Hey y’all! Every quarter I write for my amazing home church here in Nashville. Today I have a post up over there, so take a look for September 7 here.
I heard the ping, ping, ping of a nail going into a piece of wood echo in the room. Words, lies, hurt, anger, things carried by women for far longer than they should of, and some since childhood, getting nailed to a cross. If I am still long enough, a week later, I can still hear it.
And there’s part of me that knows the devil does not want me to remember that. He likes me hearing words, believing lies he’s fed me and living in a place of hopeless regret and bitterness, turning to gossip and envy rather than pouring out love and support, encouragement and joy.
Y’all. I know without a doubt God has given me a desire to work in women’s ministry. To write about faith, singleness, dating, community. To put together studies and gather women to uplift one another. I know that without a single doubt in my mind. But here’s the kicker I have wrestled so hard and for so long with: I don’t do relationships with my fellow ladies well.
That’s the reminder I get when I start writing, when I sign up to lead a small group, when I step out to engage other women. You don’t do it well. Who are you to do this? Your circle is small. It’s like he knows what my downfall is, what will make me stumble and run back to my hiding place. Where I circle up with my self and vow that I won’t put myself out there, to look ridiculous and be known. I’d rather stay to the outskirts and not be hurt or mocked.
Even writing all of this has been a difficult step for me over this last week. Because I’ve had to admit to myself that I would prefer to live in the lie and doubt God rather than trust Him fully with the work He’s doing all along. And so last Monday I sat sobbing…ladies around me not understanding why or knowing what I wrote on that sheet of paper and put down on that cross-knowing Jesus Himself took care of it so long ago so that I wouldn’t carry it anymore, that I should have never carried it to begin with. But I had taken to living in James 3:16, choosing envy of others living out what I believed God had given me and seeking my own selfish ambition in my own strength…I was leaning into words and perceived slights of others as a means of willful disobedience and mistrust of God.
Y’all it’s an ugly place to be in, where you point the finger of judgement and unmet/unreasonable expectations of others, seeking to gossip and cut down fellow believers instead of building each other up through encouragement and support. It’s not mine to define how someone should be a friend to me, nor should I choose to sin against them when they don’t meet expectations I have falsely established for them. My life should look more like verses 17 and 18 of James 3-peace loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy, bearing out the good fruit of righteousness.
And so a work God had long since started in me, came bearing out in the pings of a nail and a hammer onto the cross Monday night. Surrounded by women from across the church, fighting to let go and put the lies, the hurt, the doubt, the anger, all of it. That view was intended specifically for me. That sound. That moment. Because God knew only that would get me to wake up to what He’d been aiming straight at my heart with for months…that the desire of His heart was calling to mine if I would but listen, lay everything else down and pick up the cross instead.
I had to hear that specific ping of death, the death nail of the lies and sin I had chosen repeatedly to finally see the weight of it all…to know He long took it from me, if I’d but put it there for good.
About 18 months ago I walked into a group fitness room at the Y scared out of my mind. It’s a source of anxiety for me to try something new like that alone. But I thought that January was a good time to try something out since there would more than likely be other people checking out group fitness classes.
If you know anything about me or have read this blog any over those last 18 months I have made mention of that fitness class, because it’s been a constant since that time. I have been doing POUND for that long but even more than that, I have developed friendships that go beyond a class at the Y. Female friendships y’all. Which you know is a struggle for me in many ways as well.
But these women, well they motivate, support, challenge and encourage like no other women I know. We talk all kinds of life stuff when we can catch our breath, we choose to spend time with one another outside of the gym, and we yell at each other when we don’t show up at the gym (hi, I got a barrage of poo emojis sent to me because I skipped last week).
But most of all, walking into that class has brought me confidence in being me. In seeing that I am more than an elliptical hugging introvert. That my body can and will go further than I set it’s limitations to be. That it does not matter what I look like when I enter, but how I feel when I leave (except for last night and “hot POUND” as we called it). It’s about knowing I can show up and do, or sit back and complain. It is about opening up myself to more by just showing up and being willing. It’s about looking to others to join you on that journey, and wanting other women to know what it feels like to be welcomed.
