Just Friends

Photo Credit: Matt Douglass

Photo Credit: Matt Douglass

I’m a terrible friend.

This is a lie I have believed for years.

And I had to come face to face with it during a recent visit to Salt Lake City, Utah. I took a trip to visit a best friend I had not spent time with in almost 7 years.

This girl was my high school bestie. The two of us had backpacked through Europe together for 6 weeks after college. And we were each others’ maid/matron of honor on the most important days of our lives.

But after we both got married, life happened. We lost touch - barely exchanging texts. We were lucky to have yearly dinner dates when she came in town to visit her family.

So, when the opportunity presented itself for me to visit this special friend, who now lives in Salt Lake City, I decided it was time to go.  

For 48 hours, my girl and I were reunited. Friendship and reconnecting is good for my soul. We sat in our jammies and drank coffee. We hiked and played with her kiddos. We sipped on wine and hung out in her backyard.

During my visit I lost track of time, barely remembering to snap a single picture. We just were. We cooked meals and organized her kitchen. We enjoyed the simplicity of just being together. We told hilarious pee-your-pants-stories that only she and I think are funny.

And as my trip came to a close, we even shared some tears. I thanked her for sticking by me. She’s a friend that I can cozy up next to and just be. I thanked her for not letting go when the silence and miles between us grew into days then weeks then months.

And she said it best, “I’ve learned that friends are for a season.”

She was so right. Friends come and they go, and I (we) don’t need to be bound by a lie that says something went wrong.

When she dropped me off at the airport, saying goodbye felt different. I felt so happy. I gave her a long hug and and said, “I love you, and I can’t wait to see you again.”

I left my friend and Salt Lake City, but I brought back home new memories and new perspective. I also left behind the guilt that I been carrying for years.

Our friendship had not been lost; it had evolved into something beautiful.

I don’t have to be the best friend that I once was (nor do my friends have to remain the same as they once were). I can choose to embrace the woman and friend I am now - I let go of the lie that I’m not good enough or that I am a terrible friend.  

Friends are a gift… and they are also for a season. They will change (thankfully)! We mature, we grow wiser, we get married, we build careers, we make new friends, we build homes/families and we have new needs, wants, passions, and interests.

And that is okay. It’s also okay that I’m not called someone’s B.F.F.E.

Conversely, I have released the grip I once held around my best friendships. No longer do they have to live up to my expectations. I no longer struggle with comparing them to others or question the extent of their “best friend-ness”. Honestly, calling someone my best friend had little to do with them and everything to do with me - my esteem, my pride, my fear, my loneliness, my emptiness.

Google told me the word best means of the most excellent, effective, or desirable type or quality. So, if I call someone my best friend, then she is the most excellent of all my friends? Out of all the friends I have, this friend is the top? The most desirable one?

Effectively, naming one friend my best then leaves dozens, maybe hundreds, of others as just... my friends?!

When did being a friend become not as good as a best friend?

Here’s my point, and where I want to challenge all women - especially mothers. What if we changed the way we see and we speak about best friends? Not only our own, but also our children’s?

I have worked for more than 10 years to rewrite lies that I believed about myself (and my friends) for most of my life, and I still struggle with labels and loneliness.  I am certain my children, specifically my daughters, will struggle with this too.

But what if we committed to teach our children how to just be a friend? Imagine the life that this would breathe into their childhood, adolescent and adult friendships. And imagine how that would impact their friendship with Jesus!

I’m talking about the kind of friendships Jesus spoke about - you know, loving your neighbor and treating others as you want to be treated.

Imagine the change we’d see in our homes, schools, and communities if we demonstrated friendship in a refreshing new way. As moms we probably give our children lots of advice on being nice to others, but what if we did the same? What if we chose to look for the “kid” at recess sitting alone and brought them into our fold? What if we no longer snapped, grammed or facebooked about one best friend, but rather used social media as a way to extend friendship and cultivate community to many?

I actually encourage my kids to not label friends as their best. I offer them different descriptives such as special, dear, or cherished. I hope throughout their lives, they find good friends rather than best ones.

Please know that I absolutely believe in the gift of friendship, the Body of Christ, authentic fraternity/sisterhood, loving neighbors, and the strength that comes from having a tribe. All of these areas provide fertile soil to grow beautiful relationships.

My prayer is that my children find all of the above! And until they do, I hope to demonstrate for them what it means to be just a friend, rather than striving to be the best one. All the while appreciating the beauty found in seasons of friendship.

“A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter, he that has found one has found a treasure.
There is nothing so precious as a faithful friend…”

Sirach 6:14-16 (RSVCE)

(K.S.D., thanks for being you. And for the special visit that helped me discover a new perspective - a new depth in our friendship. I love you, girl… always and forever.)  

Stef Blackwell

Stef Blackwell and her husband are raising their four kids and living the dream deep in the heart of suburbia, Flower Mound, TX. She’s a raging choleric and high functioning introvert, which some have said is impossible. But alas, here she lives to tell her tale. Her greatest strength is bossing people around; her greatest weakness is she bosses people around - and Jesus loves her just the way she is - today. She looks for the one mama who is standing alone and strives to bring them into the fold. God has given her a passion for marriage, motherhood, and living missionally.