God has asked me to love those kind of friends. I may or may not have failed. Several times.
And He has also given me in extravagance a different kind of woman. The kind of friend who covers my multitudes of faults with grace. The kind who looks into my heart and really listens to it. The kind who talks to my face and to my soul rather than behind my back. The kind who seeks to be generous with wisdom, compassion, and laughter.
Even in the Church, where we assume people will be nice to one another (after all, Jesus was nice, right?), kindness seems to be endangered among women. Water cooler office gossip has become altar-talk and "prayer requests," and what was it Jesus said about being set apart?
I suppose I'm here today in the nest to give a few hurting girls some hope. Because I know you've been stabbed too. Thrown for a loop and left shaking your head. You had someone cut you down with her words and insults, and sweep you under the rug like yesterday's dirt and you were left wondering if there were just a few good women among our gender at all. I suppose I'm here to say, "Yes, there are. So pick yourself up, dust off that shame, and try again." Because as awful as women can be to each other ... we can also be delightful. I should know - some of my life's best gifts have been in the form of girlfriends.
Like *Shelly, who stood by me in honesty, loyalty, and truth when lies were slung like mud and I couldn't even find my own face. She calls and texts just to find out how I'm holding up and she cares. I mean she really cares about me and the condition of my fragile heart. She's been with me in hellholes and on foreign soil and she shines sunbeams of His glory from a stage. When I moved away she came to say good-bye with tears, even though her words were few.
And like *Liz, who has walked through hard lessons of insecurity with me, who has known me before I was this me, and who protects me with a fierceness I haven't known elsewhere. She listens to my heart and makes eye contact and soul contact and is trustworthy. She also offers her own flaws with trust, and honors me with honesty. We never hide doubt or shame from one another, and when we meet - it's safe there.
And like *Judy who poured out her stories like coffee at her table - warm and energizing and hopeful. I call her a mentor, but she really just loves me well, as an abundant verb and with generous time. If I need a rebuke she'll offer it gently, and her wisdom is a treasure beyond what any bank holds. Her encouragement is always spot-on and the pick-me-up I need when I can barely get out of bed.
And like *Michelle, who prays for me - and I'm talking real intercession. She bound her heart to mine in prayer the first day she met me, and when we prayed together every morning she taught me what it means to pour out tears as offerings. She approached me with honor and humility, though she owns more years of experience and wisdom than I. She let me lead her, though she was quite capable of leading us both. She let me give her pedicures and loved my children like they were her own. Together we learned more about God than we would have alone, and isn't that what God's daughters were destined to do?
And like *Victoria, who is the twin sister I dreamed of when I was in second grade, but didn't meet until my late twenties. A day older than me, we hold more in common than sense would lend. And yet we never put one another in any kind of conformity box. She knows me well enough to read my face or my voice, and speaks comfort when I'm a broken heap. A cheerleader in Christ, she never gives up on me and has been the definition of faithfulness if ever faithfulness had skin. She wears her heart on her sleeve and occasionally puts a foot in her mouth, and that is what I love most. Her words and drawings delight my heart like treasure, and I could never thank God enough for the privilege of calling her my sister.
I could go on and on - my high school friend who cries with me across an ocean, the treasure of a woman whom I mentored and loved fiercely, the newly rekindled friendship over coffee this week who offered validation, vulnerability, and wisdom.
Of course, I've made mistakes in foolish insecurity too, and I've hid my heart behind walls from women because I was afraid or proud. And I've paid the price. Women have issues and hormones and anxieties and we can be downright evil. We use our swords to fight each other when we ought to defend against our common enemies. We all build walls and fire arrows and pass judgement at times. I've been awful too.
When that happens, Dear Heart - know this: We can also be wonderful. As wounded as you have been, you can be just as much healed. As shocked as you have been, you can also be delightfully surprised. As awful as those girls have been, God has wonderful sisters for you in store.
Let's not block off our tender places, jaded and shy and bitter. Let's be confident enough in who we are in Christ to offer friendship and receive it. Because we're worth it, and we need it, and our souls cry out for it. He made us to be wonderful, though we have experienced the awful.
That's just what the Redeemer does.
*names changed for privacy. you know who you are to me.
Photo Credit: Jacob Splinks via flickr creative commons