I know, long blog titles are bad. But I’m thinking about a lot of things this week!
Last week, our pastor preached on friendship and the importance of real, godly friends to becoming (and remaining) an authentic Christian. You can watch the whole message here. It’s the third part of a series on authenticity. For your Monday morning moment of introvert authenticity, please know that I don’t ever use the word “friend” lightly, and I take it seriously when I know that someone considers me to be a friend. Also, please know that this post was headed in a totally different direction until…. well you’ll see where.
To give you some context for today’s musing, here is a quick summary of the main points from the sermon that started my brain running:
- A godly friend is godly – actively following Jesus, wants to please Him, wants to become more like Him
- A godly friend takes the time to know you – a commitment to the friendship, to you as a person
- A godly friend is willing to call out sin when they see it – with a desire to see repentance and restoration
- A godly friend will walk with you through restoration – encouraging you in the hard work that makes you look more like Jesus.
The text was James 5:19-20 (I’m sharing it today from The Message):
My dear friends, if you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them. Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God.
We were challenged to think about our friendships – do we have godly friends? Are we godly friends?
Okay. So I had been noticing (for a few weeks) that within our church, the ladies seem to be very different than groups of women I’ve seen and known other places. The women in our congregation take a true interest in each other. They stand in the foyer between services talking about the normal work-family-marriage stuff. They make plans for playdates and coffee. They compliment wardrobe and hairstyles. They really have all the normal conversations you would expect to overhear.
But among these everyday type of interactions, I’ve noticed something else happening, and I honestly don’t remember seeing it in a church before. I have seen women coming around each other, in public, praying. Crying together. Asking for updates on situations we’ve been praying about. I’ve heard a woman thank her friend for texting “that verse earlier in the week,” because it was just what she needed. I’ve noticed some of these things in Bible studies before, but I have started to see it in the corridors of the church building, and it is exciting to me.
I’ve been in on some of these conversations, too. Women are checking on me, asking what I’m reading, how they can pray for me. I recently met with a lady I’ve known casually from Bible study – we discussed upcoming projects we’re both working on, and discovered that we are on parallel tracks. Not only have we found an area of common ground on which to build our friendship, but we have committed to praying for and encouraging each other to move forward in our big-scary-new ventures of obedience.
See, I think godly friends don’t just watch for the warning signs of sin in your life, although that is valuable. But in taking the time to get to know each other, by opening up our true selves to each other to BE known, we can also spot opportunities for obedience. We can encourage character development in a positive way. During hard times, we can remind each other of the good we have seen. Authenticity is not about baring your soul to anyone who will stand still long enough to listen. Authenticity is about YOU being YOU regardless of the setting. And authentic friends will be bold enough to remind you of who you are when they see a shift toward fake.
Yesterday I returned home from a women’s retreat. We have a retreat every year, with a speaker and games and free time and laughter. Every year we have a theme and truly meaningful messages that can be applied right away to daily life. But this year the overall feeling was different. For the weeks heading into the retreat, I believe God had been working on many of us, softening our hearts, preparing us to take new steps of obedience, showing each of us the benefits of godly friendships, and the benefits of authenticity. I realize now that God had been laying the groundwork for the messages this weekend through the authentic relationships we’ve been building over the past several months.
Our theme this year was Identity In Christ, and how letting go of how we define ourselves and choosing to let God define us will radically change our lives. It fit so beautifully with the lessons on authenticity we’ve had on Sunday mornings. God used those lessons as well to prepare us for the decisions that would face us this weekend.
During the prayer times, I had the opportunity to pray with and support friends who took brave steps toward releasing the inauthentic identities they had carefully constructed, trusting their godly friends to stick with them and help them figure out just who they are now. The stories that will come from this retreat are just beginning, and they are not mine to tell. I am excited and privileged to know these women, to have been trusted with witnessing this part of their journeys, and I’m excited to see what God will do with genuinely surrendered hearts.
Today I want to thank God for the work He has been doing in each of us to prepare us for the next BIG thing in His plan. To my Grace ladies – yes it feels messy for some of you right now. You all supported me through my own messy times, and now I get to be right there with you as your cheerleader and your prayer partner and truth speaker as you take your own forward steps. We may walk our own paths, but we never have to walk alone. I love you.