I can always hear my dad’s distant voice in my head when I think about friendship.
“Kayla, if you get to the end of your life with as many friends as you have fingers, then you’ve had a truly great life.”
It wasn’t a totally understandable thought for a fourth grader, but I still let those words sink in deep. As my days through high school, college and career life trickled by, the sound advice became even more true.
Pure friendships with value and purpose are hard to come by – and those in play five to ten years ago may not necessarily be the same circle of comrades still present today.
Spending my teenage years as part of a lively youth group and involved in several school activities, I never seemed to lack in the friend department. I never had available time to even find myself alone or without being in the midst of others.
Yet, this dynamic changed in college. Study time, internships, work schedules and the general daily grind took my attention elsewhere, and an unhealthy balance of leaning on my boyfriend (now husband) for all my relationship/friendship needs was put into play.
Somewhere along the lines I convinced myself that this was normal. I convinced myself that it shouldn’t take work to be friends with someone – and that if it did, it wasn’t meant to be.
It’s taken years of developed self-awareness and intentional habits to swing back into balance.
I’m grateful to finally be at a point in life where I can say that I have healthy friendships. In fact, I see most of them consistently during small groups throughout the week, which is the perfect outlet for us to catch up, vent, laugh and cry together and share the week’s funniest moments about work or home.
One recent conversational highlight at our group has been one friend’s new job. Within the first week of work, she had to shoot a Facebook advertisement video, and our group's initial 15 minutes together was spent passing the phone around and watching the clip on repeat. We were ecstatic for her! And also pleased to see her somewhat reserved personality come to life online.
I jokingly (but also seriously, #justkidding) mentioned that we should have her be a part of the church’s video team sometime this year.
While I anticipated and received a resounding N-O and an echoed “never,” a quick voice across the room quipped this response:
“Never say never with Kayla. She’ll have you doing things you’ve always been scared or nervous to do. That’s why I didn’t want to be friends with her at first.”
I don’t think we ever got to our small group topic, for one by one each person went around the room and shared a story of how they took a step toward their secret dream, became bold or outspoken, or took on a leadership position soon after we became close.
Now I know why no one wants to be my friend – and I still wouldn’t change a thing.
Any time not being in relationship with others is too long of a time to waste. Life is too short to spare days apart from people and not in a community. Here are three ways to start implementing those friendships that breathe life into you and vice versa.
At my loneliest, I can remember word for word talking to God and asking for just one constant friendship in my life.
“Lord, if you would just send the right person into my life, I promise that I would give all of my time and attention toward them.”
The problem with this prayer is that it’s selfish.
It was still about my needs being fulfilled with the response of giving back after someone else made the initial step. It was about having that perfect friend who could meet my standard, my desires, and my requirements.
Subconsciously, I can see now that I didn’t want baggage, which basically meant I wanted someone else to deal with mine. Thank God nobody prayed that prayer about me and my imperfections.
Modeling our lives after Christ means surrendering every facet of our existence – both when we’re lonely and when our hearts our full. In both circumstances, Jesus always loved first. He interacted first. He talked with someone first. He initiated, and a relationship followed.
For too long I waited on the sidelines eager for someone to pursue me as a friend. Now my closest and trusted allies are the ones I loved first – without stipulations or reasons – who God placed in my immediate pathway.
We love each other because He first loved us. – 1 John 4:19
As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. – Proverbs 27:17
Cliché right? Just stick with me for a second on this thought though.
Tools cannot be used if they are dull. A dull tool is basically a useless tool without purpose. They must be sharp to be used accurately and effectively. Iron tools are sharpened by rubbing them against an iron file. This sharpening process involves pressure, tension, and sometimes heat – ironically, all elements we also avoid in friendships with others.
I would argue the right to walk alongside someone is usually given up because at all costs we avoid the tension that comes along with it. Biblical friendship though creates an environment in which each person becomes better – becomes sharper and full of purpose.
All friendships begin slowly.
Enjoy your time out together for coffee and going to a movie. Enjoy learning more about it each other. Soak it up! And when next steps come, take them together. Don’t allow the other to walk through it alone. Challenge often, and be open to receive it. If you have each other’s best interest at heart, you’ll pursue the sharpening process together.
The running joke among my confidantes is this – if we want to spend time together, we must put it on the calendar in writing at least two weeks out.
Sometimes others find this system to be impersonal, but I can’t think of a more sincere way to honor our time together than to set aside my schedule, my phone, and my to-do list to make them a personal priority.
So, I do schedule “friend time.” I schedule it on a specific day, with a specific person at a specific time – and it works.
Think about your favorite memories. Sure, they probably happened in the moment… but in a moment that was set aside for that reason. Holidays, birthdays, family dinners, reunions, dates, and services – these are all scheduled times for getting together.
Moments make memories. So, do you want more memories? Schedule the moments.
Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. – Romans 12:10