Like Peony Bushes, Heady with Fragrance
I've been looking back at friendships over the past thirty or so years, as we've lived across the country. Some were chosen out of loneliness, too quickly. 'Hello, my name is needy', before we even got to know each other. Some were about as deep as the creek behind the house in Pennsylvania. If there hadn't been a recent rain, Sadie Creek didn't amount to much. We didn't share a deep, center-of-your-being faith, and consequently those were not my best years of being a wife or mother, my two highest callings.
A few friends were gifts I didn't fully recognize or appreciate at the time; some were for only a few years and one in particular was less than a year, but each woman's love of family came second only to her love of the Lord. It was a tremendous blessing to spend time with them, pray together, study with them, and laugh long and hard. Oh to share one more cup of coffee. They weren't perfect, but they had their priorities and passions right. Maybe God gave them as the pattern for the rest of my life, 'Bev, this is what it should look like. Copy, repeat!'
I'm learning the best friendships start out as small sparks. Little bits of conversation, serving shoulder to shoulder, sitting across the table at a Bible study, and as we begin to see and hear hearts - connection. We learn how we are alike. We notice differences and respect those, giving each other time and space for family and other friends, different passions and pursuits God has given us.
Any friendship has to start with ME remembering what MY heart really needs, rather than just trying to fill lonely spaces.
I need to see how a woman relates to her husband (is there respect?), does she treasure her children, young or grown? Is her family her first ministry? Does she have a servant heart, is her relationship with Christ the center of her life, the place everything else flows from? Does she need time to draw away, be alone? If not, she likely won't understand how vital that is to me. Is she gentle of spirit and tongue? Sarcasm is an instant friendship killer for me, having too many battle scars from it to have a tolerance for it, whether it's directed at me or others. Is she living to 'spend it all' or 'invest it all' and I'm not talking about money. Would she rather take a mission trip or cruise? Not that one is better than the other, it just tells me how well our hearts will match. Hearts need to match. Like Jesus and John. Like David and Jonathon. Like Anne of Green Gables and Diana. Like that. These may not be someone else's, anyone else's, parameters for choosing friendships to invest in, but they are mine because I've learned them the hard way. I'm learning them still.
I'm a complex creature! So is everybody else. Ask my husband, after thirty years of marriage he thinks I'm more complicated than the day we married. It takes time listening to my heart, what I say and what I don't, to really, really get to know me. I think that's true of most people. Anyone who likes me too much immediately hasn't taken time to know my heart, but possibly just saw what would fill her needs, and that makes me want to run the other direction.
I'm not a big group person. Get-togethers with a roomful of women talking over each other is perfect for some but it's not my cup of tea. The kind of a friend you can sit down and share a cup of tea and your heart with, that only comes along once in awhile, and sometimes just for a brief window of time. That kind of friend is a peony bush heady with fragrance, rather than this year's crop of marigolds. A slow, sweet process that takes time to grow, but worth the wait.
Two helps: #1 - I noticed another book on my shelf. Sacred Companions by David G. Benner looks interesting, talking about spiritual friendship if that's what you're looking for. #2 - something almost any woman will find interesting: www.thefriendshipblog.com. Written by a very down-to-earth psychologist, she seems to give great helps in navigating the journey of friendship amongst women, and we all can use a little help with that now and then, can't we?