Portrait of Friendship
Woman: Thank you for listening to this message from True Woman ’08, Revive Our Heart’s first national woman’s conference. It’s our prayer that God blesses you with His Word and His heart as you listen.
Karen Loritts: I get to tell the rest of the story after I blubbered my way through this morning. I did pretty good; I didn’t do the ugly cry. I was okay, but I get to tell the other story on how God brought me through as He relates to my girlfriends and my friendships. Thank you for being here.
This is part two, as I said, from this morning. I want to share with you how my friends got me through, and I got a little spanking from my girlfriends, but I made it through. But just before we get into our little outline, I want to read you something by, of all people, Eleanor Roosevelt, President FDR’s wife.
She wrote some time ago, “Many people will walk in and out of our life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.
“To handle yourself, use your head. To handle others, use your heart.
“Anger is only one letter short of danger.
“If someone betrays you once, it is his fault”—or her fault in our case—“if she betrays you twice, it’s your fault.
“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.
“She who loses money loses much; she who loses a friend loses much more; she who loses faith loses all.
“Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.
“Learn from the mistakes of others; you can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.
“Friends, you and me; you brought another friend, and then there were three. We start our group, our circle of friends, and like that circle, there is no beginning or end.”
We’re going to talk about the portrait of friendship and what that really means. For me, as I’m heading through menopause and all those hormones are raging and whatever else the medical book says I’m supposed to be about, friends become important. We know, ladies, of all the things we have on our plate, our DNA, one of the little DNA things says friendships. We’re going to talk about that.
What I want you to do is take your green sheet of paper. We have a test. You didn’t know you were coming to my little session and have a quiz. We’re going to do the quiz, talk about it a little bit, talk about it a little bit among ourselves, come back to the quiz, and end with the green sheet. Are you with me?
This first part of this quiz is I want you to make a list of three to six people whom you would call your girlfriends. Now let me just describe various groups of friends, of people that we know. I’m not talking about acquaintances. Acquaintances, you have lots of them, but you don’t really discuss or share really personal stuff, good stuff—like how much you weigh.
Another group of people are your friends with a small “f,” and these are a little bit more than just a few, not a whole lot, but more than just a few. You get a little bit somewhat personal with them—you may share how tall you are, or something like that, or what color season you are.
But a girlfriend, you have a few of them. They’re intimate, and you share the personal stuff, and you know that when you share that personal stuff, it’s going nowhere.
Those are the three groups of people. I’m not talking about acquaintances; I’m not just talking about your friends, with a small “f.” I’m talking about your girlfriends.
So, your quiz is to write down at least three to six, but no more than six, of your girlfriends. And they have to be female, please no men. There’s a point to my madness.
Are we finished? Okay. Turn in groups of threes or fours and share without mentioning names one or two of the characteristics of at least some of the friends on that list. Just share around the group what makes that girlfriend a girlfriend.
Now, one at a time, just raise your hand so I can repeat it for the tape. Give me some of the characteristics that make a girlfriend a true girlfriend: Loyalty, sister in Christ; trust; confronts you; listener; tells you the truth; dependable; loves you when you’re not loveable; fun; won’t judge you; always has chocolate. Now that’s a girlfriend right there. I’d be fine not only having chocolate, but a real true girlfriend will look you in the face when everybody else has passed you by and you have broccoli stuck in your teeth, and she’ll say, “Mary, you’ve got something in your teeth or lipstick on your teeth.” Now that’s a girlfriend right there.
What I want you to do is take that green sheet and circle at least two or four women that you would want to be your pallbearers. Who would you want to be your pallbearers? Just circle on your sheet—we’re not talking, right? Does everybody have their pallbearers? Okay, sheets to the side.
Every year for the last 30 years I’ve gotten together with a group of women—there are 14 of us—who call ourselves “The Stones.” We’re talking about where it says in the Old Testament that when the children of Israel were crossing the Jordan River, they would leave memory stones in the middle of the Jordan so that those that came would know that God had met them there. We, as “The Stones,” wanted to leave the footprints of the goodness and the faithfulness of God to our children, especially our girls. So, we would meet and love on each other. Like I said, we went through potty training to some divorces to the incarceration of some children to the death of some of our children—all kinds of things for the last 30 years. These are “The Stones,” and they were my real girlfriends.
However, when I was going through my meltdown, I was just so consumed with myself and pride that I didn’t share with my girlfriends. That was in October when I was going through my thing, and then the second weekend in November was our retreat that we have every year. At this retreat, we go away, leave all the kids, all the rest of the stuff, and we’re sleeping two to a bed. We are really cozy together, and we pray together and just share how the year’s been going, just catching up. We’re from various churches now. You know how girlfriends can do, just talking through the middle of the night—we’re talking, and we’re crazy. And then you have Vivian and Veronica who snore, and they sleep together, and the snorers that don’t sleep together. We’d just laugh until our sides hurt—all kinds of crazy stuff—and then wake up in the morning and let somebody else cook the food for us, and just have a great day. We end our retreat on Sunday, visiting one of the other’s churches.
