Updated: Sep 1, 2020
I am not lonely. This is a miracle.
I don’t have small group Bible study meeting to go to right now. My church is still online. I don’t work in an office. In the last nine months, I’ve seen my beloved hairdresser only once (Hi, Janice). No party invitations are coming in. My in-person speaking engagements are suspended. The quilt guild I just joined is not getting together.
But I am not lonely. Because on the other side of my cell phone, on my text screen, and -- for the last six months – just six feet away in my garden about once a week, are some women who know and love me.
I have worked my bottom off to get here, evidence that every once in a while fear is a good motivator. Growing up, I always feared I would end up alone – unknown, unloved. Being the odd one out among three children is probably the reason; my brothers have been as close as, well, brothers, since the youngest was born when I was seven.
So, I set out on a quest for sisters: Women who would know me, get me, forgive me, counsel me, comfort me, play with me, put up with me, and talk with me about literally everything.
The quest has been a rocky one. I’ve found some truly precious friendships that have lasted decades. But I have had other friendships that were filled with anxiety and ended in reality-TV-worthy breakups, in which women left gifts I had given them on my porch like we were a couple in high school. Breakups after which other women in the church had to take sides. Breakups that left me grieving over my own selfishness and ineptitude. Breakups that left me nursing wounds inflicted by someone who knew me well enough to know where my soft spots were.
But now, the miracle: At 43 years old, I have at least three women who have stuck with me for 10 years or more. And there are others in my inner circle as well! I don’t just have one best friend. I have back-up. If one of my friends is having an off-day, I can call another one. If one of my friends is going through a really traumatic time, I can pour myself out in love and support of her, and then go get my cup filled with another sweet friend who is currently between crises.
These long-sought friends meet my needs. And they meet my need to be needed by telling me their real problems and letting me help. My friendship cup runneth over.
I’ve gotten here through study of the Scriptures and reading Boundaries, through therapy of many kinds, and four years in a 12-step support group for women who struggle with codependency. I’ve submitted myself to mentors and committed myself to teaching the truths I’ve discovered. I’ve pursued rigorous self-awareness that – can I say it honestly – sucked! I’ve apologized to a lot of people. I've been very intentional with my time and energy, pursuing in-person time, planning adventures, making phone calls -- even when it meant rewinding the VCR tape so my kids could watch the video again and I could finish my conversation. (Yes, the VCR tape. That's how long I've been at this.)
I’ve learned to follow the wise adage, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” Red flags now make me run away from unsafe people – rather than toward them like a mad bull.
I’ve learned that though all my current friends have issues, these awesome, beautiful women are pursuing self-awareness, faith, personal growth, healing, and – can you believe it? – a close relationship with me. I am their answer to prayer, just as they are mine.
I dearly want to help others know this joy. I cannot leave loneliness alone. And we’re in danger of loneliness in this odd season where relationships take much more intentional effort than they ever have before. Especially since experts were already calling 2019 the loneliest time in our country’s history!
But if I can find real friendships, anyone can. Today my new Bible study launches, an 8-session video series designed to help you create healthy, encouraging friendships and deepen the ones you already have. If you are feeling lonely, please don't despair. The friends you need to feel satisfied might be right in front of you; I can teach you how to establish deeper connection with each other through authentic sharing and the work of the Holy Spirit. Remember too, that loneliness is actually a sign of patience, that you are taking the time to form healthy friendships, rather than jumping into relationships with anyone who comes your way. I'll help you recognize the women worth investing in!
In John 15:15, Jesus called his disciples “friends” because he was making known to them the will of God, making them co-workers rather than servants. And I have to say, the best thing about these best friends of mine is that they are co-workers, relentlessly pursuing the will of God. We have found together the beauty of following his direction in 1 Peter 4:8: "Above all, love each other deeply for love covers over a multitude of sins." Let me help you find the friends who will be blessed by being loved by you.
If you are interested in pursuing loving friendships and honing your skills in encouragement, listening, authentic sharing, conflict resolution and overcoming shame, check out my new study! You can purchase each session as a download and watch with friends or in a church small group. The accompanying downloadable workbook is designed to help you pursue self-awareness and spiritual growth, with discussion questions to bond your group together!
Check out the video trailers and downloads here!