Cultivating Meaningful Friendships

A few years ago, a friend of mine and her family moved in across the street. My initial excitement gave way to fear. "What happens when she gets annoyed with me? What happens when my kid breaks her window, or sasses her, or ruins her stuff? What happens when her husband gets annoyed with my kids? What happens when our kids fight? I don't want to lose this friendship!"

Most of the friendships I had had as a child, teenager, and young adult had proven to be fickle like this. As an introvert, I crave deep connections with a few people, but until recently I have generally come up short with the women in my life. I remember the sting of my "best friend" or my "going-to-be-best-friend" moving away when I was a kid, once, twice, three times or more.  I remember being "stood up" at a rendezvous at the county fair--feeling so rejected, even if it was just a miscommunication or an accident. I remember being mocked at junior high sleepovers for being too much of a "weenie"--not wanting to egg a teacher's house or moon passing cars on the highway with my compatriots. I remember the sting in college of thinking about bridesmaids--how I'd never been asked to be one, and how I wouldn't be able to come up with a cohort of women to stand beside me for my own wedding.

And now, here's somebody I had enjoyed being around casually, somebody smart, funny, personally graceful! She's living within 100 feet of my house! She's got kids the same ages as mine! This could be amazing. Or, terrible. I decided that a direct and vulnerable approach would be best. I walked over one day after she'd been moved in for a few months and took a deep breath. "I'm afraid that something is going to happen with our kids to ruin our friendship. Or that you're going to get sick of me and not want to be my friend anymore."

Her response soothed my soul. It was something like this. "I commit to love your kids like I love my kids; or at least try to. And I will extend grace to you and still want to be your friend."

"(Whew!) Okay. I commit to love your kids, too, and be your friend."

Thus began what I like to think of as a covenant friendship. God's great mercy to me in this phase of my life is that he has allowed me to develop a small handful of these friendships with amazing women in my life's spheres. I found it helpful to have the "I commit to loving you and your kids" dialogue with each of them--it just put us at greater ease to know where we stand. And that we're standing together.

I've committed to these relationships; committed to making them a blessing. Maybe someone will even be able to see the love of God through the love and grace my friends and I extend one another. I know that I have seen and felt it.

Now what this does not mean:

1) It does NOT mean that we become co-dependent. She has her life; I have my life. She does not HAVE to be involved in everything I do, every fun thing I plan; I do not have to be involved in hers. She does not need to run her plans by me. I do not need to know where she's going. We maintain boundaries. I do not assume that she is available just because I want to hang out. When her husband pulls into the driveway coming home from work as our kids play and we chat, I say--"time to go home, kids! It's their family time now."

2) It does NOT mean that we always see eye-to-eye on everything.

3) It does NOT mean our friendship is exclusive; in fact, it's best when it's inclusive. I routinely invite other people to join in some activity that we're doing together, as does she. Why would I not want to share this? Jealousy does not have a place in the covenant friendship.

But what it DOES mean:

1) We encourage and support one another. "How are you doing? Do you need to come over for coffee?" There's not a better text message to get at 3:45 on a Friday afternoon. We think about practical ways to show love and support, and we are willing to accept help. In other words, we are partners on the long slide to humility. "How can I help you? You've been sick? What time can I bring dinner over? Can I watch your kids so you can go to that appointment (or on that date) in peace? Can you please watch my kids for me?

2) We listen to each other and speak truth to each other. We discuss that thing we read recently, problems we're struggling with, interesting ideas we want to bounce around. We laugh together and sometimes cry together.  "Are we going to make it?"

3) We extend grace and forgive. We extend it to each other in our parenting, knowing that whatever mistake I might have made right now, she's just as likely to make it or something like it tomorrow. We extend it to each other's husbands, in-laws, kids---whatever they say or do doesn't become a judgement on us. When our kids fight, we try to deal with the situation for what it is--our trainees needing trained rather than fixating on 'what her kid just did to my kid'. We extend it to each other's parenting styles as well.

4) We encourage one another to follow Christ whole-heartedly. "Well, what does the Bible say about this problem? How is this Christ-like or not?" We talk through it together. We can pray together.

These friendships take time, trust, and effort, but they have been a beautiful, life-giving agent of grace in my life. I'd encourage you to pray to find a friend, and to be the answer to someone else's prayer for one.  


  1. The bridesmaids thing...I thought maybe I was the only one who thought that!!

    1. Hi Lora, Thanks for reading! Nope, not just you!

  2. I agree with Lora Anne.. I too thought of the bridesmaid thing too. I am thankful for our friendship and I hope you consider ours a covenant friendship! I am glad that we can still be friends after my son has done graffiti at your house and been snarky! Thanks for being an awesome friend!

    1. Aw, of course. Haven't we had that "talk"? Well, I thought we had. Love you!