I knew that was coming in November, and there’s no way I was going to let them know about my meltdown because of my pride. My fear was they would think less of me, and not only that, they would look at me and say, “Well, how can we trust Karen if she can’t trust us with the intimate details of what she’s going through?” I went through the retreat and didn’t mention it at all. I was good at what I was doing. I just showed up and said, “Yes, girl,” just all kinds of stuff, and they never knew that inside I was aching.
I realized that I really wasn’t a true friend, because good true friends will be able to entrust good stuff to the people who have walked with you through thick and thin. It was one-sided, and I was spanked. I was told off royally when they found out in January. It had leaked out that I was on safe shore, that I had walked through this thing and got my stuff together with God that I’m going to now share. Boy, were they mad at me. I thought they would have been saying, “Boy, I’m glad you didn’t spill all your guts,” but they didn’t say that. So, I came away just realizing that friendship takes on a different meaning when you’re going through the seasons of life. I don’t care where you are in the seasons of life—as a woman, we will go through various seasons of life. Each season requires another bolt of bravery and courage.
As I was coming through this season of life, I was asking God, “If I had to paint a picture of friendship, what would it look like?” And really what He showed me by my friends “The Stones” are at least three or four things that have marked our friendship throughout the years and also was an indictment on my failure to entrust myself to them.
Let me share with you those three major points on what it means to be involved in this whole idea about the portrait of friendship.
The portrait of friendship, in my estimation, involves three different things: Commitment, communication/courage, and community.
I’m going to give you some Scriptures to import in each one of these points. I’m just going to use something real simple, by looking in the New Testament at all of those phrases that begin or end or have a part that says one another, like “bear one another’s burdens,” “serve one another”—all those “one anothers.” I’m going to give you the reference, and I’m going to read it as we come to every point.
By way of commitment, what am I saying? When you’re making friends, it requires a level of commitment at various seasons of life. If you’re single, you’re making friends, and you’re looking at your singleness and what you can contribute, because you maybe have a lot more time than if you’re married with young children. Every season requires a different level of commitment. But the phrase I want to use as we’re talking about commitment is it takes a lot of time to establish the relationship. Commitment means that you establish the relationship.
How do you establish the relationship? “Lord, I want to have this group of women, these friends. I want to make a commitment to them, I want to establish this relationship. How do I do that?” There are several verses in James 3. Let me just give you those two words that will help you as you’re trying to find out who you want to be committed to as you establish a relationship as it relates to having girlfriends.
Verses 13–16 of James 3 say, “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.”
Verses 17–18 go on, “But the wisdom from above”—this is key—“is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering and without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
Two ideas that stick out in this reference, when it’s talking about the wisdom from above, are that we have to have wisdom to know who God wants us to select as our friends and we have to have spiritual discernment to know who they are. There are a lot of people who say they want to be your friends, or you think they maybe want to be your friends, for whatever reason. You have the same values; your kids are the same age. But it may not be a good choice for them to be your friend. God says you have to have wisdom, which is from above, and have His discernment. That’s the application of God-laid knowledge, and discernment is having that spiritual insight to know. Take a little time to know how to make friends. It’s all about grace.
When I’m looking at commitment, there are several things I want, as I’m establishing a relationship with a young person or persons, a lady whom I want to be my friend. Several things are required of me.
Romans 12:10 says, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.” There is the commitment of devotion. There must be a commitment that I’m willing to be devoted to this person with whom I believe God is calling me to establish a relationship. We’re talking about a long-term relationship. We’re not talking about acquaintances; we’re not talking about friends with the little “f”; we’re talking about girlfriends. Understand the difference?
Romans 12:10 says it requires devotion, and that requires time. Girl, we take time.
Another thing about commitment, 1 John 4:7 says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” Commitment requires love. And let me just give you a challenge—in 1 Corinthians 13, (we know all about that love chapter) take the test, and put in those verses your name or your girlfriend’s name, and see if you are willing to do that, is she willing to make a commitment to do that? For instance, in 1 Corinthians 13:4, it says, “Love is patient; love is kind.” I would say, “Karen is patient; Karen is kind,” or put in one of my friends and answer the question: “Is Vivian patient? Is Vivian kind?” If she meets the test, then we are candidates for a girlfriend relationship. Does that sound too hard? It requires a level of love and commitment.
The third level of commitment as we establish this relationship is kindness. Ephesians 4:32 says commitment requires that as girlfriends we “be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” I don’t know how many times we as “The Stones” over 30 years have had falling outs and coming back, falling outs and coming back. The reason why we would come back together is that a real girlfriend can have a falling out, agree to disagree agreeably, but we loved each other. We had made a commitment.
