Three Little Words That Ignite Friendship

friendship

They are just three little words.

But they are hard to say.

And they’re not, “I love you.”

They are more honest than that. They are more desperate than that. They are more powerful than that.

And they are what real friendship is made of.

I heard my little sister say those three little words to me on the phone, as her 8-month-old cried in the background, and my two-year-old spread oatmeal through her hair, and because she said them, and the way she said them, I dropped my plans and met her an hour away at an outlet mall–because I knew she meant them.

I said those three little words last fall, the night I stood at my friend’s door in the pouring rain, frazzled and overwhelmed, because I felt like such a failure as a mom, and she invited me in. And we hugged, and I just cried on her couch. And somehow all my questions and all my fears were answered in her very simple smile. And her gentle nodding, and offering me tissues, and brownies.

And that same friend said those three little words in a text message last week, along with the news that made me bury my face in my hands, and cry for her, and drive to her house with a bouquet of white roses that weren’t enough, but they were all I could think of. And we just sat on her couch, without words, and tried not to cry, while her toddler daughter sat between us and held both of our hands, as if she understood it all perfectly–as if she were the very peace of God.

***

The three little words are not profound, but they are powerful. And when it comes to friendships, they move mountains.

So what are the three little words? They are,

I need you.

“I need you.”

It’s what my sister said on the phone, before we both took off to meet each other at a random “food court” rendezvous point, so we could see each other in person. So we could, even for a couple hours, be the sisters we were as children, the sisters that used to jump on the bed together, and talk late into the night–the sisters we desperately still need to be. And that day, I went to meet her because she needed me. But I drove home, realizing just how much I needed her.

“I need you.”

It’s what I said to my friend when I felt I was losing it as a mom. When I felt I was going to break from all the sleepless nights and crying. When I just needed to know she understood me. That she was for me. And that I wasn’t alone.

“I need you.”

It’s what my friend texted me the morning after a very long and dark night. “I need you…and I need you to pray for me.”

And she said later at her house, “I’m so sorry to drag you through this with me.”

And my heart wrenched because, what she didn’t know, what my flowers couldn’t say, what my words couldn’t express, was just how honored I was to be at her side. Just to walk with her through the valley. Just to sit with her until the dawn. Just to be her friend.

“I need you.”

They are just three simple words, so why are they so hard to say?

Maybe because we don’t want to believe we really need anyone.

Because maybe that makes us needy. Maybe that makes us incapable of doing it ourselves. Maybe that makes us no longer self-sufficient.

But do you know what God calls that kind of do-it-myself-at-all-costs type of self-sufficiency?

Pride.

And pride makes a person very lonely.

It’s not just about having friends. It’s about having friends who you can fail in front of. Who you can be weak in front of. And it’s about giving your friends permission to serve you, when you need it.

We all want to be the stronger friend. We all want to be the advice-giver, not the advice-seeker. We all want to be the one ministering to others. We all want to look like we have it together (and typically hide away, until we do.)

But what if this is actually killing our relationships?

What if this desire to appear stronger, and wiser, and more peaceful than we really are, is actually making us weaker? What if it’s destroying our friendships, not saving them?

The generation we live in is more “self-sufficient” than any generation prior. We don’t really need each other anymore. I don’t need to ask my mom for parenting advice, I can get that online. I don’t need to call my sister for that recipe, I have Pinterest. I don’t need to ask my friend how she overcame a difficult season, I can just Google it.

It’s easier than ever before to become isolated.

But something beautiful happens when we need each other. And we’re not afraid to admit it.

Maybe the people closest to you don’t really know, how much you need them. Maybe they don’t realize how much they need you. But realizing we need one another, is the beginning of something; it’s the beginning of friendship.

So I’m going to dare you to tell them, to say those three little words:

“I need you.”

I don’t know who needs to hear it, but I guarantee someone does.

Maybe you need to say it to the friend you can’t imagine life without. The one who wipes your daughter’s runny nose without being asked. The one who broke a sweat putting your car seat into her car, just so you could ride together. The one who reminds you—you aren’t alone.

