The last few weeks have been hard. Yesterday was especially hard. I hate to say it but women can be snarky. VERY snarky. And our Christianity doesn't exempt us from this tendency.
When it hits, it hurts. Makes this hard-as-nails city girl feel a little like crying.
Friendship in ministry can be a double-edged sword.
In my nearly 20 years of ministry, I have learned that I need friends. But, as with many other pastor's wives, one of my biggest struggles with this ministry-life is actually allowing someone close enough to be my friend because it hasn't always fared well. I'll never know why it is particularly difficult for us ministry women to find genuine friendships. But it is.
Ever heard this phrase?
Friends come, Friends go, But a true friend is there to watch you grow.
So what exactly is a "true friend?" It's something I've been asking a lot lately. Here's 5 things I've come up with:
1. Christian Friends Love Sacrificially
John 15:13 (NIV) Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
Jesus is the supreme example of a true Christian friend, isn't he? The love he exemplified for us is sacrificial, never selfish. He demonstrated it through the humble service of washing the disciples' feet, and especially when he laid down his life on the cross.
If we choose our friends based only on what they have to offer, we won't discover the blessings of a genuine friendship. By valuing your friend's needs above your own, you'll be on your way to loving like Jesus.
2. Christian Friends Accept Unconditionally
Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
We discover the best of friendships with those to whom we've been honest and sincere and who know and accept our weaknesses and imperfections.
And if we are easily offended or hold on to bitterness, we'll have a hard time making friends. No one is perfect (whew - am I ever an imperfect creation!!). We all make mistakes from time to time. If we take a truthful look at ourselves, we'll admit that we bear some of the blame when things go wrong in a friendship. A good friend is quick to ask forgiveness and ready to be forgiving.
3. Christian Friends Trust Completely
Proverbs 18:24 A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
You've read this proverb a gazillion times, I'm sure. But have you looked at it from this angle: this proverb reveals the interesting truth that a true Christian friend is trustworthy, for sure, but it also emphasizes that we should only expect to share complete trust with a few loyal friends. Trusting too easily can lead to ruin, so be careful about putting your confidence in a mere companion. Over time our true Christian friends will prove their trustworthiness by sticking closer than a brother (or sister).
4. Christian Friends Keep Healthy Boundaries
1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy ...
If you feel smothered in a friendship, something is wrong. If you feel used, something is also wrong. Recognizing what's best for someone and giving that person space are signs of a healthy relationship. We should never let a friend come between us and our spouse. A true Christian friend will wisely avoid intruding and recognize your need to maintain other relationships.
5. Christian Friends Give Mutual Edification
Proverbs 27:6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted ...
True Christian friends will build each other up emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Friends like to be together simply because it feels good. We receive strength, encouragement, and love. We talk, we cry, we listen. But at times we also have to say the difficult things our friend needs to hear. Yet, because of our shared trust and acceptance, we are the one person who can impact our friend's heart, for we know how to deliver the hard message with truth and grace. I believe this is what Proverbs 27:17 means when it says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."
If you have been on the receiving end of snarkiness like me, be encouraged: you're not alone (HA!). And if you don't have lots of close friends, don't be too hard on yourself. Remember, true Christian friendships are rare treasures. They take time to nurture, but in the process we grow more Christlike.