So this is my ode to POUND today, and the people it has brought into my life, and the ways it’s made me stronger beyond just a physical means. It’s the Rise of the Rebel, and boy are we about that rebel life ’round here.
Y’all, I have to say that I haven’t been very good with the female friendships in my life. I am more prone to male friendships over the years, as the guys I was close with in college can attest (except for Brooke and Angela). I found that women often brought drama and I wanted as far away from it as possible, still do.
As I have gotten older though I have found that I crave female friendships, women to connect with and talk with. There are certain things that frankly I just cannot with men-and honestly, should not. So I dug into Never Unfriended from Lisa-Jo Baker, her newest out from B&H Publishing over the last couple of weeks.
This book? Well I was prepared to think it was another in a line of gushy women-love books for believers. I was prepped to read alot of fluff and not much content, and oft mis-contextualized Scripture thrown in for good measure. But that was not the case y’all.
It chronicles Lisa-Jo’s own walk in female friendships, starting first with what we fear about them. Chapters dig into the realities of life lived outside of a computer/phone screen in real life with women around us. What holds us back from them, and what keeps us talking about them long after they’ve departed.
“For better or worse, female friendships take courage to start and courage to maintain.” (pg. 43)
She walks you through being the new girl, and y’all, we will always be the new girl at some point. And we’ll also be the girl to include the new girl. Always.
As you dig deeper into this book you’ll find sections on what you can do about your friendships and what you cannot do. We have to embrace both, as Lisa-Jo points out. There are points of application in some areas, and points to pray and seek further wisdom on. There were points where I had to put down the book and reflect on friendships I had let go of and ones I had so desperately clung to when I shouldn’t have.
This book is a much needed resource for women today. It highlights key areas I see continuously besieging friendships I am in, and those I am on the fringes of. You may disagree with her on some points, but allow the Holy Spirit to convict you as you read as well, opening up the space you have guarded off due to broken trust and hurt in past relationships. I highly recommend this book for women in a single context. I wouldn’t encourage a group study on this per say, as you need space to solely process and work through some areas she brings up…or maybe that was just me.
At the end you’ll find where you can start on never being unfriended, but you already have if you’ve picked up this book. Lisa-Jo provides more than platitudes with this book, she provides opportunities for women to connect and grow in community in real-life friendships, not the ones we see plaguing our jealous hearts across Instagram and Pinterest.
In exchange for this review, a free copy of the book was provided by the publisher, B&H. You can pick up this book at LifeWay Christian Stores or on their website, as well as other retailers nationwide.
For almost the last year I have been grieving the gradual death of a friendship, trying as I might to revive something that just is flat out dead. The reality of that death hit me hard this weekend, much like any death would. I had to come to the very real and grave decision to let this friendship die. Several friends I have discussed this with over the course of the year were encouraging and supportive, where this friendship had been concerned, allowing me to talk through it and fight to sustain it.
We don’t talk much about this really, as we grow more into being seen as having all these friendships, connections and followers in our social media world. I see books pouring out about connection and engagement, craving it with one another. That is good y’all, I really do champion that. But I think we forget the ugly side of it too, that some friendships do die, even after years of relational contact. Some glide away, rolling in and out like the tide on a lazy day at the beach.
But some? Well you find yourself grieving and worrying, pouring too much and not enough into, and finding yourself being torn further by keeping them alive and sustaining them. But it must be done. Some times that means we are the ones who have to kill it. We have to put it down to put it out of it’s misery, and quite possibly our own. You shouldn’t be filled with regret after leaving time with that friend, ever. That’s not a friendship worth keeping alive.
If I am filled with regret after time spent with this friend, why do I continue to allow this friendship to stay alive?
That’s the question I had to ask myself yesterday. It’s the one I have consistently had to ask myself over the last year of seeing this friendship die and going back with the paddles to bring it back to life. Dear friends would say, “It’s for the best, let it die.” I would champion on, trying to find redemption, pointing to times where encouragement and respect were at the forefront. But those snippets were small and distant the longer this friendship continued on life support.