Now I’m not saying that there aren’t some women who will come into your life for a season. God has them there for a season, and then God brings other women into your season. But there are some long-term friends that you can pick up the phone, who you haven’t seen them physically for a long time, and you can have a conversation that you talked about a year or two years previously, and it’s like old times. That’s a girlfriend.
Kindness—be kind to one another, forgiving each other—having that forgiveness, forgiveness and reconciliation. I can forgive a couple of my girlfriends who may have come and said, “Karen, you offended me,” or they nail me on something that I was out of sorts about or I just ran my mouth too much, or they thought that I was gossiping, or they caught me at something. They can come and nail me, because I’ve given them permission as my girlfriend to nail me on that, and then I can say, “Will you forgive me?” Then we need to be reconciled, because sometimes, we women, we don’t forget. Somebody says something to you and hurts your feelings—we have this little video thing in the back of our brains that we always say, “She hurt my feelings, so I don’t know if I want her to be my friend anymore.” The only thing she was doing was speaking in love, so reconciliation says, “Okay, Bernice, you hurt my feelings, but I know that you came to me in a spirit of love, and you wanted to help me because I’m your girlfriend, and we need to work it out, take that wall of reconciliation, and the two of us come together to be united.”
The fourth thing of commitment, as we establish a relationship, is the word consider. Hebrews 10:24 says, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” We need to be able to stimulate each other, not stay wallowing. What fun is it if all “The Stones” got together every retreat, and we came out looking like old hags because we had been dredged by your problems, your five boys, your mammogram, and all this stuff? We’re crying, but can we cry together and then build each other up and help each other to really trust and believe God?
That’s what I want people to be able to spend some time with in my life. I don’t want people to drag me down, but sometimes some of us have got to have courage enough to take off some of these barnacles that we call our friends. Some of them are dragging us down. Some of them never have anything good to say about your husband. They don’t have to like your husband, but they must respect that he is your husband. Every time you see them, they always have something bad to say about your kids or have some kind of a “God showed me about how to raise your children” comment—it weighs you down. Some of us need to get some of those barnacles off of our lives. We’ve outgrown some people. Again, you have to have wisdom and discernment. Am I growing? Am I really stimulating my girlfriends to greater good, love, and good deeds?
So, that’s commitment. Commitment says I have the wisdom of God and have the spiritual insight to know who will be there at the finish line with me. This Christian race is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. And I don’t want someone who gives up on me way back in the pack. I want a girlfriend who’s going to be there when I may have to have that hysterectomy or when I have a prodigal child, and the only person who will listen to me and pray for me without condemning me and pointing her finger at me is my girlfriend.
We need to have a spirit of commitment, and a word I would put surrounding this whole idea of commitment is it’s all about grace.
The portrait of friendship involves commitment, making and then being a friend.
The second area of making friends, a portrait of friendship, is communication/courage. Let me deal with communication.
As commitment involves establishing the relationship, communication means strengthening the relationship. This is what I call the point where it takes a lot of energy, because we like to talk. Sometimes we talk to our friends, but we’re not talking with our friends, or sometimes our friends are talking at us, and they’re not helping us. Communication needs to strengthen the relationship.
Let me read 1 Peter 3:8–12 and see if that makes sense to you. Peter writes, “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For the one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep her”—I’m going to use her—“tongue from evil and her lips from speaking deceit. She must turn away from evil and do good; she must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
Our communication must be seasoned with a blessing. Remember we said earlier that the whole idea of friendship is that we want to stimulate each other to love and good deeds. We want them to be better because they’re in our presence and part of our circle of friends and being with us. God says that we must be a blessing, according to 1 Peter 3.
Turn to Psalm 34, verses 13–14. This says, again, “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”
In relationships with women, sometimes we can have an argument and it can go on forever and ever and ever, and it never becomes resolved. I have lost a lot of friends because of misunderstandings, or—this gets me—when they say something about my children. I don’t know what it is about mothers and their children, but when you say something about my children, it may be true, but I don’t hear the truth in it. Because when you’re talking about my children, you’re talking about me, and I don’t like you talking about me.
Communication takes a lot of work. We have long memories. We remember, and when she’s talking about my children, I remember her son in the nursery. I remember her son in Vacation Bible School, so I’m ready with my shotgun. I’m ready to blow her away. “She’s going to talk about my children? I can talk about her children.” We’ve got tit for tat. So, next thing you know, instead of saying anything, I just don’t call her anymore. I see her in church, and I just walk the other way. Do you ever do that? None of you all ever do that. But we do that. We hurt each other.
But we must, in communication, exercise two things—we’ve talked about this a little bit, but I want to bring it home again. We must exercise forgiveness, and forgiveness is to be able to release that person when that person has offended you. You can take this to the bank—your best girlfriend will offend you at some point. She may say something, or it may be that time of the month when you’re not feeling what she has to say. She may offend you. But forgiveness immediately releases that person from holding it against them. The other part of that is reconciliation. Reconciliation is that, if she’s a true friend, but it’s a godly thing to be involved in rebuilding the relationship.
