By Jess Brown
If I’m honest, as I get older, quality relationships are hard to come by. I’m going to be 30 next month and while I’m grateful for how far I’ve come and all the friendships and relationships that have made me who I am – I think I honestly believed by this age things would have gotten easier. When I was younger, I could convince the boys and girls at the summer rec to build leaf houses for caterpillars and no one questioned it. If anything I felt like I was fully in touch with my creative and weird side. It was easy to find people to follow along with my imagination. I think back to what it was like in my childhood, and in my mind everyone wants to be a friend.
As we grow up, it becomes a bit harder since we inevitably have seasons with good friends and bad friends. We start to realize who we truly are at our core, learning along the way what is beneficial to our well-being and on the flip side what isn’t healthy. So what are the kind of relationships we should be having?
Before we go any further, let’s look to Scripture for guidance. In the book of Philippians, we get a great blueprint for what true friendship is: “If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand” (Philippians 2:1-4 – MSG).
Now these are some serious squad goals. I should take a step back and confess that I am a self-proclaimed idealist. I truly struggle when things aren’t as they could be or should be. Quite honestly, this passage just stirs my hope for an ideal community that much more!
BEYOND THE SURFACE
As women, especially Christians, we should be fostering the kind of relationships that are full of heart. What do I mean by that? I mean nothing should ever intentionally be surface-level and no effort to interact with another person should be given just the bare-minimum. God’s love is not surface-level, so why would our relationships be? If God’s desire for my attention is not the bare-minimum, then why how should my attention towards anyone else be? Nothing makes me feel truly valued and fulfilled like quality time with another person.
The Message uniquely refers to these interactions as “deep-spirited” friendship. When I think of “deep-spirited”, I do not think small talk. I do no think of conversations where you are only going through the motions while the rest of your mind is totally checked out, as you look at the notifications on your phone. I believe to have true and meaningful relationships with other people, we need to be willing to put ourselves aside so that we can be completely tuned in. This calls for vulnerability and grace, listening to the other person across from you. If the extent of our conversations are limited to, “Oh hey, how are you? Oh that’s good…”, as we shuffle on our way, I don’t think we are truly caring for anyone that reflects the heart of Christ.
As women, I think we need those “deep-spirited” friends more than most. Our very nature calls for deeply rooted community. In an age where tons of amazing social media friends are living their dream and inviting people in, it seems to me that it is now easier for us to seem more connected than ever. While we can be seen as being connected, we can still feel completely alone. But it doesn’t have to be this way! We have the great opportunity to mentor, connect with, and encourage other women like never before. We can start using social media to our advantage so each and every woman can live out her God-given purpose!
As for me? I don’t have it all together. I’ve been burned by some other women in my life, but in spite of it, I have made a decision. I have decided that no matter what has happened to me or what could happen, I want to give other women what I wasn’t given: I want to be transparent; I want other women around me to feel unburdened by their past and inspired to be unfiltered in their present. The more we all collectively push each other transparently towards Christ, the healthier our communities will be.
I think the most beautiful illustration of this is found in Ephesians: “Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out” (Ephesians 6:14-18 – MSG).
This passage reminds us that through God’s Word and prayer we can be true advocates and friends to one another. It is up to us to also encourage each other in the faith and cheer one another on so no one gets so fed up with life that they fall behind or drop out completely of the journey God has set before us.
BE A GOOD FRIEND
I am asking this: Will you step out of the wilderness of your past, regardless of what was has happened in your past friendships? Will you agree to be unfiltered, knowing there are many others around you who need your honesty?
Where we remember to stop to help others who are falling behind, our journey will actually transform us into being more like Christ. The best part is that together we can cheer each other on – not from a distance or behind phones, but one on one and as a team. We can encourage other women to leave the valley and live victoriously in Jesus.
“God, I know that there is an army of women who are lost. They are afraid of what people might think of them if their past was discussed. But God, I know all my mistakes, and I’ve talked to so many people about them and it was all for Your glory and to show how You and You alone can redeem even the worst circumstance. Give us a righteous anger God, because we need it. We need to be more afraid of not speaking up than speaking up. We need to create deep-spirited relationships. Have your way in us, God. Amen.”