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October 9, 2018

Cultivating Adult Friendships

How many true friends do you have? I am talking about someone that you would call in the middle of the night if you needed prayer type of friend. How many? For many, this number would be low or even zero. Making and keeping friends as adult women is difficult. Not only are we caught up in our own little worlds with kids and life, but we tend to not take the time to cultivate and grow these friendships. This is not to say that we don’t want to have friends, but that we put a higher priority on other things, rather than friends. You may be thinking, “I have my husband (mom, sister, etc.), I don’t need friends.” I hope that you are right, but I also know as a woman whose kids are rapidly flying out of the nest, you will at some point wonder where all of your friends went. My kids have been my life for the past 20 years. Everything in my life has revolved around them, from the job I chose to the volunteer positions I held to the things I did during the week. As I watch them graduate from college and high school, I realize that I am a little lonely. When I look back I can see where having friends could have changed the path my life took. In 2010, I was a Children’s Director working at our church and majoring in Christian Ministry. By the end of that year, I had quit that job and was left going to a church that I no longer felt a part of. You see, I had separated myself from others in the name of “work.” I didn’t have any close relationships. I had acquaintances with dozens of moms of kids that I had worked with, but I did not have a close friendship or connection with anyone. The year of 2011 was spent making excuses to not go to church and trying to avoid it at all costs. I was hurt. I was alone. And I was unconnected. I graduated from college with my degree in Christian Ministry in 2011, but my dream of working in the field itself had been burst by human emotions and issues. By mid-2012, my husband realized that we needed to leave our beloved church because I was in a bad place spiritually and mentally. So we left this church that we had poured our love and hearts into. 

Looking back at this time, I can see that much of what I was dealing with can be boiled down to one reason. Separation. I chose to separate myself from my life group and then my church. I was upset with my husband for still supporting its programs when I had been so hurt. I could not manage to get over it and did not have the tools or support I needed from others because of my separation. If I had not separated, I feel that I could have made it through the trial and become even stronger in the faith and in our church. Fast forward 5 years. We had been through 2 churches without feeling as if we were at “home” at either. I suggested going back to the church that we had both worked in. For a few months, my husband wasn’t in favor of the idea, but after having dreams about the church and its members, we decided to return. To walk through a door that you have been through hundreds of times, but that felt foreign and scary, was hard. However, from the moment we sat down, we felt “home.” I can’t even explain it fully without getting emotional, because it is such an all-encompassing feeling to feel as if you are in exactly the place where God wants you to be. It is bittersweet to me because I feel sad about the wasted time spent going to 2 different churches where we did not feel at home. How could that time have changed me? Changed my kids? Changed my husband? What opportunities have we missed out on to serve God? Mission trips? All because I separated myself.I shoulder the blame for this completely. I can see myself holding back from others even today. I am trying to pinpoint when this changed – when I quit welcoming people into my life. I can trace it back to several different things, including when my best friend, Kelly, died in 2002. She was so full of life and joy. For her life to be snuffed out in an automobile accident was almost more than I could take. In some ways, it broke me. If I don’t get close then I don’t have to worry about losing anyone else, right? If I stay in my shell, then I don’t have to put my heart out there to be broken again. While my mind understands this defense mechanism, my heart longs for togetherness for one simple reason – it is how God created me.

When I began to let people back in I was hurt in the church. Hurts are hurts, no matter where they occur, but when something happens at a church, it is all-encompassing. Not only are you dealing with hurt feelings and bitterness, but it is with people that you wouldn’t have thought would hurt you. Unfortunately, they will though, because they are H.U.M.A.N. That is hard to remember in a place where you expect that people are different.However, God didn’t create us to live life alone. Genesis 2:18 says that God saw that it was not good for man to be alone, so He created a helper for him. If Adam had been left to his own devices, he would still be kicking back in the Garden of Eden, hanging with the monkeys and elephants. The animals weren’t enough companionship for his soul, however, which led God to create woman. While I love my dog and think he is the perfect companion, he is not enough to fuel my soul. Where do I go from here?Cultivating new relationships and giving light and air to the old ones is where I am going to start. I am like an abused animal in relationships. I want someone to love me. They love me and want to be part of my life and I begin to pull away. I can see this cycle in many of my relationships. It is like I have an anxiety attack when they get too close and I am thinking, “I have to get away.” For those who I have pushed back and hurt by this, I am sorry. I am working through these emotions to try to become a better friend. I am not there yet – not even close.Realizing that I am this way is the first step to doing better. Here are some other things that I am going to implement in my life to heal my soul and find those true friends who will love me as I am. 

  • Pray for discernment and clarity. It’s easy to find friends, but it is not easy to find friends who will pour Godly love and wisdom into your life. 
  • Take the step. This can be boiled down to a few things. One is that I will go to lifegroup regularly. In this group are women who will pray for me and who have loved me for years. The second thing is that I will endeavor to do more things with friends, rather than sitting at home. This is a hard one for me, as I am a hermit by nature, but I am going to work on it. 
  • Continue working on me and finding my passion. I am 47-years old. I should know what my passion is, but it is eluding me. I feel that it is right there – waiting on me to realize it, but I can’t clearly vocalize what it is yet. I want to find it and begin on my intended journey for the next part of my life. 
  • Be forgiving of myself. I am so hard on myself! I have to realize that healing is a process. It is not like Star Trek where they can heal instantly. Instead, it is a process that takes time, effort, and prayer. 

What kind of friend are you? Do you have a steady group of friends (or one) who uplift you and encourage you? Tell me about it! 

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