Forgiveness takes me initiating—“I forgive you, and I accept your forgiveness, or I ask you to forgive me.” It takes one person. But reconciliation takes two people who believe that God has called us together, we’ve made a commitment to be together as friends, and that we need to rebuild. Because that Plexiglas keeps building up and up and up, and before you know it, we don’t know the reason why we haven’t spoken. We’re talking about girlfriends, but unfortunately this also happens in families.
I have no biological sisters. I have plenty of friends who have sisters, and they would fight like cats and dogs. They are families. Among the 6,000, there may be one or two families who haven’t spoken to each other in years. That should never be, and for sure it should never be in our relationships with one another in the Body of Christ. We must, with all that is possible with us as it says, be at peace with one another. Peace must be on my side of the street.
Now there are some people, as I said, that God brings for a season, then He just moves them on. But there should never be a relationship that you don’t have now that God says that was a season and there was some sin that separated you, and you haven’t resolved it. Some of us need to resolve some relationships that started off great, had some kind of conflict, and then were never resolved. Sisters against sisters. Mothers against daughters. Friends against friends.
Girlfriends can be so spiteful. When my daughter Holly was in undergraduate school, she called home. Now Holly is the baby in the family. Between my two girls, there are seven years difference. Between my boys, there are eight years difference, so there were like two sets of children—boy/girl, boy/girl. Holly was always kicked out of her room because that’s Heather’s room. When you’re the youngest, when you’re sharing a room, you have to wait until the big brother or sister decides to let you in. So, she was always left out. She really didn’t have this sister thing. When Heather went away to college, it was Holly and Mom and Dad in the house, so she was just the person. She never had to really relate to a sister.
When she got to college, she called home one day. She really wanted to be a part of this sorority, and she went to high school with these two Ashleys. They were best friends, and they were dorm mates now. One of the girls decided that she was going to blacklist Holly. Now this girl had gone all through high school with her. They were best friends, yaddy-yaddy-yaddy, goes down to college in their second year, and jealous of Holly and blacklists her. Holly gets on the phone, and she has this little quiver in her voice, and she’s crying. “I hate girls. I hate them. They’re just so mean. Women are just so mean, Mama.” She just goes on and on, and we had to settle that whole thing, but she was just floored by the viciousness of girls.
She never had to personally experience this because she had a sister who was a lot older than her, and when she got to the age when they could have a little conflict, she always lost out, because she was the baby sister. And then Heather went away to college; she never had to deal with that. I never had to deal with that, but I had seen girls—nasty.
Go to middle school. Middle school is the cesspool of stuff. You come in the door, and they size you up as to whether they’re going to be your friend for the rest of the year. If they don’t want to be your friend, they tell all of their other friends not to be your friend—for no apparent reason.
We have this kind of thing within us. I call it the Eve Syndrome. There’s something that happened in the garden that fell and made that chromosome screwed up or whatever it was, because we can be nasty to one another.
So, I said, “Holly, you just have to forgive her,” and I made her just release it. Their friendship was never the same—even to this day. She’s now in medical school, and Ashley’s finishing up her P.A. I don’t even know if she’s going to be in Holly’s wedding whenever she gets married. They’re not the way they used to be.
But I just say, “You have to forgive. Reconciliation would take two of you, but God just had her for a season.” “Why?” Holly asked. “To grow you up, because you needed to learn how to love in spite of people, when they’re being spiteful and misusing you.”
To be a blessing, it says. Psalm 39:1 says, “I said I will guard my ways that I may not sin with my tongue. I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle while the wicked are in my presence.” Sometimes you just have to literally put your hand over your mouth and not say it. So many times with my Stone friends, I was just waiting, because I was so defensive about certain things. They’d be talking to me, and in the back of my mind I was getting my ammunition ready. I was going to shoot that gun, and this Scripture came to mind. “Muzzle your mouth”—don’t say it.
So, what are some of the Scriptures that we could import into communication? First Thessalonians 5:11—encourage. Communication with your friends means you need to encourage. “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” Encourage one another. How can you encourage a friend? God has blessed you to have this friend. You must now encourage one another.
The second thing is to pray. James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another.” That’s kind of spooky, because that means you have a level of trust that this person loves you and is committed to you and will hold a confidence.
Now, out of our 14 friends, there is an inner core that I call my inner group, my inner groupies. I’m friends with all of them, but there’s a core of about three to five of them that I will just immediately think, “I need to call them on this.” If I was thinking right, instead of being so self-centered and prideful when I was going through my emotional meltdown, I would have called one of these three to five ladies and said, “Will you pray for me, because I am not feeling it. I am hurting. I’m scared about my mammogram. I’m scared about the doctor’s report. I’m scared about being alone in the house. I hear the walls actually breathing. Will you pray for me? Will you come over for me?” They would do that and hold my confidence. So, pray.
