There I was in the dark ultrasound room, a lab technician trying to detect what was causing so much pain and dysfunction in my body. I felt scared and vulnerable. But there was Eness. Eness, my dear girlfriend, sitting right by my head, holding my hand, and distracting me with chatter about the Colts amazing win over Green Bay that weekend. We even got the lab tech and doctor, both women, to join in on our football banter. What a picture of sisterhood: ultrasounds, football, and glances that expressed “we understand.” Only a dear girlfriend could be in that space with me and understand my fear in those moments. And there was God, using Eness to reveal his love and presence to me in this precious friendship.
The Wisdom of Girlfriends
I believe God uses all sorts of relationships — with men and women — to reveal more of who he is in our lives. We are relational beings, whether we like it or not. I often think that God created me with an overly large capacity for relationships. Perhaps this is why he has been gracious to bless me with many networks of women who I consider dear friends. These women are spread across the globe. We’ve managed to maintain close connections over decades of life, and I realize this is rare. But no matter how God has wired us, I believe we all need authentic friendships. We women need our girlfriends.
I have needed trusted women friends who love me and are willing to speak truth into my life. Phrases like “It’s really time to let go of this, Christine,” and “Help me understand why this is a good idea?” have been spoken by women in defining moments of my life. These women have not always made me feel comfortable with their input and questions, but have been vessels God has used to sharpen my character and help me know Christ in deeper ways. Whether it is intuition or shared experience or something else, there is a mysterious connection between women which allows us to speak into each other’s lives in profound ways.
Take the Initiative
I understand that not all women have the experience of healthy women friendships. Competition, judgments we make about each other, and simply not being around other women can create barriers to establishing friendships. But I would advocate pressing through the obstacles to find a trusted woman — or two, or twenty — to invest in for friendship.
It can be difficult to find space to be available for meaningful friendships. Friendship takes time and investment, but it may also take initiative on our end.
If I want to foster these deeper friendships, I need to initiate and reach out to others. I need to be the first person to call and suggest we grab lunch or hit the gym together. If I don’t initiate — if I assume that women are not interested in connecting, they are too busy, or have other more meaningful relationships in their lives — I have just judged them and perhaps made incorrect assumptions. This can lead to isolation, self-pity, and a missed opportunity for God to reveal himself through another person.
Some seasons of life are easier and some more challenging to carve out the time and do the work of friendship. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve not always been great at it. Thank goodness for those that have pursued me when I wasn’t able. In any case, when I make space to meet with a friend, I often find out what a blessing it is for both of us. We find encouragement in each other’s journey with Christ, laugh, engage in rich conversation, and at the very least enjoy a great cup of coffee!
Rejoice those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn
I am amazed at the power of presence when I am surrounded by authentic women friendships. There was power in girlfriends who cheered out loud when my friend, Jen, walked across the stage to be ordained as a pastor. I was part of this cadre of women who had seen the sleepless nights of seminary (literally: I was her roommate), prayed for discernment in calling, encouraged her when it got weary and lonely, and rejoiced when she graduated from seminary and received her first job.
Yes, Jen had a husband and family in the auditorium, and they were a source of great love and support. But the women were essential as well. Perhaps as women, in our own way, we had a deeper understanding of the sacrifices and struggles it took for her to achieve this goal. As Jen allowed us to journey with her, we could walk in her shoes and identify with her heart in a way that maybe others could not. We experience the beauty of Christ and the Body of Christ as we rejoice with one another.
There is equal — if not more — power in the presence of women who mourn with one another. These spaces can be sacred and holy ground, albeit painful, as we see the love of Christ revealed in yet another way. I’ve seen them moving a friend’s 52-year-old husband into a nursing home due to a horrific disease, dropping everything to drive across the state to comfort a friend as she dealt with the imminent death of her dad, joining girlfriends (bearing gifts of lattes, Gerber daises, and chocolate) to commiserate over news of a break-up, and sitting by a friend in the doctor’s office awaiting results of tests. These are all moments of life — real life — that are messy and painful. How can we do them without friends?
God knew we needed soul sisters in our life to help pray and carry the burdens. It’s not easy to let go of dreams and transition into seasons of life we never thought we’d enter. But when it happens, the support and love we give and receive for each other as women can be a tremendous blessing.
We need healthy relationships with both men and women in our lives, so we may see a fuller picture of God’s image and grow as people. But women friendships are special. Two years later, I’m still grateful for Eness, football, and ultrasounds. Okay, maybe not ultrasounds, but definitely Eness, and God’s reminder through her that we are deeply known and cared for.