Matt and Miranda and I are currently in Wisconsin as part of our holiday travels. Tomorrow we’ll head to Chicagoland for a few days and then come back here for a day or two before making the drive back to Missouri. Other than a brief stint in Bloomington, Indiana, where Matt completed his MFA, the only places I’d ever lived before we moved to Missouri were in the Milwaukee area and in Evanston, IL (just north of Chicago). I have a number of friends both places, and returning there always causes me to reflect on those relationships in particular but also on the nature of friendship itself.
One of the most encouraging Bible study meetings I ever attended was part of a women’s Bible study I participated in the summer after Matt and I got married. For a variety of reasons – which are part of another story entirely – I was really rather fearful about going to this particular Bible study, but Matt encouraged me to at least give it a try, and God definitely worked through it in several significant ways in my life. For one thing, it was where I met a woman I now consider to be one of my best friends. She’s a bit older than I am and was actually mentoring a lot of us through this study, and the night we were discussing the friendship of David and Jonathan (as part of Beth Moore’s David study), she shared a few of her thoughts on women’s friendships, which were a tremendous encouragement to me, some reassurances that I’ve gone back to time and time again.
The story of David’s and Jonathan’s friendship (told in 1 Samuel & 2 Samuel) that we were discussing that night is beautiful, one of unwavering loyalty, devotion, and cameraderie, sustained in the face of extreme familial pressure and even the very real threat of death. In one of my favorite books from childhood, Anne of Green Gables, Anne describes her yearning for her idealized notion of a best friend – “A bosom friend – an intimate friend, you know – a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul. I’ve dreamed of meeting her all my life. I never really supposed I would, but so many of my loveliest dreams have come true all at once that perhaps this one will, too. Do you think it’s possible?”
I think so many of us, women in particular, have a similar ideal in our minds of the friendships we’d like to have. We yearn to have those David & Jonathan type relationships, we want a bosom friend (or ten) like Anne describes. And all too often, it seems, real life doesn’t quite measure up to that.
One of the thoughts my friend shared with us that night – which I’m sharing here, because I think it’s so true and hope it’s an encouragement to others out there as well – is that it often seems to each of us as if the world is paired up in sets of best friends. Every David has his Jonathan and every Anne her Diana – and somehow we got left out, the only one without a perfectly matched best friend. And that’s just not true. Those David-and-Jonathan, bosom friend relationships are few and far between. We’re lucky if we have one or two or three over the course of our lifetimes – and that’s the reality for everyone.
Those deep connections are treasures to be cherished and nurtured, but I believe it’s also true that we’re called to live where we’re at. God has called Matt and Miranda and me to Columbia, Missouri, and we want to be (and should be) “all in” for the time we have there. And that means that things change. It’s always somewhat bittersweet to me to return to Wisconsin and Chicagoland and realize that my relationships with my friends there are, out of necessity, different. I love those friends with all of my heart, but it’s just not possible to connect with the same consistency when you live 8 hours away from one another. I miss those regular, frequent connections. I miss the continual depth of those particular relationships, those amazing friendships.
But I am thankful for the degree to which some of those relationships have been able to persist and even grow. I am thankful for opportunities to come back for visits (and for our friends’ visits to us!) and for phone calls and texts and e-mails and Facebook. And I am thankful for new relationships, new friendships in Missouri. God has definitely blessed me with several amazing women there whom I would call close friends, and they bring additional richness and beauty to my life. Not every relationship is a David-and-Jonathan, bosom friend relationship – they don’t all have that potential, and even the ones that do cannot always be sustained over all times and distances. However, I absolutely believe that God’s bringing various people into our lives at various times in various places for various types of relationships is a means of grace to us, and I’ll accept with gratitude the people He brings into my life and whatever relationships I’m able to cultivate with them.