I remember the first day of kindergarten and meeting my best friend at that time. The friendship came easily; our paths intertwined due to our classroom seating chart, which was organized based upon students’ last names. This organization carried over into the lunch line as we were organized alphabetically. We were always near each other. We had no choice. We got to know each other, have snacks, nap time, and playground time together. There was consistency each school day. Friendships were much simpler then.
The simplicity did not transition into the remaining school years through college. I grew to realize that friendships were based upon things other than the ease of kindergarten. Boys came into the picture, economic statuses played a role in some instances, college majors and classes kept me with the same individuals, and unfortunately, the differences in race and culture pushed friendships apart rather than bringing them together. Friendships became a yoyo of emotions that never truly balanced out in those years.
So where were these lasting friendships to be found among the women I knew?
Whether connections were based upon having attended college together or the same church, something had to be lost in order to be found. The thing that had to be lost was the cocoon of comfort zones I’d created: go to work, church, the store, and then come home. The consistency of comfort did not leave wiggle room for God to let others in. This, coupled with the baggage of past hurts from friendships with women, closed many doors with ironclad resonance—that is until God stepped in and began to pull away layers of established armor.
God opens doors that are closed, even the closed doors of friendships.
How does God do this? Through experiences. He has the tendency to allow the one person to sit next to us in church that we’d never thought we’d speak to. You know, the sister you’d only see in passing, but only said a brief “Good morning” to. She’s the one who barely said a word, but seemed to have it all together. Yet, during praise and worship, you see her crying and God tugs at your heart to pass her a tissue. That one simple act was God’s way of opening the door to something lasting, something important. The next time you saw her, you asked if things were going okay. She provided an update and conversation ensues. God opens doors that can be hidden.
The friendship develops over prayers, Bible studies, joining the same ministries at church, and connecting. It goes beyond the surface because the relationship isn’t based upon the kindergarten simplicity of alphabetization, but based upon the Spirit. God’s word gently reminds us that:
As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. Proverbs 27:17 NKJV
The healthiness of a lasting friendship is the continual sharpening of your sister to develop her and the friendship. It is not only about physically being there for her, but about being there for her spiritually—praying, guiding, listening, and reminding her of God’s love.
Listen to sound advice.
I once had a friend who shared with me that you’ll learn who your true friends are: 1) when someone dies, 2) when you’re sick, and 3) when you’re moving.
I used this as sound advice for a while because in my life experiences, these turned out to be true. When these occurrences happened, my true friends were there. Those faithful few showed up and had the dependability to be there for me during these challenging life experiences.
However, I can expand this list to include that the lasting and healthiest relationships of my life are based upon God, prayer, and the women who have carried me when I couldn’t carry myself. These strongest of women would give their last for what I needed. They stepped out of any barriers that could have existed for them, and I did too. We removed comfort zones to reveal genuineness and vulnerability. Lasting friendships cannot exist without these elements.
To develop lasting and healthy friendships, always remember:
A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24 NKJV
Friendships require us to evolve beyond the kindergartener inside. Step out of boundaries and complacency. Some of the most lasting friendships begin just outside of comfort zones.