Maybe you need to say it to your sister, who you used to be so close with, and somehow have grown apart over the years. Maybe she feels you’re too busy with your own world, to enter hers. Maybe she doesn’t know that no one else in the universe can take her place, or make you feel like a kid again the way she does, or laugh the way she makes you laugh.

Maybe you need to say it to your mom, who feels you are too grown up for her now, or that you are too modern for her now, and that you don’t need her 80’s and 90’s advice–because you know better, when really you don’t. Because everyone needs a mom, no matter how much they deny it. And maybe she hasn’t felt needed by you for a very long time, not since putting on your diapers, and packing your lunches, and helping you pick out your prom dress–and she needs to hear you say those three little words that transform you back into the child she used to hold on her hip, the one one that used to lay her head on her chest when you were scared. You know you spent half your childhood calling out for her, even in the night, “Mom! Mom! Mom!” And maybe…she just longs to hear you say it again, “Mom, I need you.

And maybe you need to say it to your husband, who feels estranged from you, even in your own bed. Who lives in your house, but feels a million miles away some nights. Because you’ve gotten good at serving him, but you’ve forgotten how to be his friend. And maybe he just needs you to lay on the couch and watch a football game with him, or to watch a movie (he picked out) together, or to stay up late and play a game of cards at the kitchen table. Maybe you’ve forgotten how to laugh together, how to have fun. And you’ve forgotten, he didn’t marry you to do his chores, or to oversee his schedule, he married you to be his wife. To be his friend. And just like everyone else, he waits to be needed. So maybe tonight you need to roll to the middle of your bed and whisper those three little words, “I need you.”

Oh weary soul, where are your friends? Perhaps they are all in waiting, waiting to be needed by you. Waiting to hear, those three little words, “I need you.” And if you can say them, and mean them, I think you will find a beautiful exchange of grace waiting for you there–in this place called “friendship.”

“For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Matt. 7:8) And when the door opens, I bet it will open faster, and stronger, and wider than you ever imagined. And when it does, and you’re just standing there on the porch, all you have to say, is three little words,

“I need you.”

 

Does Infertility Affect Friendships?

friendship

“So…do you guys think you might, I mean, someday, ever want to have kids?” My friend asks me as we play with her toddler on the floor. I see the curve of her belly, pregnant with their second. She doesn’t know we’ve actually been trying for over a year—with no success of conceiving. She doesn’t know I actually ache to be in her shoes. Swollen feet and all. “Oh, yeah,” I say, “We definitely want kids.” And I roll the ball to her toddler, trying to act as natural as possible.

Inside, I have no idea if I will be able to have kids. And I wonder if she knows, we’re trying. I wonder if she knows I would be a mom by now, if I could. And that as disheveled and chaotic as she feels, and as unattractive as she thinks she looks, with her postpartum curves—she actually looks incredibly beautiful to me. But I don’t know how to say this. Not today. 

My friend is sweet, and doesn’t press further. And I feel relieved when she doesn’t.

***

I was completely blindsided by it: infertility. I remember so naively waiting those two minutes for that first pregnancy test, feeling so sure it would be positive. I envisioned us jumping up and down in celebration. But instead, we just stood there. “Maybe it will just take a little while,” my husband said. “Yeah,” I tried to shrug off the disappointment, “Maybe.”

But month after month of trying to conceive, my period came back. And months turned into years of waiting. And crying. And praying. And wondering…

What was wrong with us?

All of our friends were on babies #2 and #3, but we could not get pregnant with one. As our friends’ families grew with new babies—it was just still just the two of us. As our friends traded in their cars for SUV’s and minivans, and turned offices into nurseries—we would walk by our extra bedrooms and pray God would fill them someday. Somehow.

Sometimes it felt like the world kept rushing past us, while we just stayed still, frozen in time. Waiting for God to move.

Now looking back on those years of waiting, I see God was moving the whole time. In fact, He did some of His best work in us during those years. And He did it, before I ever got pregnant. He opened my eyes to see. And instead of seeing my life as a barren wasteland of disappointment, I saw Him. I saw His beauty–and that though my womb was barren, my soul didn’t have to be. He began to make me alive in Him and began to birth something in me that would change the way I see forever.  (You can read more about my infertility story here.)

