Earlier this summer my friend Alyssa and I were meeting at a local state park for a beach day with our kids. Another friend of hers whom I hadn't met yet was also meeting us there. When Alyssa introduced me to her friend on the beach that day, she said, "This is the friend I was telling you about...Rebecca...she drinks her coffee black."
Note...it was sunny and hot and we were on the beach. Coffee was no part of our playdate. And yet that's how she introduced me. My first reaction was to laugh and say, "What!? Is it really that noteworthy that I drink my coffee black? Is there no other defining characteristic of my personality that would be more fitting for an introduction?"
And then my next reaction was, "I love that you know how I drink my coffee."
A group of girlfriends and I have been drinking coffee late into the evenings once a week or sometimes once a month for the better part of 10 years. Together we've walked through the early difficult years of marriage, job changes, home purchases, pregnancies, adoptions, births, miscarriages, infertility, marriage struggles, marriage joys, children's diagnoses, church struggles, cancer, and the death of parents. These girls were at my mom's funeral.
Together we've studied the Bible, we've read books on marriage and parenting and prayer, we've spent thousands during shopping trips together, and we've laughed til we cried. If you're reading this, friend, I love you. And after 10 years of drinking coffee with you, I still need you. I want to drink coffee with you for at least 6 more decades. I know it probably won't be every week anymore or maybe not even every month as our lives and kids and schedules head in various directions, but let's drink coffee when we can.
We all need friends who know how we take our coffee, don't we? Or tea, for you non-coffee drinkers. Or riesling or chardonnay, whatever you fancy.
Friendship has been on my heart this summer. In summer's craziness, there are dear friends that I haven't seen all summer. Other friends I've seen frequently at pools and parks. My daughters miss their school friends too and are excited to show all their new school clothes to the friends they haven't seen all summer. One of our family's closest family friends are moving away soon and we are very sad to see them go. It will leave a big hole in our lives when they leave next month.
Also, we've changed churches recently and are in the process of finding good friends at our new church so we can have more meaningful, connected conversations during the fellowship hour. Small talk is painful to both Paul and I.
Making new friends is hard...maybe even more-so for adults than for children.
I look forward to going back to the gym this fall, not only because all my summertime doritoes have made my waistlines tight, but because I miss my friends from exercise class. (It's not the intense pain that draws me back to Barre class every week; it's the joy of chatting with my friends as we destroy our hamstrings on the barre.). This summer I made a new friend from the other side of the world and am hopeful that our paths will cross again.
So, yes, friendship is on my mind. I need my friends. And there are many of you out there that I want to be friends with. I want to know how you take your coffee. I want to know your heart and what makes you tick.
I have this sometimes socially awkward trait of being unable to make small talk. Honestly, I don't know how. Sometimes it would be so much more socially appropriate if I could make small talk, but I can't. I dive right in. How's your marriage? How's your heart? How's that medication working? How do you discipline 3-year-old tantrums? What do you think of pre-destination? What's your dream? What are you afraid of?
This friend-thing is in our design, actually. In the six days of Creation, God said everything was good. And His creation of mankind He called, "very good." Yet, as Adam was naming all the animals, God said, "It's not good for the man to be alone." (Genesis 2:18)
This is the first time in the Bible that God said something wasn't good. Adam was alone...(sort of...I mean, he was in perfect fellowship with God, yet God said he was alone.)
This clearly indicates that God created us not only for communion with Him, but also to have communion with each other.
We can easily think that when God said this statement, He was only referring to the marriage relationship, since He created marriage immediately afterward. Marriage is certainly designed to be the closest human relationship...simple anatomy alone tells us that the marital union of a man and a woman is the most intimate earthly relationship.
But let us not think that this minimizes or diminishes the value of friendship. Every healthily married person you talk to will tell you that marriage cannot replace friendships. I don't know how many times in our first five years Paul said, "Rebecca, I can't be your girlfriend. I'm your husband. Please talk to your girlfriends about this." (Likewise, there are innumerable times when I've suggested he save certain conversations for the fire station!)
The Scriptures make it clear that God's plan for some people (including the Apostle Paul and Jesus himself) is singlehood. And yet, we know that being alone is God's plan for no one.
