When it comes to friendship, I have been on the receiving end of beautiful, grace-filled friendships for the better part of the last 6 years. When I was utterly incapable of loving others well or putting others needs above my own there were women holding me up, standing in my stead, pleading with the Father for grace and peace and joy on my behalf.
When one sees another experience tragedy, the tendency can be to run; run out of fear or out of sadness or confusion or simply out of a desire to avoid an awkward situation or pain or simply the unknown. And though I did encounter those reactions to a small degree, I mostly just encountered grace.
I found women, or rather they found me, and chose to do the hard thing… to dive headlong into my pain. They gave me the freedom to weep and the freedom to laugh. They prayed for me when I could not and would not and they challenged me to see a Jesus who heals those that are broken and comforts those who are hurting.
Through these women I have experienced selflessness when I have been the most selfish. I have experienced true sacrifice and thoughtfulness amidst the most uncomfortable of circumstances. I have experienced love when I have been difficult to love. I have experienced hope when all seems hopeless. I have experienced joy amidst absolute heartache.
I have experienced the grace of Jesus through women who chose to put their needs, wants, desires, ambitions, and feelings aside to care for another. To forsake their life, to love me well and in so doing show me light amidst darkness.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
Experiencing such beautiful friendships develop was a real life, in the moment, in the face of hard and ugly realities, Jesus making all things new; He made beauty from ashes.
One of the biggest lessons I have learned through grieving the loss of a son is that I have gained a truer understanding of what it means to love another as Jesus loves us.
So, what does it look like to practically lay my life down for another?
- It means I give without expecting anything in return because Jesus has given me all that I need.
- It means I forgive when I have been hurt, wronged or betrayed because Jesus first, and fully, forgave me.
- It means I can be transparent and vulnerable because I am fully known by a God who holds no guilt, shame or condemnation over me.
- It means I ask hard questions and say the hard thing when necessary because I love their soul more than their opinion of me.
- It means I pray diligently for their needs because I have seen Jesus faithful to answer the prayers of those praying for me.
- It means I encourage those I love towards a life of obedience and holiness because I trust that His way is better than our way and that He is faithful to complete the work He has started in each of us.
- It means I can sincerely ask ‘how are you doing?‘ when it is so awkward and uncomfortable and my personal preference would be to keep it light and right at the surface and yet desire to hear the real answer and press for that real answer because I know that no matter the answer I am not the savior and I am unable to redeem, make new or ‘fix’ any situation or circumstance. BUT I have the freedom to point them to the Savior, the God who is responsible, fully in control and capable of working in all situations. I know and trust that nothing is beyond the redemptive hand of Christ.
- It also means I take the time to get to know them, what are their needs, how do they feel the most loved and ministering to them in that way because I am already fully loved by Christ. Fully.
Lastly, it means knowing what are hard and sensitive things and just diving in to those, serving and meeting needs where you can.
For the longest time I could not physically check on my babies if they were asleep. I was the one who found our son no longer alive so that brings with it a level of fear that is otherwise unknown to a mother. My body would begin trembling at the thought that my napping baby was actually dead in the other room. Countless times I have called on my friends to literally go in for me. And countless times they said yes. And they never questioned. They never said, get over it or gave me counsel or tried to give me logic. And they never ever made me feel silly or ridiculous. They simply served me and loved me in those moments.
Listen for ways your friends are hurting. Listen for ways to serve them. I promise that God has not intertwined your lives in vain. Ask Him to use you in big ways to be grace to another.
I pray you pursue deep, meaningful, true, sacrificial and selfless friendships for your good and His glory.
And I pray that if you are not currently experiencing a true friendship, that you would ask the Father to put a woman in your life that you can begin to pour into. A woman that you can give to, pray for, challenge, encourage and sincerely ask ‘how are you doing?‘ True friendship starts with the laying down of one’s own personal needs and desires for the sake of another.
To those women who have been all these things to me:
Thank you for being God’s grace to me. Thank you for loving and serving me well in the hardest and most beautiful of days.