Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks to you like family. Proverbs 18:24 MSG
Friendship wounds hurt. They can hurt so deep that we wonder if friends are worth the hassle. When I was a teenager, a friend verbally attacked me on a social media platform (who remembers AIM?). Her words echoed in my head and brought forward all of the self doubt and negative thoughts I feared true about myself. These words seemed so true and real, I began to believe what she said. You know the saying, “sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me?” Well, these words did hurt. They really hurt me. They cut into my soul. They created wounds so deep that I could only suppress them by blocking them from my memory. Instead of addressing the issue, I sought revenge and refused to forgive her. I put up walls to keep myself safe and keep others at a safe distance. As I grew more mature, I was able to overcome the ideas those lies had formed, but at that age I was unaware of the weight words can carry. The damage to a teenage girl, transitioning into a young woman, had been done, and it stayed with me into motherhood.
I struggled to find and maintain relationships with women. I was unable to trust other girls/women for many years. The majority of my young adult relationships and early years of marriage were centered around the relationships that came from others. Not until becoming a mother, to a beautiful daughter, did I seek friends. It was in that setting that I became aware of how lonely I was. I needed peers who I could laugh, cry, and grow with. A hospital class for newborn mothers led to encounters with other women walking on the same path in life. We enjoyed playdates together, relationships formed, and I was so excited to have a good group of friends!
Just as quick as the excitement of making these new friends came on, my fear of being wounded awoke. Self doubt began to creep back into my life. Did I say the right thing? Did I do the right thing? Do these women really like me? I remember leaving a playdate thinking how stupid I was for saying some of the things I said. The fear manifested in me, and I was convinced that these girls were never going to invite me back. They, like others, would hurt me. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy, allowing ourselves to create turmoil in our own minds. But this is not what these women thought of me at all! Looking back, I realize God was orchestrating these relationships and allowing these woman to speak truth into me. They built trust in me and showed me to love like Christ loves.
Several of these friends were joining a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group at our church, and I knew I needed to join, too. Our church and MOPS group have a passion for people sharing their story. Our story is the story God created in us and is part of His big story. Through sharing my story I have learned when we take off our masks and dare to be known, walls are broken down, freedom is felt, and healing can happen. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 ESV) Sharing my story with the women in MOPS, women I knew I could trust, allowed the chains that were holding me captive to be broken. I WAS FREE!
I now understand that loneliness is not the plan God intends for us. We are God's children. The children He loves. God calls us to seek out friendships, invest in people, to have compassion, show kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. I am learning to forgive as the Lord forgives. Over all these virtues I have learned to love deeply; I have let the peace of Christ rule in my heart. (from Colossians 3:12-15)
I still struggle with negative thoughts. But I know that Godly friendships, those that have vulnerability, transparency, and authenticity are worth investing in.