Married or single, God's plan for every single one of us is communion with one another and with Him.
Friendship matters. Real relationships matter.
He wants us to have friends that know how we take our coffee. That's His heart for you and me.
But what hurts me is the number of women I meet who tell me they don't have close friends. Young moms, oftentimes stay at home moms, who are so wrapped up in their obligations at home that they don't have time to invest into friendships. This is so common, and so understandable. But sister, if this is you, you need friends. I will be your friend. Marriage and parenting are hard...I don't know how I would have made it through the early years without my coffee girlfriends to help me debrief after marital arguments or help me through my first three-year-old tantrums or tell me it was okay to not breastfeed (and a thousand other things). We have met late into the evening for years, after the kids are in bed until midnight many times, and we are so tired because of it. But we've needed it, craved it, cherished it.
And I also know there are so many men who don't have fellow men to share life with. I mean, many men work alongside each other for 40 hours a week, but how many really share their hearts with each other? They carry heavy weight, remember? And they need fellow men to walk alongside them and help them bear their burdens. Let's encourage them in this way. And pray this for them.
So why is it so hard to make good friends? This summer when my daughter went to Bible camp, we didn't know ahead of time anyone in her cabin. She was brave, though, and it didn't hinder her excitement. I just reminded her that every girl in her cabin also needed new friends, so she could be brave and be their friend. And she did just that.
So, why is it so hard for adults? Why do we grow walls around our hearts as we get older? Why can't we all remember that just like the little girls in that cabin at camp, we all need friends? Extrovert, introvert, married, single, children, no children, millionaire or dirt poor - we all need friends. It's how we're designed.
This past winter I had a unique opportunity to have dinner with my aunt, her 89-year-old mother, and her mother's 89-year-old best friend. These two matriarchs, Ruth and Eleanor, had been friends since they were 14 years old. Count it, friends. That's 75 years of friendship. That's more than double the years of my life thus far, and it's longer than the years my Mom ever even got to live. Significant.
That means puberty, first periods, trying on bras, proms, the span of many wars and presidents, watching technology enter the world and then take off like crazy, marriages, raising children, family camping trips, children's weddings, grandchildren's births, death of husbands, and eventually the ovarian cancer that just recently took the life of one of these beautiful women.
It was an experience I'll never forget, the two hours I sat across from these two beautiful women as they laughed and reminisced 3/4 of a century of friendship together. Oh the stories and the laughter and the finishing of each others' sentences! (To top it all off, Eleanor had a voice almost identical to Meryl Streep, my favorite, which just made the evening that much more like something from a movie.)
This is something to aspire to, friends. To reach for and fight for our friendships. To let down the walls around our hearts and open up to the life-giving nature of friendship. Because as much as you need a friend that will listen to your struggles or joys, so does the woman next door or across the street or the guy in the office next to you. And I mean really, none of our struggles are unique to us anyway. We all share the same stories...they just happen to us at different times in different orders and in different ways. This should give us peace in opening our hearts to others...either they've been there already or they will be there someday soon. As Ecclesiastes says, "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." (1:9)
This doesn't mean we need to bare our souls to everyone we meet. Obviously we need to choose healthy relationships in which to open up. And even bloggers like me who pour out our hearts in our blogs need to choose healthy ways in which to do that. But the point is that our hearts were meant to be shared...protected for certain, but shared too. And to be shared in person, face to face, not simply online. Social media is a tool for relationships, but it shouldn't be the source of our relationships.
So this is my invitation, friends. Open your heart. An open heart is a breath of fresh air to most people. Share your pain, because for certain someone else shares your pain. Share your joy, because for certain someone else shares your joy too. Neither joy nor sorrow are meant to be lived alone. Both are better in the context of friendship.
If we're honest, most of us are tired of the superficial half-hearted culture we're living in. We ask each other "How are you?" but most of us neither take the time to listen nor do we expend the energy to share. We think if we share our stories, we'll be "too much" for the other person to handle. But really, an honest, open heart is like oxygen. It gives life and hope. And invitation to be real in a fake society.
And sisters, if you need a friend, I'm here. The coffee pot is on and I can mix up a cake crazy fast.
And by the way, I drink my coffee black.