Scripture is clear on the subject of friendship. Friendship is a gift from God. We often have heard it said that we can’t choose our family; but we can choose our friends. This sounds wise; but consider another way of looking at this suggestion. True friends are not chosen – they are sent by God into our lives for a season and a reason! The bible reports: Just as lotions and fragrance give sensual delight, a sweet friendship refreshes the soul. (Proverbs 27:9 – MSG)
As women, most of understand the nature and importance of our friendships. What would our lives be without our sister-friends? When we survey the landscape of our lives thus far, it should be crystal clear that as scripture records, friendship is like the fragrance of a sweet perfume.
The FOUR “Cs” of FRIENDSHIP – Understanding the nature of Sisterhood
The Confronting Friend – This is the sister girlfriend who tells it like it TI is! There’s no beating around the bush and there is no room for diplomacy, she let’s you know the truth [often when no one else will tell you] WITH LOVE!
The Confiding Friend – This is the sister girlfriend who you can and have told your deepest secrets and deepest longings. She is your confidant. She will listen without judgment or advice (unless asked), then take your secrets to the grave with her. She locks it down tight and you NEVER have to worry about hearing “it” again – at least not from her!
The Collaborating Friend – This is the sister girlfriend you call when you are on a mission. Whether the project is painting your bedroom, starting a business, shopping for your wedding dress, throwing a party, or moving to a new house, she is the one who is at your doorstep, as soon as you hang up the phone!
The Comforting Friend – This is the sister girlfriend you contact when you are hurting and you need the presence of comfort. She is like a warm cup of cocoa on a cold chilly night. She’s the one who has the right words at the right time, and the tears can flow and she will catch every one of them!
FIRST ASSIGNMENT: In each category, write down the names of your girlfriends
Naomi – The Confronter: (Ruth 1: 8-10) “But on the way, Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back to your mothers’ homes. And may the Lord reward you for your kindness to your husbands and to me. May the Lord bless you with the security of another marriage.”
The circumstances: Throughout the book of Ruth, Naomi is an active confronter to her daughters in law, and especially Ruth. In this particular situation, the truth is difficult to hear; but Naomi tells it anyhow. The two younger women, Ruth and Orpah are determined to follow Naomi, despite the fact that their husbands have died and their prospects are grim. Naomi realizing she cannot permit them to go with her unless being completely honest about the possibility of further hardships, makes it clear to both, their decision needs to be to leave her and go back to their own families. She confronts Orpah and Ruth, in love, and we know the rest of the story.
Confronting girlfriends tell the difficult truth and set the record straight; but always with compassion, love and concern.
ARE YOU A CONFRONTING GIRLFRIEND – IF SO, WHY????
Jephthah’s Daughter’s Sister Circle – The Confiders: (Judges 10: 36-40) “And she said, “Father, if you have made a vow to the Lord, you must do to me what you have vowed, for the Lord has given you a great victory over your enemies, the Ammonites. But first let me do this one thing; Let me go up and roam in the hills and weep with my friends for two months, because I will die a virgin.” “You may go,” Jephthah said. And he sent her away for two months. She and her friends went into the hills and wept because she would not have children. When she returned home, her father kept the vow he had made, and she died a virgin. So it has become a custom in Israel for young Israelite women to go away for four days each year to lament the fate of Jephthah’s daughter.”
The circumstances: Talk about a girls’ trip! This “text of terror” outlines the fate of an innocent young daughter whose father makes a senseless and careless vow to take her life because of his victory over the Ammonites. While God never required such a promise, Jepthah’s pride and narcissism drives him to keep his bizarre vow, even at the expense of his daughter’s life. In order to protect the honor of her father, the daughter succumbs to her own slaughter; but with one request – “let me go and roam in the hills and weep with my [girl] friends for two months. Not only was this sister circle there for a friend; but, the extended girls’ trip allowed this unnamed daughter to reconcile her fate. In the hills of Israel, away from the madness of her environment, she confided in her sisters’ circle and they listened. This “text of terror” reminds us of the power of friendship – even in your worst times, friends come to your rescue and assist in making your situation bearable.
ARE YOU A CONFIDING GIRLFRIEND – IF SO, WHY????