Communication means to encourage. I communicate by praying, confessing to each other. Ephesians 5:19 says, “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to God.”
I also want you to jot down Ephesians 4:15: “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” I like the idea of communication, but also courage.
It takes courage to be able to have a girlfriend come to you—she’s invested a lot of her time, the same thing with you—that you can speak and tell them the truth. I don’t want somebody to come and tell me what I don’t need to know, or they just want to say it; they’re a “yes” girl. I want someone who is going to be bold enough to say, “Karen, you’re screwing up. Act right. Stop whining. Stop making all kinds of excuses. Enough is enough.” I need somebody to tell me that. Now I like all the other ringing and twisting, but I want one of my girlfriends who I can trust to speak the truth to me. That takes courage to do that. It takes courage to be able to speak the psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with melody, being led by the Holy Spirit, but I also want you to speak the truth to me in love.
Do you do that to your friends? Are you a good girlfriend? Communication is really, really key. Don’t use your hormones to give you an excuse. Out of all the four weeks in a month, there’s really one week that everything’s okay. You’re getting ready for your cycle, you’re a little bloated—there’s only one week that you seem to be nice and sane, and you’re not snappy and just snippy all the time. There’s really one week in the month. That’s not biblical. There’s no place in the Bible where it says there’s one time in the month that you’re allowed to be spiritual, making melody, and love, and honor and be kind. Not in my Bible anyway—I don’t know what version you may have. But God says trust Him with all the other three weeks in the month, so that you will be able to give and receive truth with courage. You understand what I’m saying?
It takes commitment, good communication, forgiveness, and reconciliation. You be a blessing, and the word I would put down is be gracious.
When I’m old and gray—I’ll be 58 next month and boy I tell you, I’ve got a little gray under there—I want to be one of these ladies, should God tarry and I’m still around when I’m maybe 70 or 80, that people still want to be around me. We have some old, cranky women that no one wants to be around. I want to be around and my kids would still want to call me. I may not be able to talk right, but they would still want to be around me, because I’m not whining and griping about every ache and pain. We’re always going to have aches and pains. I get out of bed now, and I have to shake my body down—get this leg moving and that hill, and all this—but I don’t want to be that old woman that people want to stick in a corner somewhere.
My girlfriends should have given up on me a long time ago, because every time at the retreat I’m whining and complaining about nothing. Everybody’s got aches and pains. Nothing’s going right, but they still love me. I want to grow old gracefully.
So, communicate—be gracious. It will not hurt you. I promise it won’t hurt.
We looked at commitment and communication/courage, and we want to look at community. Community, as we look at that, as we establish a relationship, we strengthen the relationship by talking right and by being right and doing all those right things. Community involves nurturing the relationship—fellowship. There’s one thing that women do well—we like to celebrate anything. We just enjoy getting around on nothing but sipping—for me it’s green decaffeinated tea with a little non-dairy creamer. I don’t eat anything with caffeine in it. I don’t do sweets anymore—all little lists of the “don’t do’s” that my doctor gave me, I don’t do anymore—but I still like to get together with people who do and not be jealous of them and just enjoy.
Listen, men would not have a good time here at this conference. If this was a true man’s conference, first of all, their seats wouldn’t be as close—they would be in every other seat. They would never have done that little backrub to each other; they would never want to stand in line for the bathrooms and just chit-chat and talk. We love it. God made us that way. We love that fellowship together. We need each other.
We need each other when we have to go through some of these surgeries we may have to go through. What better than to have a woman who loves you, a girlfriend who loves you, who’s going to bring over that same old casserole? For me, I don’t make casseroles anymore. I don’t cook anymore. Seven days of the week, I probably cook three days. Really—why cook? But that happens when you become an empty nester. I pick up something from Publics—perpetrated as “I made this meal”— put it in a different dish, and take it to my friends when they are having surgery. We love stuff like that. We are community. We love fellowship.
But what are some of the things we can import as we nurture this relationship? First of all, let me give you the two “T’s.” Nurturing a relationship takes time, and it takes trust. We need to allow our girlfriends to invade our space. Some of us are just too tight—we don’t want anybody in. But the long distance relationships, those who are going to cross the finish line with you, are going to be those girlfriends you have invested time and you have entrusted with much. Your best friend will criticize you privately but encourage you publically. Best friends take a lot of time. It takes a lot of time.
We’ve been friends for thirty-some years, but we only get together once a year. We talk throughout the year with various groups of us, but once we get together it’s like we haven’t missed each other. I was on my way to do a conference in Mexico, and I was changing planes in Houston when I got a call on my cell that one of my best friend’s—one of “The Stones’”—daughter, who was 26 years old and had juvenile diabetes, had died. They wanted us to be a part of the celebration of Jessica’s home going.
