As a mother of three adult daughters, I have precious memories of cuddling with my girls and watching Anne (with an “e”) of Green Gables. I was particularly drawn to Anne’s heart cry for a “bosom friend–a kindred spirit”. Just as now I am drawn to how God is described in Scripture as loving us with “tender strands” that gently hold us to Him (Hosea 11:4). God’s holy chords of love gently binding or tethering us to Him and to others.
Growing up in a home with much turmoil, I didn’t have a lot of solid role modeling for healthy relationships. In grade school, I was a part of a group of three girlfriends. Those groups usually come with troubles—comparison, competition, and jealousy with one person feeling left out.
In high school, I had a best friend, Bonnie, whose heart, like mine, was wounded by her family life. At that time, I was ashamed to have people come to my home out of fear that my dad would embarrass me by drinking too much and misbehaving. But Bonnie seemed to understand. She was one friend I could have over to the house, and I would spend time at her home as well.
In college, I got very close to my first roommate, but she took a turn towards alcohol and drugs and unfortunately, for both of us, she dropped out of school the end of freshman year. The rest of my college days and my early years in the business world did not yield a real bosom friend. I was much too self-focused — on my education and then on my career — to genuinely invest my heart into forming an authentic friendship. My wounded heart had withdrawn from God, who I now know as the source of all true human connection.
That wounded heart eventually led me to a very broken place in my mid-30’s — divorced and a single mother — where God was able to reach out to me with those “tender strands” of grace and mercy. He rescued me, and I tentatively began a journey of recovery. A time of discovery of who God is and who He created me to be. This was the beginning of my heart healing and the foundation for cultivating authentic friendships with women.
Fast forward three decades later, what do I now feel about friendship? Do I still long for a bosom friend? Is that possible? My answer is yes, and, by God’s grace, I have experienced those types of friendships through the years. As I write, their faces come to mind, and I smile with deep gratitude for each one of them. Those that are in my life and my hometown right now and those who live across the United States and in other countries. Other than my faith and my family, they are my most prized possessions.
Now as a woman in my sixties, I would describe friendship as a precious gift from God that He grants to us for His divine purposes. He uses those same “tender strands” to gently bind us to another—a “bosom friend.” I am learning that my relationship with God and with myself will define my relationships with others. I’ve heard it said that our horizontal relationships are dependent on our vertical relationship with God, as the cross so vividly symbolizes.
We each have had friendships that have seemed to work or to have gone the distance and those that have not. But who are we to judge how God sees those relationships. Rather, we are to simply hold them gently and loosely, to enjoy them for the time and trust the big plan to God.
So, if friendships are a gift from God, what part do I play? What creates the bond? Years ago, I shared with my mentor a struggle I was having with a friend and she wisely asked me, “Have you asked God what He would like that friendship to look like?” I had not, but instantly sensed the wisdom of her advice, which has stayed with me ever since.
When we returned from living abroad for almost ten years, I sensed God tenderly prompting me to allow Him to gift me with the women with whom He now wanted me to share my life and my heart. Sacred companions who will run the good race with me. And when I let go of my expectations and allow God to provide, I am always pleasantly surprised, humbled, and oh-so- grateful for His goodness. I meet with a Franciscan nun for spiritual direction. The first time we met, I sensed that she was excited (almost with childlike excitement) that God had brought a new person into her life. Of course, that made me feel wonderfully encouraged and made me want to live my life that way—wide open to all the gifts God has for me day by day.
I could share much more—and maybe I will in another post—but I’ll leave you with these thoughts on finding that “bosom friend” …
- Start with prayer. Let God lead. Make your relationship with Him your top priority. Allow Him to heal your past heart hurts so you bring a heart-on-the-mend to the relationship.
- Remember that in friendship, as in many deeper things, less is probably better. We only have so much time, energy, and space in our life. Live within the boundaries that God sets for you. We all change over time, so relationships change and may come to an end. Be okay with that. Let go with grace and gratitude.
- Be prepared to give the gift of time and presence to another—both are necessary to really hear and understand a heart.
- Be willing to share deep troubles and celebrate victories without comparison or jealousy.
- Genuine friendships are characterized by a shared passion, honesty and mutuality—a give-and-take flow to the relationship.
- God’s divine purpose for each relationship will be different, but this we can be sure of: His desire is for us to want His best for the other person and to patiently walk alongside them as they grow into His perfect design for their life. Two people each growing towards God is a powerful partnership and force for good in our world.
A book that one of my bosom friends and I read together is Sacred Companions, the Gift of Spiritual Friendship and Direction by David G. Brenner. And I read it again with my husband. You may want to put it on your reading list or, better yet, read it with a friend.
I welcome your comments or questions.