One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24
Returning from the National Youth Gathering this week, I have like 400 post ideas in my head. I was blessed to spend the week with four of the most precious girls I’ve ever met. I’m missing them already. We went to sessions and heard speakers on a zillion different topics, from purity to Islam to body image. We ate a lot of nachos and considered how in the world beignets could be so much better than donuts. We talked about identity, humility, and community until the cows came home, or rather, we came home to the cows. (Literally, some of us have actual cows. They were very much missed, right Sarah?)
One conversation rises up above the rest. It keeps surfacing on my mind and demands attention. The topic – who is your squad, who is your crew, what is community?
The girls’ immediate answer to this question was a list of people they hang out with.
“My softball team.”
“My agriculture people.”
“My church youth group.”
“My lunch table.”
I had a list too.
But as I started to give my list, I realized that my list sounded a lot like individuals and a lot less like groups of stuff I did.
I glanced around at my girls. “Who would you go to if you really needed help? If you were sad, if you were hurting, if you needed a good cry, or if you really needed good advice?”
One by one they began to name people that mattered more to them than softball, than band, than youth group and lunch tables. I watched as lightbulbs went off in their heads.
The Disney channel gives us one idea of friendship. It looks like slumber parties and besties and shared interests. This idea isn’t invalid, but it certainly isn’t enough. It’s time to call out the Disney channel version of friendship. We were made for more and our youth were made for more.
Let’s be honest…
Sports, music, clubs, and activities are great. Authentic relationships develop in these arenas, but we have to seek it. It doesn’t happen without work. It doesn’t happen without gut wrenching self-discovery of what matters most to us, which is also work. It doesn’t happen naturally and it doesn’t happen overnight. We need good parents and mentors showing us what to look for.
Community is sharing burdens, not just having fun. Community is people who put marbles in our jar, as Brene Brown would say. It’s people who love us for us and not an idea of what we might be for them. It’s people who help you ask the hard questions of whether you are living the life God intended you to, helping you determine whether your hopes and dreams are congruent with what you do with your time day in and day out.
I hear from pastor’s wives all the time that genuine friendship is their greatest desire. Someone who sees them as a real person, not an outsider, not a pious woman, and not a facade of I-have-it-all-together. What I have discovered in my own journey is that there are hundreds of women, thousands of women, millions of women across cultural groups, economic statuses, and geographic regions that want the same thing.
The best answer I have to the friendship problem is to love one another.
It sounds pat and a little ridiculous and like no solution at all, but loving deep and wide, authentically loving in the good and the hard draws some kind of boundary line. People that aren’t up for the challenge will walk away, and that will be sad and difficult. But 1 in 100 will stay. They will cross that boundary line and hug you. They will ask to be invited in further by sharing themselves with you. They will weep with you and laugh with you and tell you to knock it off and eventually they will hold your babies for you and rock them to sleep when you are just done.
They will be so worth the effort.
In doing this we can also teach the next generation of girls – real friendship is worth all of it. It’s worth the fog of adolescent discovery, the sting of rejection, the tears of loneliness.
Worth all of it to find the genuine, to find the real, to find…community.
We have a friend who sticks closer to a brother. Let us pray to Him, present our hearts to Him. Lord, we need a friend! We need a crew, a squad, some peeps! We need to love and be loved, really and truly in return. Jesus, hear our prayer!
And He does.
It may take time. It may take way longer than we would like. But He always sticks close. He has those real and authentic people planned for us. I promise you they are out there, girls.
Genuine community is being surrounded by broken authentic people who love Him so much that they love a broken authentic sinner like me, as is, no returns. Can I be that person for someone else? Yes, yes, I believe I can.
Authentic community…worth the trouble. #squadgoals