But what about in the meantime? How does infertility affect friendships between women? And if you are already a mom, how should you approach a friend who is possibly unable to conceive?

I can’t speak for other women—I only know my own experience with infertility—but here are a few ways women who are already mothers can honor their “childless” friends, whether they are “childless” by choice, singleness, or infertility.

1. Realize the Mommy Club can be slightly exclusive. Being a mom now for two and a half years, I have grown to love the Mommy Club. I love swapping labor stories, poop stories, and tantrum stories with other other moms, just to know I’m not alone in this. Motherhood is an incredible bond between women (even women who are just passing by in the grocery store!) But the “Mommy Club,” as wonderful as it is, can be a little exclusive at times to non-mothers, especially in the Church. And this often happens quite innocently. All the moms are laughing and going on and on, swapping war-stories from the mommy trenches, and raving about the best butt paste, and the non-mother has nothing to contribute except, “I babysat in high school once.” (Cricket, cricket.)

Now, this doesn’t mean you should drop your mom fellowship time. (Not at all!)  It’s just something to be aware of, so that you can love, and include, and value the woman who is not a mother, just as much as the one who is. And in order to do this, we as moms have to, “Look not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).

2. Include Your Non-Mom Friends. I think many moms assume that “non-moms” would never want to come to a play date, or meet up at the mall when your kids are present.  But I loved when my friends would include me in things like this, without the prerequisite of being a mom. I’m so thankful for friends that invited me into their daily life at home with kids because this helped me see what it was like to be a mom, and made me desire to be a mom.

Although motherhood is a strong bond, it’s not the only bond women can have. For Christians hopefully there is a bond even stronger than motherhood, and that is being a part of God’s kingdom together. Being a daughter of God connects me to every other female in the body of Christ—whether she’s two, or twenty-two, or sixty-two. It’s a sisterhood that began long before I ever conceived my daughter. And it’s one that will need to exist while I raise my daughter, and long after she has a family of her own.

3. Be Sensitive In Approaching The Topic Of Infertility. If you are already a mom and curiously wondering if, or when your childless friend will ever have children, try to be patient. I never minded at all if someone asked, “Do you think you ever want to have kids?” It was what happened beyond that question. The moment you ask, “Well, are you trying?” You are pawing at a box she might not want opened—or hasn’t initiated opening, anyway. For your friend who is battling infertility, it might feel to her like you are going through her underwear drawer. It might feel like you are saying, “So..when are you gonna have kids? Are you having sex, or what? What birth control are you using? How long have you been off of it? Is he still wearing a condom? How’s your man’s sperm count? Is everything working down there with you two? Are you guys having enough sex?” (Whoa.) No, thanks.

Don’t let your curiosity get the best of you. Or your friendship. You may get the information you want, but you’ll damage the friendship. I think that the woman that is comfortable talking about her infertility, will talk about it. So let her bring it up.

And if she does share intimate details with you, honor her in that. Be very careful not to gossip about anything she shares with you. (That means not telling anybody she hasn’t specifically told you to tell.) This comes down to simply loving your infertile friends, being patient with them, and learning how to honor them and uphold their privacy through the process.

4. Be Exceedingly Thankful To Be A Mom.  It’s especially difficult for women who could never conceive, or lost every child in miscarriage to hear women gripe and complain about being a mom. It’s true that motherhood has intense challenges, sleepless nights, and can at times make you feel like you are totally losing it. But, for the Christian, we are called to battle back with joy and gratitude and reliance on the Holy Spirit.

Complaining and grumbling not only steals your joy and darkens your perspective, but it can make the hearts of others ache, too. So be joyful in your mothering, knowing that others are watching and listening. You might be afraid that if you “enjoy” your motherhood too much in front of “childless” women, you will cause them pain. However, I think the opposite is true. Your grumbling causes them pain, not your joy. So be exceedingly joyful in your motherhood, and if, or when they get to enter motherhood they will be more likely to be joyful in it, too.