For my friend, this was the second child she had lost. She lost her first, Remington, to heart problems. He was five months old and died on the operating table, and now Jessica had died. Her son Jonathan was serving his fifth year incarcerated. This is a woman who loves life and loves God, yet God had called two of her children home, and through no fault of her own, her son was in jail—there was an incredible amount of grief in that family, but she was such an encouragement to us. That time she ministered to us. She said, “We’re just going to wait and have this celebration when all seven of us can get together and give Jessica the celebration.”
Community, nurturing the relationship—that came over time. It didn’t happen overnight, but she could entrust the burial of her daughter to her precious friends. We were her pallbearers.
What other things can we import in community? Community, friends, we serve one another. Galatians 5:13 says, “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
How can you meet your friends’ needs? When Remington, at five months, was in the hospital, looking at having open heart surgery, we went down to the Ronald McDonald House and just had a laughing good time. We took food down there and just ministered to the Russell family—our friend, her husband, and her family—serving her when she couldn’t serve herself. At that time she was the mother of ten, so she left a big part of the responsibility to us for the other children. But while she was in the midst of watching her baby have to go through open heart surgery, we stepped in and served where she needed served. Wash other people’s clothes. I don’t do so much ironing, but even Karen can iron. Allowing another woman to come into your house and clean your house. Mmmmm, that’s a big one. Serving one another.
Community also involves burdens. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” Now, we’re not saying that you carry and take their burdens from them. They carry their own burden, but you can walk beside them and offer them the help and the hope, even in the midst of crisis when they can’t carry it themselves. You don’t say, “I understand how you’re feeling, Vivian,” because I didn’t understand. Her 26-year-old daughter dead—I didn’t understand that. But what I can say is, “My heart breaks for you, and I’m here to bear your burden with you, whatever I can carry with you.”
Another area is Ephesians 5:21. It says, “Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” Community means as we get together that we mutually honor and respect and submit to one another as we fear Christ. That is what we’re called to do.
Two more—Romans 15:7 says acceptance. “Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.” Accept one another. Out of my 14 girlfriends, there are some who are completely different. They are not like I am. We don’t have the same gifts and talents and abilities, but I accept them as God-created gifts to my life. Do you do that? Do you accept your girlfriends?
The last one. First Thessalonians 5:13—peace. Paul says, “Live in peace with one another.” Be at peace with one another, not having a bunch of strife and arguments all the time. That could be a hint that there’s something amiss in the relationship. But be at peace with one another. Don’t be able to go to your friends and just unleash a bunch of toxic waste all over a person.
Have you ever had a friend—little “f”—or acquaintance that every time you see them you want to run the other way because you know you’re going to be dumped on like a dump truck? “Come here, I need to dump all this stuff on you.” You feel so yucky—you wish they’d just leave the neighborhood. Or you may have a family member—“If they could just leave the family.” No, not really, but we could be at peace with one another because peace resides with me.
Are you a peaceable person to be with? We women, we always get a bad rap on stuff. You read through the book of Proverbs—like being in the desert where the women are just whining and dripping, like being in the desert on the top of a roof. We get a bad rap, but it’s true. There is nothing like a woman who is always kicking up stuff. She’s never happy; she always has something that she wants to dump on you. That’s not a real girlfriend. Get rid of the toxic waste.
Some of us, like I said, need to get rid of some of those bloodsuckers, those barnacles. Figure out which person over the course of several years has meant you no good, that God has been whispering that you need to move to the next level spiritually, but this person seems to be holding you back like a kite. They just won’t let you go. You need to get rid of them.
I want us now to go back to the green sheets. We have made a list of our friends—just a quick list. I would encourage you to go back and really ask those questions about your friends. Am I devoted to them? Do I love them unconditionally? Are we kind to one another, or is it always just one-sided? Do we stimulate one another to love and good deeds, or is it one-sided? Do we encourage one another, or am I always the one that’s picking up the phone and writing the notes? “After months and years I never hear from her until something’s up.” Can I confess my sins to her? Can she entrust her confession to me, knowing that I will truly pray with and for her and not pray about her to other friends? I will speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs; I will speak with courage and truth. Do we do that to each other, or is it just one-sided? If all these friends are one-sided, then you need to consider if that season of that relationship is over.
And then serve the community. Can we serve one another? Like I said, if I’m sick in bed and I call one of my friends and my house is a mess—especially that little ledge around the molding—can I trust that if she cleans she won’t tell anybody? “Girl, that Karen’s house is nasty.” A real girlfriend won’t mind. She’ll get her rag out, and she’ll do whatever. She’s there to serve you.
Burdens. Am I able to share in her grief? I’m not carrying it for her, because I can’t do that, but I can share in whatever I can help you with in my ability to do.
