Fifteen years ago I was sitting in an airport on my way to an exploratory weekend at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. There was a woman sitting across from me who was reading a spiritual book. I was reading a similar type book and we exchanged smiles and those airport pleasantries. We both got on the plane, and when we disembarked from the plane we continued our small talk all the while walking in the same direction toward a person holding a sign that had both of our names listed. We laughed together as we realized we were both going to the same place for the same reason, and a lifelong friendship was formed.
This friendship grew to include other women who also listened to God’s call to ministry. We journeyed together through Hebrew and Greek; which we are convinced is like the boot camp version of seminary. We supported one another through ordination exams, the ordination process, and our various calls into ministry. A sacred friendship was formed.
This past weekend four of us were able to gather together in Huntsville, Alabama for a girl’s weekend. One of the gifts of these friendships is that it doesn’t matter when we gathered last; it feels like no time has passed. We laughed, cried, shared about our ministries and our lives, prayed, and loved. I asked them to help me with this week’s blog by sharing why women friendships are important, sacred, and a reflection of God’s love for us. Here are a few things that they shared along with one of their favorite scripture passages.
Romans 8: 38-39 tells us that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God. Having strong friendships helps remind us of God’s love for us. “Having women friends is a reminder that you are able and good enough because they reflect back to you God’s love.” These friendships offer support and strength to overcome the things in our lives that try to separate us from God’s love. The power and strength of sacred friendships help remind us that we are God’s beloved. When we are hurting, these friendships are what can love us through the hard times and reflect how God loves us.
Psalm 8: “O God, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” “We say it when things are going well and when things are going badly. Life is a long and winding road that included different careers and cities. I met these women in seminary who had winding journeys too. When we answered God’s call to ministry, we grabbed onto each other in a wonderful way and our friendships grew stronger. We’ve been where the other has been. We lift each other up and deeply care for one another. It is a magnificent God who has brought us together.
Psalm 19 rejoices in the beauty and wonder of God’s creation. God’s voice is also a part of creation. “Our friendships and understanding of scripture are life-giving and affirming and freeing. Freedom is by our faith.” These friendships are sacred because we have an “intense shared experience. We continue with our learning, searching, and finding new answers in our time together. These intense shared experiences make these friendships a different depth and quality.”
Studies have found that even in the face of major life losses, women with close friends fare better than women without close relationships. Women find it healing to tell their stories and talk about their emotional experiences. They find healing in processing what has happened in order to find ways to move forward. When life becomes challenging, women tend to seek out friendships with other women as a means of coping with their stress.
Women’s friendships embody God’s love for us. Healthy friendships emerge from a deep love and care for one another and weave together a necessary support system. Taking the time to build good friendships and a healthy support system is an investment in your over-all health and well-being.
Many of the women who walk through the doors of The Next Door haven’t experienced the depth and strength of women’s friendships. They come in guarded and wounded from a lifetime of not being able to trust. One of the gifts they receive at The Next Door is witnessing the power of women supporting one another and reflecting God’s love through that support. This begins with the staff showing them love, care, and genuine hospitality as soon as they walk in the door. Our staff, regardless of their job, engages with our women with encouragement and compassion. It may be a conversation in the elevator or taking the time to help the new person find where they need to be next in the schedule. Over and over again I hear our women comment about the kindness and love shown by our staff.
Our women then in turn show this love and support to one another. For many of them, it is the first time that they have built relationships with other women. They are able to begin the healing process and find hope through sharing their story, listening to others, and being present with one another. They discover the importance of healing in community and building a sober support system. They discover that God often shows up in the words and support from another peer and that others can see God reflected in them. Our faith life stresses the importance of loving others as God loves us. Our recovery life stresses that we have to give away what we’ve received in order to keep receiving. In the midst of all this is God’s unending love and grace for all of us.
O God, our God, how majestic is your name in all the earth. Thank you for the sacred gift of friendship. May we all nurture our relationship with you and one another.
Carrie Fraser serves as the Director of Spiritual Wellness and Alumni Services at The Next Door