I was pretty sure I knew how to do life-together with friends when life all happened on time, working as it should. Late night hangouts and laughing until your sides split, interspersed with the occasional “God story” and prayer request. We shared clothes and coffee dates and “can you even believe I said that to him?” moments.
It was easy to make friends and keep friends over Saturday night sweets binging.
But sometime post-college, after leaving that house on East Vine that moved when the wind blew and was teeming with lives of girlfriends-made-sisters, the content I brought to a coffee date was a little different.
Life got hard. It didn’t run on my time. The year of my newlywed bliss lasted for a day and my womb was empty. We weren’t nineteen and cooking dinner in roller-blades in the kitchen just for kicks anymore.
My girlfriends still circled up every year, coming in from spots all over the country and meeting in the furnished living room of a “real” house instead of just cramming our over-caffeinated bodies onto one girls’ bed after class. And though I had friends in my city, in my world, these girlfriends were my metronome for how my view on friendship had changed since I was young and carefree.
Girls shared updates while I chewed the inside of my cheek — scared to unveil myself to ones who’d once all worn my clothes and driven my car and seen me every morning at 7am with mascara-lined bags under my eyes for four years. We used to share everything and I now couldn’t figure out a way to communicate the torrent inside of my twenty-something frame. How would they handle my mess, when I could barely handle my mess? Was it safe to even speak out-loud what I’d been feeling inside?
In those few short years since college, I’d experienced the convergence of beautiful and awful. The identity around which I’d formed my life — my ministry, my output — was slipping through my fingers, alongside my harder-than-I-thought marriage and any plans I’d had for a family. How do you put words to that?
Simultaneously, I’d started a new search for God. This life-ache was unearthing a hunger for Him that maybe I’d always had but never identified. I started to want Him more than I did a neat and tidy prayer-requested life.
But that, too, felt different. Almost unexplainable. Weird.
I didn’t know how to let them in.
When life gets hard — when life gets real — how do you transition out of the slumber party into holding the story of another before God? Into holding another, before God, with His eyes and His perspective on them?
What does friendship look like when coffee and casual prayer requests and late-night chocolate aren’t enough to cushion another’s deep life-ache? What does it look like to let yourself bleed a little, in front of another?
How do you find the kind of friendship that fuels hunger for God without losing the deep belly laughter so necessary to life and love of Him, in the meantime?
A decade and a half later, and many of those college girlfriends and others have now shown me — with their own stories — how you do what I just couldn’t do when I was twenty-four and lonely.
They’ve bled, outside their skin, and didn’t wait until it was a hermetically sealed environment to do so. They didn’t play it safe when it came to friendship.
They’ve hungered for Him in an unconventional way.
And they talked about it.
Various friends taught me, with their lives, that the convergence of their own messy loss and their own unkempt (but burgeoning) hunger for God weren’t so awkward that it would disrupt friendship — but that it instead would cause friendship to grow. (And they still split their sides in laughter at themselves and at life and ate chocolate and planned coffee dates.)
Hunger for God is the undercurrent of deep friendship. And true friendship fuels new hunger for God.
Want this fusion of hunger for God and life-ache and friendship for yourself?
What if you didn’t wait until it was the perfect set-up or the perfect potential people or the safest-by-your-standards environment … but just took one little step?
How about this for a start:
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Whether you’re twenty-two or sixty, it’s never too late to ask Him for unconventional friendship, the kind that makes you laugh more than you’ve ever laughed and hunger for Him in a way you just might not, by yourself.