Are we mutually submitting to each other, or is it one-sided? Do I accept that person, uneducated, educated, whatever? Accept.
Are we at peace with each other, or nine times out of ten do we always have this little umpf between us? Then we need to check that out.
If all these relationships are one-sided as it relates just to you or the other person—either you’re not a good girlfriend, or she’s not a good girlfriend—she should just maybe now be relegated to being an acquaintance or maybe a friend.
So, as you look at your list, I would encourage you to go back and check that out, and check out your pallbearers—that’s a real thing. Who’s going to be that person who, if they needed to call on you to be a pallbearer, that she had already listed you to be that?
There are three types of people that need to be in your life. Now we talked about developing these friendships, but there’s something that you need to have in your life beyond these friends. I call them the Elizabeth, the Mary, and the Martha crew. Now, the Elizabeth person is an older woman.
One of the great things that happened to me when we moved from Dallas, Texas, to Atlanta, Georgia, was that I had an Elizabeth. I wasn’t raised in a Christian home, and so I was pitiful. I was so pitiful. I knew nothing about it. The only thing I knew was I loved this man, and he was a minister, but he was born and raised in an intact family—a mother and a father. He had a mother who just loved her husband. She was like June Cleaver or Claire Huxtable. I’m serious. His mom had white pearls and an apron on, and then me—teenage, single parent, welfare. I got saved. We met in college, and God had a laughing good time putting us together. And so you had these two different backgrounds coming together. It was like the collision of two mighty steamships coming together, and so I needed help.
I love my husband, but he was a man’s man, and—he would have to admit—he was a little macho man. He was a manly man, and I was raised to be self-sufficient, but I knew that wasn’t God’s way. God had called me to this. He had saved me, and now I was going to be the first in my family to walk and talk the Bible. So, I needed help.
When I got to this church, Sister Ponder sort of scoped me out. I think it was my body language. You don’t have to say anything, your husband doesn’t have to say anything; it’s this body language that’s saying, “I don’t care what you say, I’m not going to do it today.” So, she must have scoped me out. I don’t know if it was my body language that gave me away, but she came up to me and introduced herself. She said, “I’m so glad that you’re here, and welcome to Atlanta, Georgia, da-da-da-da-da.” I had two little babies, a five-year-old and a nine-month-old, and she just got into my life.
That was kind of hard for me, because I said to myself, “I have a mother.” But Sister Ponder was abandoned by her husband to raise six children, and God turned her around incredibly, and so she knew something about what I was going through. She was this older woman, but she just came and made herself to sit down in my life, and she became my Elizabeth—an older woman.
She would tell me stuff that would curl your hair—in a nice way. I thought that I was talking to my husband right, but this Elizabeth in my life would say, “Oh, Karen, is there another way that …” and she’d just go on and say what I needed to do, and I’d be mad at her. I wouldn’t call her all that next week or not answer the phone when I knew that she was calling me, and all that kind of stuff. But we need an Elizabeth in our lives, someone that will speak into our lives.
What does this Elizabeth look like? She is an older woman. She will invest time, energy, wisdom, and will hold you accountable for maturity in Christ. We all need to find some woman in our lives who’s going to hold our seats to the fire. She will invest time, energy, her wisdom, and hold you accountable. We need an Elizabeth in our lives, and I think maybe we need maybe a couple of Elizabeths. I’ve had three. Altogether there’s been three ladies, and they were older women. They don’t have to be chronologically older, but for me that really helped out, because they were seasoned women. When they spoke, you saw God just coming off the words that they had to say, and I was able to receive it, because I was a hard head. So, we need to have an Elizabeth.
Another person we need to have in our life is a Mary. A Mary is a young person in whom we can invest our own lives, a young person to whom we can give time and energy and hold them accountable. This is some young person. Because we have been given much, we need to give much.
Then, for sure, we need a Martha. All of us need somebody who is our peer that we’re maybe in the same age group—like my Stones—we’re going through the same season in life. We’re respecting each other’s time. We give each other that time and energy, we hold each other accountable, so it’s a mutual relationship.
So, the Elizabeth is the older person, the Mary is a young person, and the Martha is a peer. Those types of things will help us mature in Christ. When we get to the finish line in life, I want to hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” I may get across the line a little raggedy, a little worn and torn, but I want to get across the finish line fulfilling what God has called me to do, and we need this other group of people to help us in this whole portrait of friendship.
What I want you to do is think about it for a few minutes and see if there is someone that God has brought across your path who could be your Elizabeth—an older person, whether it’s in your church or community. A female about whom you could say, “I would like for this person to be in my life,” or maybe they’re in your life now. Just write that lady’s name down in that spot under number one. Who is it to whom you can entrust the next years of your life? She’s going to love you; she’s not going to be surprised at what comes out of your mouth; she’s going to love you anyway. She’s going to ask you the hard questions.
