The older I get the more I think about friendship.
I’m sitting across a cup of tea in Christie’s 100 year old farm house when I tell her, “I didn’t realize how lonely I was last year.” She’s known me since the days I swore I’d never be interested in being anyone’s mother. And this afternoon our daughters are curled up in the last of the sunlight on the sofa together.
We’ve been coming to visit them a weekend here and there over the last four years since they moved to Pennsylvania and back into driving distance from us.
In the last five years I’ve become painfully aware of how desperate women are for meaningful female friendships. But because the minivan-driving years are so exhausting and so full of our kids’ schedules it’s hard to make time to invest in friendships, let alone find new ones.
But I think that another part of the problem might be that we judge the state of our friendships by how many friends we have. We think that it’s the number of women we know or connect with that will fill up our loneliness.
But, truthfully, I think “the more friends the better” is the Facebook definition of friendship.
In my real life it’s the depth and regularity of the relationships that fills me up and tells me, “this is my friend.”
Christie and I walk out to the beds of compost that will become her flower garden and pull up two chairs in her gardening shed with the wind blustering outside and our kids hanging off a zip line and sit and talk. I used to make lists before we got together to make sure we didn’t miss catching up on anything.
I’m so hungry for conversation with someone who knows me and is interested in me beyond a witty tweet or Facebook update.
We talk for hours.
I didn’t realize how much I had been needing to say, to process out loud, until someone was willing to listen without rush or deadlines.
There are hurts I hadn’t stop to pay attention to. There are holes in my faith that I need someone to stand in alongside me. There are doubts I need someone to acknowledge.
One of the ways our world of the fast and furious Internet hurts us is that so often our schedules and attention spans don’t have enough time to give each other uninterrupted hours of conversation.
We will starve on a diet of conversations limited to 140 character tweets, text messages or Facebook quips.
We need soul food conversations. The kind that don’t cut you off because they have another meeting to run to. The kind that lingers.
This past weekend Christie gave me what Dr. Leslie Parrott calls, the, “extravagant gift of time and undivided attention.” It’s a love language that runs deep for me. I’m guessing, if you’re a woman, then it runs deep for you too.
We need to talk and talk and talk till we are all filled up from the gift of having someone else listen.
Soul friends pay attention to what you’re saying, not to what time the clock says it is.
Soul friends listen as long as it takes to make you feel heard.
Soul friends aren’t in a hurry to get to the point or to check you off the list.
While I was at Christie’s I had this book tucked into my computer bag, between the Hello Kitty Legos and the nerf gun bullets – because books are like friends to me I wanted to share this one with you: Soul Friends: What Every Woman Needs To Grow in Her Faith.
There I was speaking my loneliness out loud and reading what Dr. Parrott says about women and our need for friendships: “As women, we are so oriented toward attachment that we fear a rupture in relationship more than a loss of independence.”
Anywhere I find wisdom for ways to encourage women to connect beyond our typical “I’m fine, thanks” I have to share it. Because I know I’m not the only one hungry for connection.
So I pulled some of my favorite “soul souvenirs” out of the book – because they’re such practical ways to answer the inevitable question: But how do I find soul friends?
If you’re hungry for meaningful friendship, try this exercise – sit down with a pen and paper or the “Notes” app on your phone and answer these questions:
- Create Space: What would it look like for you to slow down and create space for kindness and compassion in the fray of your busyness?
- Pray/Serve Someone Else: How does praying for someone, or serving them, create a meaningful bond? Who could you pray for or serve this week?
- Recognize Ordinary Heroes: Who is being your “hero” right now through their presence, prayers and kindness? Who are you being a “hero” to these days?
- Give the Gift of Imperfection: When has someone’s honesty about the imperfection of her own life been a gift of encouragement to you? How have the imperfections of your life allowed you to connect with and encourage others?
- Offer Unexpected Hospitality: How can you create space in your life for the grace of hospitality? Who can you welcome that wouldn’t be expecting it but would be blessed?
- Carry Each Others’ Pain: When has the kindness and care of someone reached out to you in the midst of a dark time? How did they reach you, and what effect did it have? What would you like to emulate from that experience for your soul friends?
- Experience God Together: Recall a time when you experienced God’s presence in a powerful way in the midst of a group or gathering of friends. How did it create oneness among you?
Now you have the makings of a practical plan for deepening a friendship. Now you have notes for how to initiate a soul friendship. Now all you need is the courage and the willingness to make the time.
It is so worth it friends – I’d forgotten what a gift time is when it comes to friendship. I’m so grateful for my own recent reminder.
Go ahead, make room in your schedule for just one of these suggestions this week – and then let me know how it goes.
And in the meantime time, if you want to learn more, click over here to pick up your own copy of Soul Friends.
With thanks to Zondervan for sponsoring today’s post; all opinions on women and our hunger for connection and friendship resources are my own deeply held beliefs.