I’ve been searching for a sister-friend for a long time. Her profile is clear. We like the same things. Wear the same size. Have the same schedule. She lives in a 10-mile radius. Our kids are the same age. Our husbands get along. We spend every Friday night together. Vacations, too. Essentially she is a unicorn: beautiful but mythical. And I expect her to show up with rainbows and Starbucks.
Clearly I do not live in reality.
The kind of friend that goes long and deep and safe and true… those are hard to find.
I used to think my problem had to do with expectations. But it was my experience at The Open Door Retreat that revealed the actual reason it’s hard to find sister-friends. It’s ugly. Brace yourself.
The nasty “I” word is a destroyer of friendship, eating away at the opportunity for joy and intimacy with real people in my real life. Left undetected, it is the birth mom of its’ more villainous offspring: comparison and competition.
When I initially met the amazing women of Open Door, I was swept up in the adventure and excitement of meeting 11 “new best friends”. But within about 10 minutes I felt the hot breath of Insecurity in my ear.
“You don’t belong here.”
“She is more [fill-in-the-blank] than you.”
“No one will even notice you.”
“You’d better be amazing or you’ll definitely be rejected.”
I kept that voice at bay for a while, but it was persistent. Then someone else mentioned they were hearing the voice, too. And another. And another. Until nearly all of us had confessed that we questioned whether we really belonged.
This was the turning point. Insecurity looks ridiculous in the light.
We publicly agreed that would be the end. No more questioning our place in this group. No more comparison. No more doubt. No more insecurity.
What ensued was the purest form of community I have ever experienced.
The reason? We committed to spend our time together being rooted in God’s love. This is the antidote to insecurity.
Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus, “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ… that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:18-19 NIV)
Why have I never considered this to be a prescription for my relationships?
The glorious oak in the park across the street doesn’t need a friend to bring it lunch every day. It doesn’t need anything from her. It gets all it needs from stretching into fertile ground. When I’m living rooted in God’s love, I have all I need. I don’t have to earn approval. I am secure.
And when we all live rooted, together with other saints, we are free to be one another’s champions. We aren’t intimidated by another’s talents or gifts. We celebrate them. We don’t feel the need to compare or measure up. We become mutual learners and mutual teachers. Failure is much less scary, and we don’t have to hide our flaws.
Living rooted means we experience the fullness God intended in our friendships. We can be in it unconditionally with each other. Like sisters.
What has kept you from finding sister-friends?
Raised in the Midwest, Michelle attended the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana and received a BA in Speech Communication with a minor in Spanish. After graduating she spent the following year in San Juan, Puerto Rico serving in the radio stations WBMJ and WIVV with Calvary Evangelistic Mission.
In 1994 she returned to the States, married her husband Byron, and began working with college students through the ministry of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. She and her husband have spent over 20 years reaching students at Northern Illinois University and all over Northern Illinois and Northwest Indiana. She currently serves at InterVarsity Press. In addition to being the mother of four kids, ages 9-16, she is the author of Wanting to Be Her, and travels the country as a popular speaker.
Things she loves: coffee, traveling the world, chocolate, big dogs, quoting movies, reading edgy books, running, hearing from God, speaking Spanish, hugs from her kids, laughing so hard you cry.