Some might say the best part about growing up in a small town is that everyone knows everyone. Depending on who you talk to, others might say this is the worst part about growing up in a small town. Being one of many small-town natives myself, I can understand both sentiments. My hometown has about 300 residents within the city limits; I could make it to my elementary school, the park, post office, the only gas station, and my church within a 5-minute drive (that is truly not an exaggeration)! Not to mention, I lived within five miles of my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, too!
This may seem oppressive to those on the outside. As a matter of fact, when we first got together, my husband used to jokingly ask me what everyone’s Social Security Numbers were when we would pass people on the street! But, I found growing up in this type of Walnut Grove, Little House on the Prairie setting to be comforting. My best friends and cousins were also my peers at school, teammates on summer softball leagues and in my youth group at church. Being around the same girls at school Monday-Friday, in church on Sundays & Wednesdays, and at my grandparents’ house for holidays solidified my group of friends in an unshakeable way. Now that we are all grown up, some married, some single, some with babies, some expecting them soon, we have all remained close, choosing to put down roots in the same church family we grew up in, choosing to “do life” together as friends, family, and sisters in Christ.
I understand that my situation is quite unique. Not everyone stays close with the same friends from birth into adulthood, and not everyone has family members double as their next door neighbors and closest friends. But, if you are a Christ-follower, you have probably heard the church phrase before: “accountability partners.” This is what my group of girls is for me. Although, I never really think of them as accountability partners in my mind. Really I see them as simply a core group of friends I can lean on for encouragement and to hold me to the high standards I strive for as I walk through life. These girls have seen me in all stages of life–the good, bad, and ugly.
Whether you have a core group of girls who have seen you from your hideous bang phase in elementary school to your current fabulous version of yourself today ;), or if you are surrounded by an awesomely supportive cast of new friends, life is so much sweeter when walking alongside sisters.
This became even more evident to me when one of my girls (a cousin/friend) and I led a small-group study at my church entitled, “We Saved You a Seat.” Written by Lisa-Jo Baker, manager of the (in)courage community, this study is a deep-dive into what it takes to be a true, Christian friend for the long-haul of life, to not simply say you’re “fine” all of the time, but to let your friends come into your life, to grab a seat at the table, and walk through your joys and struggles with you.
As I mentioned, I have been so blessed with the same core group of girlfriends & family most of my life, and I THOUGHT we were doing life together. Don’t get me wrong, we were definitely close; but after going through this study with the girls, it became so clear just how crucial it is to let people in–into your messy house, into your inner struggles, into your out-of-this world dreams for your future.
There are an innumerable amount of reasons why having a group of Christian sisters, accountability partners, whatever you want to call them, around you is necessary to life, but after years of walking with my girls and going through the aforementioned Bible study, I think all of the reasons can be summed up into three major benefits of having Christian friends on your day-to-day walk.
1. You need someone you can share your mess with.
This is a tough one for me. As a definition Type-A perfectionist, it is difficult for me to let others see my messy, unkempt side. I’m sure there are some of you out there who feel the same way-even writing this now, the thought of someone randomly stopping by the house when I haven’t dusted and swept in a few days makes my chest tighten a bit. And that’s just the literal messiness of life, not even taking into account the Spiritual, emotional distress that can plague us all from time to time. But, as difficult as it is for me to share the dirt and grime of my life with others, doing so brings such a sense of freedom and release that is hard to describe.
In the study, Baker describes this ability of letting others into our lives and allowing them to see our messiness as being willing to be interrupted. She writes, “…being willing to be interrupted isn’t about the state of our houses. It’s about the state of our hearts. Women aren’t hungry for perfection; they’re hungry for connection.” I have found this to be true in my life. As much as my personality at times longs for everything both in my house and in my spirit to be perfect, I know that if I wait until the day perfection comes to invite people into my life, it will be a lonely road I travel. In the past, I would be wary of judgement from others if they saw the not-so-glamorous sides of me, but, as the Proverb reads, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity” (Proverbs 17:17). Friends, true friends, loving friends, are in our lives for just exactly the messy, disruptive, ugly times when we most desperately long for someone to lean on. If we don’t let those close to us be a part of our lives fully, then we won’t have friends-we will merely have acquaintances. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t think God created us as beautiful, complex humans to simply acquaint ourselves with those around us. No, that doesn’t sound right to me at all.
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity”Proverbs 17:17
2. Encouragement & Daily Prayers are so sweet when coming from friends.
I’m sure we have all been guilty of this before. If someone we know is going through a hardship, we might respond with an automatic, “I’ll keep you in my prayers.” With the best of intentions, we say this, but as the days and weeks progress, that person falls to the wayside of our minds, and the prayer never gets uttered. I know I’ve done this before. But, when relationships are built and established among friends, prayer requests can be shared, cried over, and prayed about TOGETHER, not in isolation. Even if I do not have a specific prayer request in a given week, there is nothing more sweeter to my soul than getting an out-of-the blue text from one of my girls just letting me know they lifted up a prayer for me or are wishing me a good day! This type of encouragement and prayer is invaluable.
In the Bible study, Baker devotes an entire chapter to the role of encouragement in Godly friendships. She writes about the blessings God grants us: “Blessings are not for hoarding; they’re for forwarding. Because that is how we reflect God’s glory back to Him.” What better blessing is there than someone being encouraged and encouraging someone else in return? This deep encouragement can be found in a strong, loving group of friends. As Christians, we are explicitly commanded to uplift those around us. In I Thessalonians 5:11, it is written, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
“Blessings are not for hoarding; they’re for forwarding. Because that is how we reflect God’s glory back to Him.”Lisa-jo baker, “We saved you a seat”
3. Showing your messiness to those you’re close with and encouraging one another through prayer are staples to strong friendships, but just as important is simply having those people to go to who are constant, positive safe havens for you to commune with when the world just gets to be too much.
Let’s be honest, this world is not always the best. Don’t get me wrong–there are so many beautiful blessings to life on this earth, but, as a Christian, I see this world as a flawed place, a temporary residence while my sights are set on a more eternal home. With that being said, sometimes it is so easy to feel broken down by the evil that surrounds us daily. You don’t have to go far past your own driveway or or even your TV screen to see the presence of sin in our world. While we are called to be light to the darkness, that is easier said than done. Even the most positive spirit has down days, and that is why my small group of friends has been so crucial to me over the years.
When my spirit feels especially burdened by this world, my gals are a place for me to go to for a positive reminder that I am not walking alone. We don’t even have to talk about what’s weighing me down. I’m sure there have been many times when I’ve been sad and my friends didn’t even realize it, but just being around them, knowing that they share the same outlook and beliefs as me when it comes to this world, is enough for me to have a renewed spirit. I love the way Baker writes this: “Friendship isn’t something we passively receive. Friendships is something we actively do.” As Jesus commanded, “…Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34). On my days when the world and it’s darkness is overwhelming, my girls actively love me the way Jesus tells us–in a way that reminds me we have so much more to look forward to!
“Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”John 13:34
Friend, this life is not meant to be done alone, and I can truly say that having Christian sisters is one of the most joy-filled experiences I have been blessed with. It is my prayer that every woman walking through this life has a group of ladies that she can rely on and join with on this journey. If not, come to our table! We are happy to have you!