I am the Grinch once he realizes the true meaning of Christmas when it comes to women’s ministry— and by that I mean that when you start talking about women’s ministry, my heart grows 3x its size.
In all seriousness, I have a huge heart for women, and I really believe in the power of female friendships. It’s so clear to me that something special happens when Christ-loving women gather— whether they are gathering for worship or even just gathering for (yet another) overpriced coffee. Especially in college, though, the pressure to meet what will become lifelong friends feels unusually high, and it leaves a lot of us scrambling or cracking under the pressure. Even though I’ve made my share of heart-wrenching mistakes, having godly girlfriends has quite literally changed my life, so I wanted to share some lessons I’ve learned on how to make and keep these kinds of friendships.
1. Be Where You Are
I’ve had the opportunity to answer one question for many different friendship-seeking girls, and that one question which always seems to get asked after talking about my friendship journey is: “Where do you meet these people?!” While I understand the intent, I don’t particularly like this question, because the truth is that no one has the all-access key to a far-off secret club of good friendships— the place you meet lifelong, life-giving friendships is right where you are.
I think the perfect example of this idea is shown through my relationship with Megan, a friendship which is one of the deepest and most life-giving I’ve ever had. Megan and I met through Delight our second year at UGA (after successfully working through the unglamorous right of passage that is freshman year), and we both rejoiced because Delight delivered yet again on its promise to gather a community of Jesus-loving women; however, what Megan and I didn’t know is that we had already been gathered somewhere else before either one of us even knew that Delight existed.
Despite the thousands of faces and sprawling campus of UGA, before Megan and I were ever introduced at Delight, we lived in the same freshman dorm on exact same hall. We had met before, but even when we both began to falter later in the year, praying fervently for friendships in the thick of our freshman struggle, we didn’t even consider leaning into where the Lord had already placed us and what the Lord had already given us by simply reaching out to a likeminded girl on our hall. We both felt we had to go to Delight to solve our lack of community issue, since it was a formally established community, but the truth is that we could have found a piece of the same community right next door.
I say all of this to say that I deeply believe there are lifelong friends to be found where you are, wherever you are, so be where you are and trust in the Lord who supplies every need.
2. Be the Invitation
If you’ve leaned into where you are and identified some women who share similar interests or values, but your text messages remain empty while your timeline fills up with pictures of other friends out at dinner, I suggest that instead of waiting for an invitation to friendship you be the invitation.
We are all humans here, and other women love to be included in plans just as much as you do. It is scary to be vulnerable, and asking a person you just met to get ice cream with you one night isn’t entirely within most people’s comfort zones, but I promise that they are a human person that will respond positively to an invitation of friendship and not the judgy monster that many of us paint in our heads.
So, while I can testify to the comfort that solitary Netflix and dark chocolate covered pretzels brings, I urge you all to step outside your comfort zone and ask a loose connection to lunch. In Delight, we encourage you to hang out with one person you don’t know every week, and I can truthfully say that I have never regretted those times, despite the “sacrifices” (read: less Netflix) they may require.
3. Say Yes
On the flip side, in addition to being the invitation, it is just as important to accept the invitation. I am the guiltiest party when it comes to crafting excuses and exit strategies that allow me a beeline back to my comfort zone should anything stretch me beyond my perceived limits, but I have learned that I am so much happier when I simply say “Yes.”
If a friend invites me somewhere I’m not sure I will enjoy— or if I’m invited somewhere I will enjoy but I’m not sure I will like the friend— I’ve learned, and am still learning, to say Yes with no exit strategies. In the grand scheme of things, giving up one hour to make a real-life connection to another human is a pretty good deal, and often times your comfort zone is bigger than you assume.
Some of my closest friendships today can all be traced back to a simple Yes early on in our relationship, and even though that initial Yes might have been hard to say, they only get easier and easier as time goes on. I still laugh with Jessica about it to this day, but when I met her for the first time I remember thinking (aka judging) that we would never be friends. There was no sound logic behind it, but something inside of me told me that she and I were not compatible and that pursuing friendship with her was a waste of time. Well, add that assumption to the long lists of ones I’ve gotten wrong, because I will be moving in with Jessica in just a few short weeks!
So, the next time that girl texts you asking to study together after class, or grab lunch after church, or go with her to the gym… say Yes!! You never know if deep friendship is waiting just around the corner.
4. Focus on Others
I have to call it back to the good ole Golden Rule for this one, but only because it’s true! If you behave like the friend you want to have, the friendships you want won’t be far away.
Even though this is true and potentially self explanatory, I feel like I should dive in a little deeper because I had some wires crossed with this idea when I first started practicing it. Focusing on others isn’t something you do one time and then give up, and it also isn’t something that you do in expectation of reward. It isn’t easy, and it really isn’t glamorous, but I promise it’s worth it. Living selflessly in friendships is a privilege because we get the chance to serve others and love them the way Jesus does, and as is true with many other gospel-centered ideas, when you give love away you don’t lose any of your own.
This means staying up late to hear what’s on a friend’s mind (and really listening) even though you have commitments the next day. It means meeting her for coffee and buying hers even though you might have used that money on yourself. It means calling out beautiful and true things in her even when you might be deeply longing for those things to be true of yourself.
Well, there you have it! Just some scattered ideas from the depths of my brain, and 4 lessons I’ve learned about friendships that may improve the state of your own. This is by no means a one-size-fits all situation, so if anything sits wrong with you I encourage you to pray about it and potentially ignore me completely! But I deeply hope that I’ve been able to encourage you in some way about this topic that is so important to all of us. In hindsight, 4 is kind of an odd number to select for this type of list, so maybe one day I’ll be savvy enough to come up with 5. But until then, I hope you enjoyed reading and that the biggest, brightest, most colorful friendships are headed your way!
What things have I missed? Let me know another tip you have learned from a lifetime of friend-making in the comments below!