I loved it when Sister Ponder would call and just start sharing from the Word of God, what God had blessed her with that week—that was supernatural. What she shared is what I needed, and that’s a God thing. God can do the hookup.
So, do you have your Elizabeth down? Okay, let’s skip over to the Martha.
What friend, what girlfriend, what peer will you say that “I’m in a nurturing, mutual accountability with” right now, this Martha? It could be a best friend that “we can talk honest with each other; we enjoy the community and fellowship; we can have this commitment that our relationship is solid, no matter what.” It may come from that list at the top. I would imagine that at the top could be one of your Marthas.
And then your Mary. There are lots of young girls who look as though they are happy, but there are young women today who are not being mothered very much, and they need some godly women to come alongside of them and say, “You know what? You don’t have to look like that.”
I needed someone to say that to me as I was coming through the early years of my life. Because of my background, I had complete dysfunction in my life. I walked with my head down. I would never look anyone in the eye. My clothes were a dead giveaway to being a nobody person, a nothing person. I just didn’t care anything about myself, because I didn’t think I was anything. It was hard at the age of ten raising your brothers. It was hard to relate to young people, so I never looked at anybody in the face. My self-esteem was zero. I had none at all. I needed someone to help me and love me and show me.
There are young women today that we pass by in our churches, in our communities, who need someone to come along and talk about maybe helping them with their dress. Some young girls just don’t know how we should act. Some just need to be lovingly nurtured.
I want you to take a few minutes and get in your little groups again, and just talk about any one of those women—whether it’s an Elizabeth, a Martha, or a Mary. Just share real quickly if you have one and what you’re going to do, and if you don’t have one, what you are going to do about getting someone, and what help do you need. Just share, “I need an Elizabeth,” or “I have an Elizabeth, and this is what she’s done for me,” or a Mary or a Martha.
I would love to entertain a couple of questions. Does anybody have a question or a comment?
Audience Member: Can we have good friends who aren’t believers?
Karen: That’s a good question. This is just Karen speaking, this is my opinion, but I think that there is a time when it’s okay. I’ve had friends who became my friends out of doing mutual things, going to PTA or community things, and they were good friends. Parties would tell the story when we had a part in ways, and we respected each other, but I never backed down on sharing my space. We had friends in different categories that I will not compromise in my message on who I am, but I respect them, and every time they see me, they’re not going to get hammered to death about my relationship with Christ, but they know where I’m at. I think that God uses that to plant a seed, that maybe one day—it may not be with me—but with someone else they’ll say, “I remember that Karen was always consistent with me. She talked about this God, and now I know the God that she knows, and I want to thank her for it.” Even though they may drift away, they will always remember. There will be something that will come to a point that you just can’t cross, but I would call them my friends. That’s just me. It will become more distinctive as the relationship requires something else, but I believe that maybe God has you there for a specific time, and it may be just, like I said, planting a seed, and maybe another time they will remember the witness that you had.
I’ve become involved in this good group in our area called “Mothers Making a Change.” They have this organization for the judge who is a Christian, that once the ladies are coming out of drugs and on meth and all the rest of that, the judge doesn’t want the women to sit in the jail, so she has this residential program they have to go through. They keep their children, with supervision and all the rest of that stuff. I said, “I’m going to go over there, because I want to make friends with these women. I know it may be one-sided, but there’s something I can offer them, and hopefully the love of Christ will shine through.” I could be spending my time in a lot of ministry things, but I just have this one little group that has nothing to do with Jesus, but they’re doing good works. I’m trying to be a good Samaritan.
Let me pray and let you guys go.
Lord, as women we just love getting together and having a good old time. I pray, Father, that all of us will take to heart the things we talked about concerning this portrait of friendship, but more so, that You would bring into all of our lives an Elizabeth, an older woman who will love on us, who will hold us accountable, who will give us that godly wisdom to help us get to the next level. We need that Martha in our lives, that girlfriend with this mutual agreement, accountability we’re investing together, we’re having this energy together, we’re helping each other get across the finish line. And then we need that young girl, that Mary. Lord, there are so many young girls who need someone to love them and be trailblazers for them.
We pray, Father, as we go back home that You’ll bring to mind those women whom we just applaud and celebrate who are in our lives, that relationships will continue to grow. We pray that we’ll have courage enough to get rid of those barnacles, those bloodsuckers that are just sucking the very life out of us.
Lord, we want to be women who are true women of God. Lord, thank You for who You are and for what You’ve given us, and for all the things that are going to spur us on to good works. We say, “Yes, Lord,” and we thank You. Amen. God bless you.
Woman: This message was presented at True Woman ’08 in Chicago. Check out all of the messages delivered there and more by visiting www.TrueWoman.com. There you’ll find even more ways to connect from books and resources you can order for yourself, your friends, or your life group to on-demand multi-media to ongoing conversations you can be a part of, and we’re updating it all the time.
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Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.