How to Find and Maintain Authentic Friendships- Part One
January 22, 2020
The Modern Pilgrim- Part Three- In Which Pilgrim Finds True Companions
“God has a bigger vision for our friendships than we can even begin to understand.” Angela Sackett
Friendships are tricksy. When you decide to be an all-out, on fire, Holy Spirit- filled, crazy in love with Jesus kind of Christian, well……they can be even harder.
When you’d rather:
Spend Sunday morning in worship with other believers instead of sleeping in, doing yard work, video gaming or shopping
Talk about the latest book by John Bevere, Frances Chan or Ann Voskamp instead of whatever Shade of Grey just hit the NYT bestseller list
Spend your first moments in the morning in prayer and Bible Study instead of checking your social media likes
Well, my friend, you are what my former pastor called, “a hothouse plant living in an open meadow world.” Your thirst for the higher things of God will affect your ability to form and maintain soul-level friendships. Frankly, the fragrance of Christ on you will repel some people.
Still, we need faithful companions to journey towards our God-ordained destinies. We aren’t wired to attempt this solo. Jesus did daily life with twelve guys he hand-picked. Who are we to think we can live out Simon and Garfunkel’s “I am a Rock; I am an Island?” We need people who will:
Celebrate our wins with no secret jealousy
Celebrate who we are without masks
Encourage us to dive deeper with Christ
Encourage us to confront our shortcomings and sins authentically
Pray for us and stand by us when we are failing at all the above
Pray for us and stand by us when life goes upside down or sideways
I’ve squirreled up many friendships and lost folks along the way who God meant for me to hang onto. Held on to some I needed to let go. The following points are from notes I took during my classes at Hard Knock University. My instructors? Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and the Apostle Paul. The four disciples record many details about Jesus’ complicated, scandalous, wonder-filled relationships with humans. The Apostle Paul and his circle are also worth checking out.
This is not a definitive list guaranteed to get you faithful friends in a week. It’s a start. I’ll also recommend some books I’ve found helpful at the end of the post. Originally, I intended for this to be one piece but as I wrote and prayed, I felt a slow down from the Holy Spirit. So, only two points for today. More in the next post.
What good does it do you, long term, to build friendships around a public persona that isn’t the real you? You’ll either exhaust yourself trying to maintain the persona or mess up the friendship when the real you pops out unexpectedly. Usually during stressful times when you need your friends the most. This is a huge struggle for Enneagram Three’s, but I think everyone fights fear about dropping our masks.
I know I’m an acquired taste. I used to try and cover that up and be what I thought people wanted. Folks, that’s so opposite of God’s ways. He wants me to daily acknowledge the weaknesses and sins that he brings to my mind so that he can teach and change me. Listen, I tried to be a better, kinder, sweeter, more patient person on my own. I’m here to tell ya, it doesn’t work.
And worse yet, being a phony makes people feel unsafe around you. They don’t know who’s going to show up at any given moment. And they feel they can’t be real around you either.
We are all people in process. God chooses companions for me that are okay with the messes of my process, literally and figuratively. Their love for my strengths far outweighs the grace they need for my failings.
When God presents you with your next opportunity for a new friendship, and He will, ask yourself, “Am I acting like myself or the person I want them to think I am?” Lots of folks won’t enjoy your authentic brand. That’s okay! God will lead you to brothers and sisters who do which brings us to our next point.
I know this seems obvious, but I’m not convinced we are praying about friendships near as much as God desires. Like the opening quote implies, there are key people God wants us to build relationships with at various times of our lives because he has huge plans for us. Some will be friends for a lifetime, and some will be friends for a season. They all matter. They all bring something to your table. They all need something from your table.
Many years ago, I learned to cry out to God for friends. Loneliness is a haunting thing that can tempt you to grab onto people and things you ought not to be. Allow God to open doorways between you and another. Don’t forge your own road. A world of troubles and sorrows can be entered simply through wrong relationships.
God longs for us all to be challenged by some Peters and loved by a Timothy or a Barnabas. The faithfulness of a John or a Silas can be the difference between us quitting or going on.
Ask God for open eyes and an open heart. The people you might be naturally attracted to are not always the ones God chooses for you. Some of my most significant relationships are with people my flesh might overlook. In fact, for years, I ignored the girl who turned out to be a faithful friend all through high school and college because she was unassuming. The angst of middle school would have been a lot better hanging with her rather than the boy-crazy friends I chose.
Again, friendships are so important to God, Jesus chose twelve people to live and work with every day. He could have done his ministry a different way, but I think God wanted us to observe and learn some things from the dynamics between all of them and Christ. Next post, more ideas on finding and building friendships. For now, I challenge you to pray about your friends, or lack thereof. Is there a toxic relationship you need to end? Is there someone you are overlooking? Pray, pray, pray. Then extend your real self to the folks on the other side of the doors God opens.
Some of my favorite books about relationships:
“The Road Back To You” by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile- Using the Enneagram model, this helps readers discover their own character qualities and gain understanding of other’s motivations, fears and strengths. HIGHLY RECOMMEND
“The Path Between Us,” by Suzanne Stabile is a follow up book that teaches specifically about how different types of personalities can be in successful relationships with one another.
“The Five Love Languages,” by Gary Chapman teaches about the five distinctive ways people show and receive love. Sometimes, we think we are showing love to others, but we just aren’t speaking their language. This is a classic every believer should read.
“Boundaries,” by John Townsend- sometimes friendships fail because we allow people to tread across lines in our lives that shouldn’t be crossed. Setting up healthy boundaries in a relationship frees both people to be authentic and honest. Allowing people to tread on us, often unknowingly, creates resentment and bitterness and breaks up friendships regularly.
“The DNA of Relationships” by Gary Smalley is an enjoyable read with lots of great illustrations that teach great wisdom about relationships. Often we find ourselves in destructive dances with certain people that we just can’t seem to break out of, even though we may love those people dearly. This book teaches how to identify the problem and break the destructive cyclees, freeing us to enjoy deeper and more productive friendships.