That's What Friends Are For

The year: 1986.

The place: freshman dorm on the campus of Ouachita Baptist University.

The song: “Friends”

You know the words, “And friends are friends forever if the Lord’s the Lord of them . . . though it’s hard to let you go, in the Father’s hands we know, that a lifetime’s not too long to live as friends”.   There was a group of us that sang that in the stairwell to get the full effect of our rock star harmonies.  Needless to say when our freshman year came to an end, there were lots of tears as we said goodbye for the summer.  But we’d back together soon, because as the song says (see above)…  It’s too sappy to actually type again.  My best memories of college are living in the dorms with girls who quickly became sisters.  We sang, studied, counseled, laughed, cried, gossiped, and consoled.  We shared life in an authentic and intimate way.  Some of those girls are still near and dear friends in my life. 

When I became a new mother I was fortunate in that I found friendships with other new mothers.  Although our friendships hadn’t begun in our own childhoods, it felt as if it had. 

While our children played and we talked about motherhood milestones and lamented on our lack of sleep and the way childbearing plays evil tricks on your body.  Let’s be honest, at the ripe old age of 28-32 we were mere minutes away from haggardly!  Back then none of us had jobs outside of our homes.  We had been blessed with incredible husbands who provided and supported our desires to stay at home those early years.   We took trips to the zoo, strawberry patch, pumpkin patch, and swimming pools, sharing information about preschools and diapers, affirming discipline techniques and reasons for doctor visits.  We always knew that at least 8 or 10 extra eyeballs were fixed on every kid within 50 feet.   Again, sharing life in an authentic and nurturing way. 

We have since added more children to our broods and our conversations have more substance than what the laws of gravity are up to – or down to, if you know what I mean.  With more children come more activities.   The older the children get the greater the commitment to these activities.  In the next few years we will send off to college some of these creatures who got the whole motherhood party started.  Sweet Jesus keep our heads up.

And although I know our friendships are still authentic they don’t feel as intimate as they once did.  It’s easy to share good news and celebrate accomplishments.   But I feel that we are not as open to sharing the not-so-good news.  Every day struggles that come when life hands us a little crazy.  Like any noble and worthwhile thing, deep abiding friendships take practice and time.  Authenticity and transparency.  And a little more practice.  The truth is we’re busy with meaningful character-building things – jobs, school activities, volunteering, sports.  But what would it look like to achieve a balance that can be even more life-giving than the fulfillment we acquire while putting into practice our God-given abilities?  No doubt it’s hard to choose.  As in, “Do you want what’s behind curtain number one or curtain number two?” hard.

Jesus shared faithfully and intimately with his disciples.  They traveled together, ate together, spent time with one another’s families and engaged in life altering conversations and experiences.  We were created to thrive in a community and have an innate desire to connect with others.  We are called to hold each other accountable, build each other up in love and truth and inspire one another to be better versions of ourselves. 

Hebrews chapter 10 says, “Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping one another out – do not give up being together”.

Our priorities shift a little with each changing season.  From coordinating schedules of getting multiple children to multiple activities to Randy and I figuring out how to live together in a quiet house.  I pray that along the way, I have practiced being an abiding friend.  Not only looking for but also choosing opportunities to spend quality time with the people God has placed in my life to enrich and nurture me.  Both during times of celebration and struggle, conflict and calm.  Counting it all joy. 

So let’s have dinner together and tackle the monumental task of making it a priority.  Nothing extravagant – chips and salsa are all that’s needed.  Let’s not give up being together and keep the connection alive that was so important at one time.  It will open the avenue of divine balance or at the very least introduce you to a new anti-aging skin care line you didn’t know about.  That’s what friends are for.  

Suzanne Cain