5. Be Available For Your Infertile Friends.  The longer a woman, or couple experiences infertility, the more likely they will be to open up about it. And if they open up to you, give them the encouragement they need. Pray for them, comfort them with Scripture, and remind them that God is lovingly leading their life together. We were very private about our struggle with infertility, but the few people we did open up to provided such a source of comfort and strength to us during the process.

Infertility Doesn’t Have To Break A Friendship
As Christians, we have this amazing opportunity to love each other. The seasons of our lives don’t always line up perfectly with each other. And although some friendships may drift while others thrive, let’s let it be because of the leadership of the Holy Spirit. And not because of the anger, bitterness, and jealousy of an infertile couple. Let’s not let friendships be broken by prying questions, or gossip, or because we were too selfish to look past ourselves.

I think something really beautiful happens when people from different seasons of life are both vulnerable and strengthening to each other. Titus 2 talks about how within the body of Christ we all need each other.  So, wherever you are at, whether you are in a house filled with the cries and screams of little children, or you are praying desperately for a miracle in your womb, or you are a grandmother, or you are a single person who is traveling the globe, let’s love each other. Because before any of us were mothers, we were daughters. We were sisters. We were children, born into the Kingdom of God and saved by the blood and mercy of Jesus Christ. The One whom we love, and live for.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3).


This post was first published on Loving My Lot as a guest post I wrote for author/blogger Jeanne Harrison. Be sure to check out Jeanne’s other posts, like Mom vs. Mom: The War I Didn’t See Coming, and her new blog turned book, “Loving My Lot”, which you can purchase by clicking on the picture link below!

 

Photo Credit: D’Attoma Studios

How to Love Your Friends

Selah and Friends

Selah loves her friends. (Both living and non.) And anytime my husband or I try to pray before a meal, she interjects with a long list of her every friend, cousin, neighbor, uncle, and inanimate object within eyeshot. It’s cute at first, and then we kind of look at each other and try to get her to a good stopping point. She simply can’t help herself.

The other night, when I was rocking her in my arms before bed and praying out loud for her to be safe, and strong, and the angels to protect her, she just kept whispering the names of others:  Rory.  Blakely.  Grandma.  Pap Pap.  Baby Ben.  Baby Bo.

I stopped mid-prayer and was moved with wonder: She just keeps naming everyone she loves. That’s what prayer is for her. 

For me…prayer is often a long list of my wants, my needs, my goals. How often do I really pray for my friends?

The next night, before I could even verbalize this to my husband, we got into bed and shut out the light and he said, there in the dark, “Let’s pray for our friends.”

And he started doing just that: praying for our friends, and their needs. And as we prayed, their heartaches became our heartaches. And their cries, became our cries. And the more we prayed, the more I loved them. Every single one. Our friends. The people God has planted in our lives. And by the time we were finished, I felt like a root in my soul was extended out further. Like arms reaching. In friendship, toward them. Because I loved them, and I loved their cries. And they were all precious to me.

And to my friends, I have not loved you nearly enough, nor cherished you as I ought. And Selah has taught me this. To love deeply. To hug tightly. And to name out before God the people you love. She has shown me quite simply that, “A friend loves at all times.” Even meal times. Even bed time. For, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

It just looks different than I thought. It’s not always a bloody martyr walk. Sometimes it’s just making their cries your own, through a simple prayer. And opening your heart to love them, the way God does. And I know that loving people isn’t about “just” praying for them. (I know that it’s meeting actual needs like making meals, and helping out, and physically doing things for them.) But…I think when it comes down to how to love our friends—it’s a good place to start. To simply: start praying for them. Truly. Sincerely. Because something mystical happens when we pray for people, we just supernaturally…love them more. And if we can love them more when we’re not with them, how much more when we are together, will we be prepared to listen well, and love well, and lay down life, the way Christ did for us.

Because He is our example in all things, even friendship. And He really loved, and really liked His disciples, His friends. And not only did he feed them, and wash their feet, and break His body for them…but He prayed for them. (John 17) And in doing so, He loved them.