Puah & Shiphrah – The Collaborators – (Exodus 1: 15 – 20) “Then Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, gave this order to the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah: “When you help the Hebrew women as they give birth, watch as they deliver. If the baby is a boy, kill him; if it is a girl, let her live.” But because the midwives feared God, they refused to obey the king’s orders. They allowed the boys to live, too. So the king of Egypt called for the midwives. “Why have you done this?” he demanded. Why have you allowed the boys to live?” The Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women,” the midwives replied. They are more vigorous and have their babies so quickly that we cannot get there in time.” So God was good to the midwives, and the Israelites continued to multiply, growing more and more powerful. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.”
The circumstances: Can you imagine collaborating in an environment of genocide. What trust these two women must of had in each other. Working together for the good of humanity, Puah and Shiphrah never folded; but, instead were faithful to their assignment and faithful to each other. Because of their devotion and support of one another, they two collaborating girlfriends changed biblical history.
ARE YOU A COLLABORATING GIRLFRIEND – IF SO, WHY????
Elizabeth – The Comforter- (Luke 1: 39-41; 56) “A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit……Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back to her own home.”
The circumstances: We know the story well. Mary, a frightened and confused, unwed teenage mother, leaves her own home, seeking comfort in the presence of her older cousin Elizabeth, after she discovers she is with child. While we often sentimentalize Mary’s story, the reality of her situation was real. Mary could have and should have lost her life; had it not for the protections of the Lord. In Elizabeth, she was seeking this same comfort – safety and assurance that all would be well. The bible reports Mary stayed with her cousin Elizabeth for three consecutive months – her first trimester. We can only imagine the time and talks they shared. Their tender relationship reminds us of our comforting girlfriends, who are often like shelter from the rain. We feel safe and assured by their presence and their tender words.
ARE YOU A COMFORTING GIRLFRIEND – IF SO, WHY????
Whether we (you) are a confronting, confiding, collaborating, or comforting friend, each of these profiles are valuable and necessary. Sister girlfriends not only bring joy to our lives; but, they assist us in growing to be our best selves. Our friends challenge us to be truthful about who we are and what we are doing with our circumstances. Sister girlfriends allow us to unpack our secrets and deepest longings, so we don’t internalize all of our angst, and we are free to heal from the pain of our past mistakes and missteps. Sister girlfriends encourage us to be brave enough to start a project, leave a dead-end job start a business, or take a step of faith to do a new thing. Finally, sister girlfriends are like a good home cooked meal – they assure us that we are loved, accepted as we are, and things will change for the better.
An unknown writer once summed up the value of friendship: “A friend is someone who understands your past, believes in your future, and accepts you just the way you are.” Bless the Lord for the gift of a friend!
Questions for our discussion
Reverend Dr. Jessica Ingram, the original author of this wonderful teaching, once said in her workshop: “If you only have one friend, you are putting too much pressure on the friendship. Get yourself some more girlfriends.” Hopefully, this is not our situation; but, if it is, how do we craft healthy and meaningful NEW friendships which add value to our lives, and are also authentic?
What should you do when you think you have a friend; but instead discover she is not?
What do you think the most important element is in the friendship construct? Why?
“Find people who make you better.” – Michelle Obama
“Abandon the cultural myth that all female friendships must be bitchy, toxic, or competitive. This myth is like heels and purses – pretty but designed to SLOW women down.” – Roxanne Gay
“My friends have made the story of my life. In a thousand ways they have turned my limitations into beautiful privileges.” – Helen Keller
OUR SENDING PRAYER
With my whole heart I ask You to look after my friends.
Guide them in their troubles.
Lead them when they are lost.
Lend them Your ear, when they need to talk with You.
Lend them Your hand, O Lord, when they have nowhere to turn.
Show my friends a new road, when a bridge has been burned.
Teach them to trust You more, love You more, seek You more.
Grant them grace, compassion, and prosperity.
This is my prayer for my friends whom I hold so dear.
I lift this prayer in the sweet name of Jesus – our Friend who loves us most.
This bible study has been excerpted from a teaching by the Reverend Dr. Jessica Kendall Ingram – 1st Episcopal District Supervisor – African Methodist Episcopal Church.
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