Saturday, June 14, 2014

Mary and Elizabeth: the Heart of Friendship

Hey, girlfriend!
A hug, sometimes a kiss, and smiles all around. We love our friends and love being with them. It doesn't get any better than this...or does it? We laugh, have fun, and enjoy each other, but  is there more? Are we missing the best of what our friendships can bring? 

Fun and affection sometimes relegate God to a back seat and our friendships are no exception. The sheer enjoyment we find in one another's company can leave us forgetting that these encounters, so often full of pleasure, have a higher purpose, too. We can get more than pleasure out of our friendships. We can dedicate them to God.

And we have an example.
At that time, Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed, "Blessed are you among women..."--Luke 1: 39-42

Wouldn't it be wonderful if our friendships brought not only a feeling of contentment and well being, but an encounter with the holy? I'm convinced that they can, and more. They should.

We come together, after all, from different places, different lives. We meet to share out stories, our songs. We come to laugh together, and to cry. God has afforded us a privilege unique to women. He has made us want strong bonds with close friends, but we don't often honor them as such. Like all of our life's encounters, our friends are intentional parts of our lives. God sent them to us for a purpose--the same purpose as He sends every other circumstance and person--to draw us nearer to Him.

So what does a godly friendship encounter look like? It looks like Mary and Elizabeth's. 

First, we enter one another's homes. We visit each other in the places we live our lives. These are our intimate places, the ones we breathe and eat and love in. They expose us just by the looking. But we share them with our friends.

Then we greet one another. Not just a Hi, or even an embrace, but a greeting heartfelt enough to make a baby leap in the womb. A greeting that acknowledges that we are special to one another. Not "Wassup, girlfriend" but more like a sincere "How wonderful to see you."

Then we share. We listen to one another. Casual friends are not very good at this. Casual acquaintances talk mostly about themselves. Have you listened to your conversations? Most relationships have a giver and a taker, an alpha and a beta. True friendships share equally. Friends listen to one another as often as they tell.

Then we bless one another. We hardly ever do this. I have one relationship in which a friend prays for me every time before we part. Every time. I can't tell you what this adds to my life. I feel blessed every time. Truly blessed. What more can we do for a friend than to bless them?*

Mary and Elizabeth's love for each other wasn't substantially different from the love I feel for my own friends. As women, we are given a heart to love with--husbands, children, and friends. We spend so much time learning to love husbands and children properly, but don't think nearly often enough about what a truly godly friendship can bring.

If I really care about my friends, I will do these things for them, and with them because, each in our own way, we are all truly
blessed among women.

*Sister Fran Ferder, Enter the Story, Give Us This Day, May 31, 2014

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