I started a Wednesday night ministry out of desperation to have girlfriends.
I have been a pastor's wife for over 20 years now, but I'm still not over some of the insecurities I have from carrying that label. Several years ago my husband and I were on staff at a church where we loved Sunday mornings, but on Wednesday nights, if you didn't sing in the choir or work in the children's department, there wasn't a ministry for you.
On one of our first Wednesday nights there, a gentleman in the church asked me, "If you don't sing in the choir or play the piano, what do you do as a pastor's wife?"
I remember hanging my head low and in a quiet voice saying, "I can pray."
We had three children, were expecting our fourth child, and Wednesday night church was a wonderful treat in my week to see other grownups. However, for some reason, the man's comments made my "safe" place seem very unsafe, and my need for friends deepen.
After absorbing the wound of "What do you do?" that stung more like "What value do you have to the Lord?" I sensed Him calling me to start a ministry with other women like me, just hanging around in the halls hoping for more than artificial conversation. That's why I started the first class of Girlfriend to Girlfriend (G2G).
Ten years and two churches later, I still lead a G2G group, only now instead of having a handful of friends gathering together for support, each Wednesday night over 100 women from various cultures, diverse backgrounds, and across generational divides gather together to share life and their walk with the Lord with one another.
In a world filled with all kinds of social media, it is easy to have hundreds of Facebook friends but few embodied connections.
Very lonely people hide behind text messages, Tweets, and Facebook posts. Many of us may submit a presentable public image behind our status updates but fail to take the real time and the significant effort it takes to be the Body of Christ to one another.
My sister and I can seem to sense, using very few words, when something is wrong with the other. But she lives several states away. I am glad I have her, but we all need people who are close by to be instruments of God's grace to us.
I see some of the relationships the Lord has given me as "transformational friendships." The Spirit of God at work in those who are God's children offers those of us in the Church an opportunity that is not available in the world. We have the opportunity to let God change us and shape us through our friendships with one another.
There are several levels of friendships, and it's healthy to have friends at each level. But we all need a few transformational friendships to make our way through life. If you are missing those deeper connections and you wonder where to start, my first suggestion would be that you pray.
Prayer should be the first step in every need of a child of God.
Ask the Lord to lead you to a community and to individuals with whom you can form genuine relationships.
Taking the step of starting a small group, like G2G, was significant. It didn't take me long to discover that there were dozens of great resources available for Christians, with various levels of training, to use to connect more deeply to God and to one another.
Use your interests, like walking, jogging, reading, cooking, crafting, and so on, as vehicles for inviting a circle of new friends into your life. When you start an interest group, set a clear end date, so if the relationships don't work out you can dissolve the group and start another without awkwardness.
It may sound strange, but I started a "cleaning club" with a couple of other women who get great joy, like I do, from having a clean house. Our club meets once a month at one of our homes. The host supplies the cleaning products and the friends help supply the labor - and the laughs. This kind of club may not be for everyone, but for me it has been a home run. Each month I am amazed at how, through cleaning, we share our "messes" and deepen our friendship.
Perhaps the most significant transformational friendship for me has been finding the right prayer partner. I have had the same prayer partner for over 10 years. Although we now live in different cities, our prayers and our friendship are no less significant over the phone. And although we live very different lives, we share the same Spirit. Our weekly prayer times have been the primary way that God has transformed both of us through friendship.
I am still committed to leading G2G. Each week I keep a basket by the main door for women to visualize taking off the masks they wear in the world. When they sit down at one of the tables, God's love flowing through one another allows us to be all that God created us to be and releases us from our need to pretend.
Life is messy, but we serve an amazing God who specializes in taking the broken pieces of our lives and making beautiful mosaics. But the artists He uses, more often than not, are the friends that He gives us along the way.
Debbie Daniels is director of Women's Ministries at Pasadena, California, First Church of the Nazarene.
We polled some women to get their take on friendship and its value and purpose in their lives. Here are their compelling responses.
Friendship is God's gift to us, enabling us to see Him in the way we love and support one another in the best and worst times. It's where we find comfort when the world doesn't make any sense and where we can laugh and shout for joy when it does. - Leslie, Columbia, Missouri
Enjoy Each Other
My friends are very precious to me. We enjoy being together because it feels good. We receive strength, encouragement, and love from each other. They are there with the answers when you haven't got a clue, and offer guidance and steadfastness when you don't know what to do. - Sharon, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
Where would I be without those few close friends who have been there over years of change? Friendship is that invisible bond that binds your heart to someone whether you are miles apart or right next door. It's the net that makes it safe to tell the truth as you both grow and change over the years, even when it's been quite awhile since you've had a chance to share.
Real friendship means freedom for both of you to be who you are; not fearing rejection, laughter, or shame, but knowing that this friend you have found will love you as God does. - Teri, Nampa, Idaho
My friendship with my sister is like oxygen in my lungs. It's organic, natural, and on purpose. It fulfills my soul on a level that is not describable with words, a level that is only understood with the heart and soul. - Amy, Nampa, Idaho
Acceptance Without Judgment
True friendship is acceptance without judgment when your friends show up at your house and step over toys, dirty diapers, Cheerios, a heap of not-so-fresh clothes, opened mail, and grocery bags yet to be unpacked, simply to deliver you an unannounced hug and a cup of coffee.
Friendship is when you can parent, feed, or discipline your children one way and your friend does it another way, and it's all okay.
Friendship is being able to tell all your troubles to your friend and rather than question how in the world you could have ended up in the mess that you're in; she nods her head, offers a prayer, and thanks you for being so open and honest.
When you haven't seen or talked to your girlfriend in months, possibly years, and you finally do meet again and it's like you haven't missed a beat - that's what I call friendship! - Angela, Silverton, Oregon
Holiness Today, March/April 2012