Welcome back to Ezer Equipped! In this edition, we want to talk about friendship. But before we dig in, I have a confession to make. When we first decided on the topic of friendship for this newsletter, I *might* have inwardly rolled my eyes. It's not that I don't value friendships; friendships are essential. It's just that the topic seemed too fluffy and feel-goody, not substantive enough. This might, in part, be because of my tendency to be too serious and to undervalue fun and frivolity. But, perhaps the bigger reason I felt that way is that, as a culture, our vision of friendship is far too small—a shallow substitute for the rich, challenging, and transformational relationships God desires for us.
I recently heard Mark Moody, our Anderson campus pastor, say that "we look to community to affirm us when, biblically, it's meant to change us." I think that gets to the heart of the problem with our friendships! We want relationships that are fun, easy, comfortable, and require minimum effort. We want to avoid conflict because we see it is as a threat to the relationship, so we don't press into, challenge, and speak hard truth to one another. But the Scripture prescribes a different kind of friendship: "As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend" (Proverbs 27:17). Sharpening is an uncomfortable process that involves tension, pressure, friction, and refinement. When we need our friends more than we love them, we aren't free to be the kind of friends God calls us to be, the kind of friend that sharpens another.
Some of the friendships I value most are those where my friends are more committed to my holiness than what I think about them. They don't need me to like or affirm them. They love me enough to correct me, rebuke me, challenge me, expose me, and encourage me. Their friendship reminds me of a quote I once read by Anne Lamott, "I do not at all understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are, but does not leave us where it found us." God loved us enough to meet us where we were—broken, desperate, proud, idolatrous sinners—but he doesn't leave us there. He is committed to changing us into the image and likeness of Christ from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18). As women created to bear the ezer nature of God, let's be committed to partnering with one another in grace-filled friendships—meeting and loving one another where we are, but not content to leave one another there.
by: Ed Welch
This book exposes a toxic threat to authentic, purposeful, and life-giving friendships—fear of man. Also known as people-pleasing or co-dependency, fear of man comes from needing people to affirm or fulfill us. It leads us to seek life from others, rather than be a source of life for others! While culture's antidote to fear of man is self-love, owning your truth, and not caring about others at all, this book challenges that perspective and encourages us to love people more.
“Regarding other people, our problem is that we need them (for ourselves) more than we love them (for the glory of God). The task God sets for us is to need them less and love them more. Instead of looking for ways to manipulate others, we will ask God what our duty is toward them.”
“We are more concerned about looking stupid (fear of people) than we are about acting sinfully (fear of the Lord)."
“Too many Christians never see that self-love comes out of a culture that prizes the individual over the community and then reads that basic principle into the pages of Scripture. The Bible, however, rightly understood, asks the questions, 'Why are you so concerned about yourself?' Furthermore, it indicates that our culture’s proposed cure—increased self-love—is actually the disease. If we fail to recognize the reality and depth of our sin problem, God will become less important, and people will become more important.”
This podcast reminds us that, while friendships are meaningful and even essential, they get sideways when we look to them to satisfy our deepest needs, our deepest longings. Only Jesus can fulfill the longings of our soul.
"I need you to carry me to the fountain of living waters, not be it for me. Be like the friends with the paralytic on the mat and dig through the roof for me to get to Christ because I am weak right now."
This podcast challenges our belief that friendships should be easy and free of conflict—reminding us that a good friendship should also be formational, challenging us and helping us grow.
“Hanging out is important. But in Christian friendship, it’s fighting the battle against indwelling sin side by side and fighting to remember our identity in Christ.”
We encourage you to use these conversation starters as a means of self-reflection and for discussion within your community.
1. Think about your current friendships. List them on a piece of paper and place them in one of the following categories:
- Functional—centered around common interests, activities, or seasons of life.
- Formational—focused on helping one another grow more Christ-like.
- Sacrificial—focused on loving and serving those who have nothing to offer you in return.
2. As you look at your list from question 1, are your closest friendships functional or formational?
- Do you tell one another the truth, even if it creates conflict or tension?
- Are you vulnerable in the friendships, regularly confessing sin?
- If you do confess sin to one another, are you quick to comfort and absolve guilt or do you help one another figure out what repentance might look like?
- Do you care more about what your friend thinks of you than what Jesus desires from you as her friend?
3. What steps could you take to move a functional friendship to a formational friendship?
4. Get with two to three friends and work through the article, “15 Common Ways We Can Identify Fear of Man”. Have each woman circle all that apply to her. Then talk with one another about how these could keep your friendships from being fruitful. What steps do you need to take as friends to address any areas that you highlighted?
- If you feel stuck in unhealthy relationships, paralyzed by insecurity, fear of man, and co-dependency, go to re:generation and begin the path toward freedom. For more information on re:generation, email [email protected].
- If you have a friendship where you have withheld love and truth and loved yourself more than you have loved her, go to her, and confess, and ask for her forgiveness.
- While not every moment with friends needs to be intentional, plan some time to be purposeful with one another. Here are a few practical ideas: serve together, commit to studying the Scripture together, or carve out time for accountability and vulnerability by using these X-ray questions as a springboard to having deeper conversations.
- If most of your friendships are self-serving (centered around shared interests, socio-economic status, or convenience), take a step to be a friend to the friendless and vulnerable. Here are a few immediate needs:
- Sign up to be a part of the Care and Response team, providing short-term needs for our partner organizations like Project Hope (providing meals, laundry service, gift cards, etc). Email Megan Gaminde for more information at [email protected].
- Sign up for training as a CRISISline volunteer with Mental Health of America. CRISISline receives over 12,000 calls each year. Unfortunately, in 2018 over 5,000 calls went unanswered! That is 5,000 calls from people in need of a friend in their most vulnerable moments. As a volunteer, you would be trained to give callers undivided attention with non-judgmental active listening, information about community resources, and/or crisis intervention. For more information about how to be a friend to those in crisis, email [email protected].
- Sign up to be a mentor for re:generation participants who are in need of support. Mentor training is being offered on February 12, March 12, and April 16. Email [email protected] for more information or to sign up for the training.
- Sign up to provide transportation to Care and Recovery events or to pick up ladies from Miracle Hill Renewal Center or Transitional housing for re:generation on Tuesday nights. Email [email protected].
This resource is adapted from our Ezer Equipped monthly newsletter dedicated to equipping our women with content, from both within and outside of our church, to help us continue to grow as disciple and disciple-makers. To subscribe to the Ezer Equipped newsletter, click here.