This post is part of our Lenten series, journeying the Stations of the Cross. In this reflection on the Eighth Station of the Cross, Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem, while keeping an eye on the weeping women of Jerusalem, Tammi highlights the beauty of good, deep, lasting friendships, and the importance of the vulnerability necessary in deepening those relationships.
A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter, He who has found one has found a treasure.”Sirach 6:14
I used to write this Scripture verse on the back of notes and cards to my best friends at Franciscan University. As the years passed, and our correspondence continued, I continued to write that verse. It was a reminder to me of what their friendship had been… a treasure. Pure gift! A gift at a time in my life when I needed the Lord to restore for me what friendship was. From an early age, I wanted to share my heart with others. I wanted to share my story, and grow in holy friendship with other holy women. The Lord had lit a fire in my heart for community, and I knew He would see that desire through to fruition.
Like every little girl, I had had my share of elementary school drama. I had girls that were my “best friends” who later betrayed me for better science partners or friends who rode the same bus as them. I had friends that only spent time with me when I had attention from the boys. I had girl friends who were also just trying to protect themselves in a world of ever changing waves of popularity and social stigma. We were all trying to just maintain social status without giving away too much about our real feelings and anxieties.
As I passed through high school, I was jealous of all the girls in the popular teen movies that had these deep friendships that lasted their lifetime. What must that be like to have someone who knows your heart that well?! I often pondered. The reality of the situation was that I was not alone in my desire for friendship, however. We were all just trying too hard not to stand out. Trusting others with our hearts seemed to be a risk we couldn’t afford. Our deepest desires and hurts could be used as weapons against us in the next argument or teen drama session. So we tried our best to struggle through those teens years with a shell of who we were, because that was safer.
As my relationship with the Lord grew, so did my desire for true friendship. The Lord was beginning to show me how my heart needed to be shared with others. As much as I was scared to risk being hurt, I was denying myself the ability to be loved deeply by other women who could share my feelings and concerns. In the most basic sense, our rings of friendship are relational to the depths of our emotional and spiritual journey.
When I was in college, I had had very little experience with intimacy in friendship. My circles of friendship looked a lot different than they do today. The Lord had the first ring, closest to my heart, as I trusted Him exclusively. A few friends had the next ring of friendship. This group consisted of women who knew about painful parts of my past and supported me through difficult times. They were the catalysts for so much self-discovery in my early adult years. They accepted me at a time when I barely knew what I had to offer and loved me through finding out who I was. This was my first experience with sharing myself in trust and vulnerability. These ladies still hold high rings in my heart today. My third ring would have been my boyfriend at the time, as well as my other family members. People who knew only what I apprehensively offered. The fourth and final ring was everyone else. This ring included the most random selection of people, from college acquaintances, to extended family members and old high school friends.
I was growing not only in the levels of my friendships, but in my awareness of myself. Our friendship levels deepen as we become more aware of our identity in Christ. The sisterhood we share with those who call us on to holiness and probe our hearts is the greatest level of friendship.
On my birthday last month, I was reflecting on all the friendships in my life. At this stage in my life, my levels of friendship are more like the rings of an onion: multiple, overlapping, and endless. Those four definitive rings that I once assigned have become a greater number of rings with so much crossover. I’ve found that the closer I journey to the heart of Christ, the greater the experiences and depth of my friendships. The Lord is creating opportunities in my friendships for holy encounters. He is constantly moving people into different rings of my heart at different times in my life. He has allowed me to be a confidante to so many during tragic times in their lives. He has reunited me with old friends just when I needed their comforting words spoken over a situation. He has given me best friends from family members. He continues to bring people in and out of my life because He knows the healing power of the Body of Christ. He knows that just as we need holy friendships, that others in our lives need what we can offer.
He takes our broken hearts and places people in our lives to restore our view of friendship. He sees our brokenness, and He brings others who can see our pain and help us lighten our load.
Jesus met the women of Jerusalem on His journey to Calvary. The women were sharing in His grief with each other. They were mourning who He had been to them, and the brutal death that awaited Him. Jesus reminded them that they had each other. “Weep not for me but for yourselves and for your children” (Luke 23:28). He knew what awaited them in their lives, and He was reminding them that they had each other. Jesus reminds us that we need each other to live holy lives.
Can you take a few minutes today and probe the friendship rings of your own heart?
I invite you today to consider the rings around your heart. Is the Lord calling you to expand your friendships, deepen your relationships, and allow Him alone to guard your heart? Are there sisters who desire a deeper friendship with you that you have kept at a distance? What is stopping you from sharing in this community that He is placing before you?
Faithful friends are beyond price, no amount can balance their worth.”Sirach 6:16