach
Buffy & Willow
Harry, Ron, & Hermione
Regardless of what decade or city or even culture we grow up in, the models of friendship we grow up with shape our expectations. They might not be realistic expectations, but that becomes clear in time and with some measure of disappointment.
I was a pastor’s kid until I was sixteen. This made friendship especially vague and weird for several reasons:
1. Whenever we came to a new church, the community was already ready and waiting for us. We instantly had “friends” in the sense that people cared about us and were interested in our lives. We were usually sought out quickly, and on nearly every invitation list for gatherings.
2. There was no identifiable distinction between ministry relationships and social ones. We seemed to befriend whoever made themselves available. To my parents’ credit, I never really sensed a difference between those people whose company they genuinely enjoyed and those who they were choosing to love and serve.
3. I never really sought out a friend based on my observations of her character and interests, and made the conscious decision that I would like to get to know her. That we might be a good match. That she might get to know the real me and like me anyway.
As a girl, I think I just believed that while I was surrounded by people, some of which I genuinely liked, I hadn’t found “the one” yet. The one that would be like my other half. We would be inseparable from the get go, and we would braid each other’s hair and keep each other’s secrets and go on our first double date together and marry twins and buy houses on the same street.
And while I think I experienced moments of this phenomenon, they were never long term. They ran their course. We grew, changed, moved on. Life was definitely not imitating art. At least not my life.
Today, at the age of thirty-nine, I can report that I still have not found my soul mate sister from another mister. But before you start to feel sorry for me, let me clarify. I am not looking for her. Somewhere along the way, I made peace with the fact that the proverbial BFF might not be part of God’s plan for my life. And that if she wasn’t, that meant I didn’t really need her, and I would be okay without her. And while there was a certain amount of sadness letting go of the long-held fantasy expectation, it was not crippling.
I know there are many people out there who have experienced, or currently are experiencing a true, everything you ever wanted in one person best friend relationship. I don’t doubt it. Count it as a blessing. But from my experience thus far, each friendship has been as unique as the individual I am having the relationship with. They vary in depth, ebb and flow with seasons of life and family, and are not all necessarily based on common interests.
I have friends who I see frequently and know the ins and outs of their daily lives. I have others who I see only once every few months and with whom I feel just as much connectedness as the ones I see every week.
I have friends who I love to share a meal or see a movie with, and others who I process creatively with. Some I call on for help or prayer. Others I call on for a kick in the pants. I have friends who are older than me, younger than me, smarter than me, more productive than me, and kinder than me. Some connect very naturally with my family, and others I like to meet alone for a quiet chat. Some I have a lot of shared experiences with, others I am watching live an altogether different life. In some friendships I give more, others I receive more, and some are clearly divinely appointed for a season. (Those of you who know me in real life, stop trying to figure out which one of these you are. Dorks.)
At the end of the day, I value and appreciate and want them ALL. I think about all the amazing people I would be missing out on if I reserved myself to spend the majority of my time with just one. How many others would have been excluded? Ones that I have truly cared for. Ones that have loved me and mine. I have ceased looking at friendship as one particular “thing”. It is wide and varied and wonderful and full of fresh air. It lifts me out of my bubble and challenge me to keep my eyes outward.
In truth, it never was a job interview to fill the position of my sidekick–although it has taken me many years to figure that out. If it’s a job interview at all, than I am the one submitting the application. I need to know if I qualify to be trusted in whatever role God has called me to play in your life. It may be big or small, mainly giving or receiving, brief or longterm. Who knows? Much of that is beyond my control. But I believe I will give account for how I’ve practically loved in my lifetime, and when I am in my right mind, that is what friendship is to me.