THE FRIENDSHIP FORMULA
The easiest kind of friendship for me
is with ten thousand people.
The hardest is with one.
Friendship takes on many forms. There are those that are meant to last only for a season, leaving behind precious memories and lessons to last a lifetime. There are others that linger on for years that turn into decades, deepening in intimacy and trust as time passes. I have never been a wealthy woman, but I have always said an area where I am rich is friendship. As I step back and reflect on the friends that have marked my life, I can't help but notice a few core similarities between them. After journaling all of the reasons I am grateful for these key people, I stumbled upon what may be the most precious epiphany: The friendship formula.
1. A servant heart
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13-14)
Years ago, I went through a painful breakup leaving me feeling extremely broken and damaged. By God's grace my childhood friend Jill happened to be staying at my apartment, witnessing the whole catastrophe unfold. Up to that moment Jill and I had weathered our share of teenage fall outs, perhaps largely due to our similar stubborn temperaments. But I vividly remember sitting on the floor, paralyzed in my tears and bad decisions when my friend pulled me up and stayed alongside me in prayer until I finally fell asleep. For the next week, Jill served me with the strength of a commander at war. She lovingly enabled me with the voice of truth to not only survive, but thrive through my dire situation. From making sure I continued eating well to being a companion to lend a listening ear, Jill remains a perfect picture of the healing power of service to a friend in need.
I believe one of the marks that one is ready to love well is the freedom to serve. When I am fixated on my own selfish needs and desires, it is nearly impossible to think about anyone other than myself. But living in the freedom that I myself am fully known and fully loved by Christ enables me to reach outside my own impulses to serve my friends. This is one of the best ways others can know the love of God! A wise mentor once told me, "You are only able to give the kind of love you have received." To be free in the fullness of unconditional love is kind of like being a cup that is overflowing. You are able to run with an excess of service to those who may not even be able to return the favor! But in the fullness of freedom, you are able to lay yourself down for others causing a ripple effect that could change the world.
2. Ability to empathize
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. (Romans 12:15)
I met Kait in the buying office of Barneys New York. We had both started with the company on the same day but hadn't the slightest idea that one day we would become best friends. On my way to the copy machine I was intercepted by the click-clacking of heels and the most cheerful greeting. Kait explained that we attended the same church and invited me over for wine. The rest is history. You name it, we've been through it together. We have seen each other through toxic breakups, career milestones, and most recently, Kait stood by my side as a bridesmaid at my wedding. I remember right before saying my wedding vows looking back and making eye contact with my dear friend. In a flash I recalled the countless times she cried tears of mourning alongside me in prayer and encouragement, reassuring me that true love is worth the wait. And as I saw Kait crying tears of joy at the alter her eyes seemed to sparkle and say, "I told you so!"
A major epidemic with women today is comparison. Comparison is the thief of joy. I notice that even in our own closest groups of friends, we cannot help but use them as a measuring stick to gauge our own success in life. This disordered behavior makes it nearly impossible to genuinely rejoice and mourn with one another. I have been on both sides of the measuring stick. I know how it feels to receive another's good news and mask my envy with faux squeals of excitement, secretly harboring resentment and wishing it had been me. I know how it feels to have to suppress my own good news in fear that another person's bitterness would overshadow my joy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Empathy is the ability to enter into another's deepest gladness or heartache as if it were your own. Empathy is the ability to authentically say to another, "I stand with you in this, free of agenda or pretense."
3. A will to persevere
But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. (Ruth 1:16-17)
There was a time in my life shortly after college when I was running from the plans and purpose God had for me. As a result, I isolated myself from even my closest friends. Out of frustration, most of my confidantes fell away with the exception of a precious few. Asis was one who refused to leave me to my wicked devices. She faithfully stayed on, calling out my weakness in exchange for strength. Asis came from a challenging past that left her no choice but to fight for what she believed in. Her resilience shined in her self-sufficiency through college, her difficult choice to leave a troubling relationship, and finally her refusal to give up on our friendship. When I felt too weak, Asis showed me what it looked like to stand up for truth in the depths of despair, inspiring me out of my self-pity. She continues to be a warrior for the sacredness of friendship and if guardian angels do in fact exist, I am pretty sure Asis was appointed especially for me.
Have you ever experienced a hot and heavy friendship for a season only to part ways once things got a bit rocky? This is one of my main issues with friendships today. I think our culture of instant gratification has made us lazy in the pursuit of one another. Our muscles for loving confrontation have grown weak. The result is half-hearted friendships where both parties are walking on egg shells in fear of being authentically known. In this stunted environment it is impossible for any growth to take place. If you are friends with anyone long enough, being two different people will absolutely cause dissonance and call for confrontation. A refusal to persevere through differences and challenges will cause an inevitable death in the relationship. I'm not saying you have to be best friends with everyone, but for goodness sake fight for your friendships! Friends are a gift from God and before parting ways, a will to persevere should be the first and last response. Without it, we lose out on the priceless gift of sanctification through reconciliation.
A drop of servant hood, a dash of empathy, and a splash of perseverance; this is my friendship formula. I'm not a scientist decoding a top secret list for a potion or a master chef concocting an award winning sauce, but I am convinced my formula is far more valuable than most. To love and be loved as a friend has contributed to some of the greatest joys in my life. If I do not accomplish anything other than being a good friend, at the very least I could say I know what it is to be near the heart of Jesus. After all, He Himself is a more pure and distilled formula of friendship that one could ever dream to concoct. The reality is, all our friends will let us down in one way or another. After all, they (as we) are only human. But Jesus is the perfect friend who are all the things mentioned above and so much more. And the marvelous news is that He is already your best friend, whether or not you choose to have Him. Even now, He is patiently knocking at your heart. Will you open the door?
"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and [be a forever friend] with that person, and they with me." (Revelation 3:20)
Xoxo, Diwa Doll
Photography: Mirna Plakalovic
Featuring Romwe: Black Top with Ruffle Tail