The greatest gift we can give ourselves is the ability to grieve something like this, and then move forward from it. Just as I talked about One Way Friendships before, I think we have to be a friend to ourselves first in order to realize that some deaths are inevitable in friendships, and that we can be better from it. I saw that over the course of this year I have forfeited some of my very own words, truth and love in order to give life to a friendship that should have had the plug pulled.
Grieve the loss, but don’t let the nostalgia of a seasonal friendship deceive you into thinking it’s a lifelong one. As has been said before, some friends are here for a reason, others for a season, and still others for a lifetime. But for our own good, and the good of our other friendships, don’t try to make one of those into something are not. Allow them to die, grieve the loss, and forge into relationships meant for you in your season, for whatever reason, and pouring into those lifelong ones which enjoy all the stages of life, even the grieving of death.
As a single lady it’s often hard to define the relationships I have outside of marital status with certain friends. “Yeah, he’s my friend, and that’s his wife.” When you are single in your 30’s and beyond, it becomes an interesting thing to have friendships that aren’t in couples or defined by the status of ones romantic relationships. It becomes harder for many to navigate the boundaries (or even know what they are) within the confines of friendships of the opposite sex.
Recently I read this great article from Paul Maxwell that does one of the best jobs I’ve seen outside of Gary Thomas’s Boundaries books in laying out some specific parameters and cautions, as well as benefits in being friends with the opposite sex.
Yes, he defines it in Christian terms, but I do think across the board this applies to any friendship between men and women. Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below on this topic we often shy away from in Christian circles because it’s just not something we navigate well-at least not from lack of trying…
Prayer is often a struggle for me, if I am honest. This coming from a woman who is constantly asking how and what I can pray on for friends and family. To the woman who used to sit in her church’s war room on Sundays during a service and pray over everyone in that auditorium.
Yes, prayer has become a struggle because I simply cannot find the words beyond a simple, “Lord, be with them.” “Lord, comfort them in their time of grief and need.” “Lord provide in ways only you can.” “Lord, I am sorry.”
That’s about it. Words that don’t seem to have belief behind them. Words that feel dry and rejected being spoken…faith somewhere else than in the One listening to those words.
A longtime friend recently shared a simple request when prompted for what I could be praying on for them, and so I began to pray these same words over them. Feeling a sense of that God probably wasn’t much into listening to me yet again pander with words what I wasn’t really believing, that He was there and desiring to hear from me. That He could provide and speak into the needs of my intercessions.
So with a loss of words (and I dare say some faith in prayer) I took steps away from time talking to God. I trudged away holding my journal thinking it was all a big waste. It’s then I realized the purposefulness of time spent with Him, a time when I felt unheard and alone that I saw how real God desires a relationship, to hear from me and my heart, the struggles I keep within and those I come to Him with on behalf of others.
But the words still wouldn’t come because it felt weird, like that friend you’ve gone too long in seeing face to face…you aren’t sure where to start or if you can still go deep with them.
So I turned to His Word and what He has said to me and began to pray His truth, affirming it for myself and rejoicing in what He was already doing….
I thank You always concerning my friend for Your grace which was given to them by Christ Jesus, that they are enriched in everything by You in all utterance and all knowledge even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in them, so that they come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of You Lord Jesus, that You will also confirm them to the end, that they may be blameless in the day of You. You are faithful, by whom they were called into the fellowship of Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
adapted from 1 Corinthians 1:4-9
He has already given us the words when we don’t have them, when we struggle to voice laments, praises, hurts, griefs and sorrows…joy and excitement…all of it. He has given us the words to speak, to pray, to be in relationship with Him when our faith wanes, when the heaviness of this life seems to push down and make us want to trudge away with our own emotions. He speaks, so that we may have the words to come to Him.
This season of words that won’t come is still very present for me, but I also know that to open His Word and pray them over myself, over others, to speak His Name is enough…it’s more than enough because He has provided…He has heard…and He meets me here each and every moment, even in the silence, He knows. So I take up this prayer again…for others, for myself, for Him…to be a part of the relationship I need and He desires for me.