The house is still filled with boxes. Sharpie notations give clues to their contents, guiding me through the scavenger hunt to plates, metal spoons, and the internet router. My daughter’s little fingers rip at the packing tape, still too young to realize a loosening lid will open to reveal treasures within.
A new house. New beginnings. We’ve done this before, packing and unpacking our life. Settling our material possessions into cupboards and drawers. Finding the best local take out and our favorite walking routes. In some ways, this place is disorienting. In others, it’s like slipping into an old well-worn pair of jeans. I know the crisscross of these streets. I know the local haunts—at least the ones that have remained steady over the last decade. These people know me—or at least know the family I belong to, the family that pulled us back here with their steady presence and undeniable love. We are at once starting anew and coming home.
The hardest part of leaving our previous home was saying goodbye to friends who had become family. The hardest part now is waiting to find “my people” here. The ones whose children will grow up with mine. The ones who justify big boxes of PG Tips for afternoon tea time. Literature buddies and board game friends. Those who challenge my thinking of the world, who encourage me as a disciple, a mom, and a wife. The ones whose presence is like a sigh of relief, an easy joy, a home.
I sit here today mourning the loss of friends left behind. I also sit quietly with that grief, anticipating what lies ahead. At every turn, God has provided for me. Loneliness has blossomed into friendships that are some of the treasures of my life.
As I write, my mind flips through the mental slide show of the dear women who I am thankful to call friends. The one who understands my struggles with depression and prayed with me in the dark. The countless pots of tea consumed. The conversations over dinner or tucked in the corner of a cafe. Gawking at TLC shows, digging through thrift store bins, delighting in the perfectly chosen gift. Walks through the woods and long conversations winding through blueberry bushes.
Some of these moments were profound, but the impact of all of these friendships wasn’t in one monumental event, but in the slow accumulation of innocent and easily forgettable moments. It was here that I was formed. I learned to love and be loved. To forgive and be forgiven. I saw the faithfulness and presence of God mediated through human hands, heard His Truth spoken through their lips. I was pushed to follow dreams and stand by commitments. They shaped me to be a more grace-filled spouse, more gentle mom, more loving daughter, more faithful disciple, more steadfast friend.
In the midst of transition, in the midst of the waiting, I’m thinking of what these dear ones taught me.
They remind me that building lasting friendship is slow, beautiful, and (sometimes) hard work.
In college, my best girlfriends and I met in our freshman hall. Our friendships deepened quickly from frequent moments of doing life together. We ate together, studied together, brushed our teeth in side-by-side sinks. Outside of that environment, I have found adult friendships grow slowly. Life pulls at us in hundreds of ways, and it takes time to cultivate the relational sinews that make a friendship strong. I must learn to be patient and continue to invest in relationships as they grow.
They remind me that the most formative friends are those who love me as I am today—and also push me toward who I should be and am becoming.
I deeply desire to be loved, to be everyone’s favorite. I hate the thought of people seeing my sin, of opening up the broken, ugly, still-in-process parts of me. But the friends who are worth keeping aren’t scared away by my quirks, foibles, and downfalls. They’re okay to sit with the less than lovely parts of me, without excusing them or condemning me. They challenge me to be my better self, to keep growing, and to continue on the journey toward Christlikeness. I must seek and cling to friends who will love me enough to help me grow—and put up with me in the meantime.
They remind me that friendship flourishes with commitment.
Life is hard, and even the best of friends will not constantly make me effortlessly happy. We live in a world broken and marred by sin, and friendships involve two people who are also broken and marred by sin. There are seasons in which friendship will be inconvenient or require sacrifice. We will have to think of our friends’ needs before our own. We may need to do more giving than receiving (or need to accept more than we can give) as we ride the waves of what life brings our way. But true friendship values commitment in the midst of this, not in a sense of blind allegiance that takes abuse or turns a blind eye to unhealthy relationship dynamics, but in the sense of two friends who love each other, are committed to each other, and stick it out over the long haul. I must keep showing up in my friendships, even when life gets hard.
They remind me that friendship can surprise us.
My best friendships were not orchestrated. I never walked into a situation thinking, “Today, I will meet one of my best friends.” I showed up. I made conversation, shared my life, and opened myself up, yes. But I’ve done that with hundreds of people. The ones who become friends, though, are always a delightful surprise. I memorized Bible verses on a bus to a field band competition (yes, I was that cool). I sat down on a dorm room bed (whether or not it was on her pillow is still up for debate). I shared a story of my love of cooking in a class. And I unexpectedly ended up with a dear friend. I must put in the “work” of making friends, yes, but I must always expect to be surprised.
So now I wait. I do the work of making friends. I delight in and give thanks for the family-who-are-friends and the friends-who-are-family that have already been provided for me, regardless of how close they may or may not be. And I wait for the slow surprise.