Just putting my fingers to the keys to write a post about relationships with women friends had my heart already feeling raw and vulnerable before I was even clear on what I really want to write. All of that emotion had me confused, until I realized that there's no pain like the pain of betrayal by a trusted friend, and there's no comfort like having a friend who really knows you, understands you, gets you. I've had my share of both experiences. I feel the emotions of both when I write on this topic.
My friendships with other women have been complicated by two factors. First, with my INFJ personality, I come across as an extrovert. I'm comfortable and outgoing in social situations. Others would describe me as a warm and friendly people person. But, truth be told, I need time alone to recharge, think and create. Sometimes this causes me to not recognize my deep need for relationships. In fact, I often don't realize my lack until I'm in a situation where heart to heart connection is happening and my soul drinks it up like rain in the desert.
Last week, five ladies and I spent five days away at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. I didn't realize that this was going to be the perfect balance of what I needed. In our rented apartment next to the prayer center, we'd amble out of bed, still on Oregon time, and sit around the kitchen table sipping coffee and talking way too long. Eventually we'd make our way over to the prayer room. There we'd spread out and find a spot to spend much needed one on one time with God in prayer and worship, the Word and journaling. Mid-afternoon we'd meet up again to grab a bite to eat, explore the area, talk and laugh. Evenings were spent back in the prayer room for a few hours, then we'd meander back to the apartment where we stayed up way too late talking. It was the perfect trip for an INFJ, time to connect with others interspersed with large amounts of time alone with God. I needed both. I am continually aware of my need for the time alone, but what I didn't realize until I was soaking it up like a sponge, was how much I needed time really connecting with other women.
The second factor that complicates my friendships with other women is the fact that I'm a pastor's wife. Relationships with the women in my church can be difficult, complicated and confusing. I've had trusted friends leave the church, and walk away from our friendship because of my position. My knee jerk reaction has been a tendency to only let the women in my church get so close. When your life revolves around ministry, it's hard to have the time to develop close friends outside of the church. The results of those two things can be a walled up heart and a lingering loneliness. I've had to purposefully do two things; I've had to ask God to keep my heart tender, open and loving, yet protected in regards to the women in our church, and I've had to make time for friendships outside of the church. Through blogging/writing I've met some dear, in real life, heart friends and another sweet friend was made through a connection in our church and through our mutual love for teaching God's Word.
When it comes to friendships with other women, I think there are two main factors that can be relationally detrimental and destructive. The first is expecting any one friend to meet all of your relational needs. For example, I have a friend that I can trust and confide in about anything and everything. Yet, we really don't have many common interests that we do together. I have another friend who likes to go thrifting and antiquing with me. I have a couple of clothes shopping buddies. I have other friends that can be counted on to make me belly laugh. No one friend is or can be all of these things, and expecting that of a person is suffocating to a healthy friendship. The second is related to the first, it's unfair and unrealistic to expect to be anyone's only friend. Women can be catty and jealous relationally. Maturity realizes that there's only one me and there's only one you, and though my friend may have five other friends, there's only one me in her life. Relationships shouldn't be a competition. Being true to being who you are makes you irreplaceable. Trying to be like others in order to be liked and accepted makes you just another face in the crowd.
I can't wrap up a post about friendship without talking about the people in my own family. I don't know what I'd do without the friendship of my sisters and my daughters. My oldest sister is my rock and voice of wisdom. She is ten years older than me, and was/is a bit like a second mama. The sister right above me in my family birth order gets me like no other person. We have an almost, "I can read your thoughts and complete your sentences" type connection, and we definitely share some quirky personality traits. When we're together we always have at least one episode of laughing 'til we cry. In the same way, my relationships with each of my daughters differ from one to the other. My oldest daughter is a deep well that rarely openly talks about her feelings. Then she'll write me a card or a note from her heart that totally undoes me. My second born was my strong willed little one. I'm bonded to her like two veterans of a war would be. Yes, I'm likening her toddler years to a war. Because my bond with her was forged on my knees, it is strong and fierce. My youngest is the most like me, so we get each other. We both have tender hearts, quirky personalities, and weird senses of humor. My relationships with my sisters and daughters nourish me in deep places, in the way that only those who share your history and have seen you at your best, worst and all the in between ordinary days can.
Relationships with other women can be complicated, but are so deeply satisfying when you are willing to take the time and the risk involved to nurture them. My recent time away with some women friends made me realize how much I need to do this, how much I need to improve in this area.
I'd love to hear some feedback about friendships among women from you in the comments!
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