Last weekend, two of my dearest college friends and sorority sisters traveled South of the Bluegrass to spend a few days with T and me. It was wonderful to have them in my neck of the woods, as I was desperate for a little girl time. We spent the weekend lounging on the beach, swapping skin care recommendations and filling ourselves with delicious food, and I’m already counting down the days until I see them again when I travel to Kentucky for a wedding in a few weeks.
Here’s the thing: I don’t think I ever really realized or understood the value of friends until we moved from Kentucky to Florida four months ago. Friendship has always been important to me, but it was never really something I had to think about or strive for; it always just was.
That changed when T and I put a thousand miles between us and the people we love. Since June, we’ve been stretched and grown and challenged, but we’ve also felt a new sort of loneliness and homesickness that, on certain days, have been difficult to swallow.
And I know that I’m not alone in this struggle. Studies show that there’s a kind of “friendship exodus” that happens to women in their mid-twenties. It’s during this chapter of our lives when we move to new cities, get serious about careers, start families of our own and, in the midst of all that, stop prioritizing our relationships.
That’s really no surprise; all that life change makes friendship trickier than ever, and it’s easy to just press pause on the weekly dinners and the regularly scheduled chats. But our busyness doesn’t make those moments any less crucial, and I was reminded of that last weekend. You see, when we take a moment to just enjoy friendship, we allow ourselves the space to be known. We get to skip the introductions and put away our best face and just be who we are. Because friends already know our stories; they understand where we’re coming from and they’re interested in who we are becoming. They know us.
And there’s something so refreshing about that sense of being known. It softens us and re-energizes us and instills in us a confidence and a peace that makes it easier to face rough days and crazy schedules and difficult people with patience and joy. Being known feels good because it’s something we were created to desire. And when we deprive ourselves of that or put friendship on the back-burner, we miss out on the opportunity to be poured into and the chance to pour into others.
If that weren’t enough, something else happens when we invest in friends; something that goes beyond being known by those around us. Time spent feeling understood and accepted by other people points us toward the One who knows us better and more deeply than we could imagine. Real, authentic friendship helps us to see and show Jesus more clearly because it forces us to slow down and take a step back from the noise and clutter that so often distracts us from spending time with Him.
After all, the God who created us also created and advocated for friendship and community. He never intended for us to wade through the trenches of life by ourselves. So why do we, as women, so often wear independence as a badge of honor? Why do we stress ourselves out at work and at home because we’re too prideful to ask for help or phone a friend? Why do we value packed schedules and “I don’t have time” over free moments and “Let’s have coffee”? When did we start defining success by the length of our to-do lists and the number of activities we can cram into a day?
I say we put an end to the madness. Let’s stop putting pressure on ourselves to constantly be doing, and give ourselves the freedom and permission to just be known by those who love us. Let’s measure our success by who we encourage rather than what we accomplish, and create more margin in our daily routines to listen and laugh and share stories and meals together. Let’s be better friends.
They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and I think it also brings clarity about what really matters. After four months of physical distance, I can tell you that, to me, friendship matters. And in this season of life, when it’s more difficult than it’s ever been before, I am deciding to strive to make space for cultivating and maintaining those relationships. If you’re like me, and you’re also finding friendship to be especially difficult these days, let’s do this together. Let’s reprioritize and simplify schedules and make room in our lives to pursue the gift of friendship. Let’s take advantage of opportunities to know and be known by others, all the while praying that our efforts draw us closer to the One who knew us first.
Until next time,