a real look at real friends
good news weekly 03.25.23
i say this not for dramatics, but to try + shock you into a little noticing something important. we are living through an loneliness epidemic … consider
36% of American adults reported experiencing serious loneliness "frequently" or "almost all the time or all the time" in a recent national survey. among young people aged 18-25 and mothers with young children, this number rose to 61% and 51%, respectively.
in a different recent survey, almost half of young adults reported that nobody had asked how they were doing in a way that made them feel genuinely cared for in the last month.
shrinking American families are leading to a depletion of connections, with the average number of cousins a person has plummeting from close to 20 to just four. smaller households mean fewer neighbors and fewer children for our kids to play with, leading to greater isolation.
this week in the newsletter + sunday at good news in the neighborhood, we are doing some work on this topic. kristen + one of her closest friends wrote some perspective. sunday we will be speaking on this topic together.
from Kristen MacDonald
Proverbs 27:17 says “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” The funny thing in life is that we don’t get to pick out of a line up who the people are in life that will be the ‘iron’ this verse talks about. I met my friend Grace in 2010, at a one year old’s birthday party. Luke and I had become friends with another couple in ministry and although Luke knew of Grace and Dan from his Moody Bible Institute days we got to know one another briefly at that little party. There were a few more times that our mutual friends connected and we saw one another but it wasn’t until our paths crossed in ministry.
We had similarly aged kids and we were working at a church together. For me, I loved the kinship I would find with other ministry wives because our husbands were on mission together and so I have spent a lot of my life cultivating relationships with wives in ministry. Often in the business world ‘spousal participation’ isn’t required but in ministry you often meet couples who want to serve together. However, over time and circumstances I have seen a lot of those relationships shift when people move. I remember feeling like it was a risky thing to become really close friends with someone that Luke worked so closely with but I had too much kinship with Grace, not to.
We chose to do life together. We weathered parenting little ones while at that point our husbands were out of town or doing big ministry projects together a lot. But there was a point in which our work relationship shifted and there was a chance of losing a close friendship because it was going to be too hard to stay friends. But that is true in any friendship. Like Luke talked about in his message last weekend, for friendships to go beyond a common mission and develop into something more it takes effort and reciprocation and grace.
As things shifted for our friendship through a big move for their family, Grace was extremely transparent about how the path ahead was difficult and uncertain for them. It was filled with twists and turns that they wouldn’t have chosen and yet I saw this friend of mine hold on for dear life with an unwavering faith in God. Not trying to borrow grace for tomorrow but trusting that God would be who he said he would be for her at each point. During that season, she would often say, ‘I know God hasn’t brought me this far to just leave me here.’ What was interesting is that Grace prayed for me when I was hopeful for a fourth child and she encouraged me and rejoiced with me when we found out I was pregnant and then when I found out I was having a baby girl! I remember asking the Lord why they had to move away around that same time of her birth, wanting her to be able to walk closely alongside her in that season. But God had different plans.
With a newborn in tow, along with my three boys and her season of trying to build a life in a new place it would have been easy to chalk up ‘busyness’ or growing apart as natural. But Luke and Dan and Grace and I really put a stake in the ground before they left saying that we truly wanted to keep being friends. It took effort, but just like the fact that you don’t know when these ‘iron sharpening iron’ people are going to come into your life, they can be rare and the investment is important to cultivate whether it’s near or far. Her transparency and vulnerability encouraged my own faith. Little did I know, as she told me about rebuilding her own life in a new place, it would be a helpful framework for my own life as mine shifted a year and a half later. Her candor helped me immeasurably. She and her husband also showed up for us when we hadn’t asked them to or expected them to and I will never forget that.
I think that verse about ‘iron sharpening iron’ can be intimidating for us, wondering how we can be that for someone. And yet, often in this friendship it hasn’t been that we had the perfect words for each other but it was knowing that we could validate one another and pray for the other and say a hard truth when the other person needed it.
from Grace Lidstone
While friendships have looked different through different seasons of my life, the unwavering, unswerving constant in all friendships has been safety. Everything that is deep and meaningful has been born out of safety. Can I be my actual self with this person, or do I need to change things about myself? When it matters, does this person have my back? Can I trust this person enough to be vulnerable with them? Are they vulnerable with me, or do I feel like I’m the only one?
As Kristen and I got to know each other, I was drawn immediately to a sense that she was a safe person. I turned 30 right after we moved for Dan’s job working with Luke. I didn’t know Kristen well, but she reached out on my 30th birthday and asked if she could watch my preschooler so I could enjoy some alone time — a hot commodity for a mom of small children! I was so moved by this gesture — her thoughtfulness, her willingness to sacrifice her own time for me, her unspoken understanding that because we were new in town, I might find my 30th birthday a little lonely and could use a friend. Looking back now, I realize that this was a gesture of safety.
Over the years Kristen and Luke have walked through deep waters with us, and they’ve invited us to walk through deep waters with them. There’s been a mutual willingness to reach out even when it’s been uncomfortable, and an intentional choice to keep reaching out, to continue being vulnerable.
If there’s one thing I can recommend in finding and keeping deep friendships, it’s to be a safe person, to be someone who chooses vulnerability, thoughtfulness, and commitment. Safety is such a rare thing in this world. God will bring people into your life who are desperate for the safety you offer and who in turn will be safe people to you.
a simple song that describes the heart of what we are aiming to describe…
Last Weeks’s Sermon
Good Friday & Easter Playlist
this is good news.
—luke + kristen