I can remember the effort it took—my small feet pressing hard into the grassy hillside leading up from the parking lot to the entryway of the small country church. Working hard to keep pace, my sweaty palm gripped that of my first and most precious best friend—my grandmother, my Granny Mae. Bending low, her piercing blue eyes met mine before speaking a challenge that would shape the way in which I view friendship, to this day: “Now, remember, LaTan, you have to be a friend to make a friend.”
Years later, her simple words of wisdom continue to compel me to be bold and courageous in resisting the temptation of shrinking back into a room filled with strangers, to not give up when struggling against reservations warring to keep me in the corner and away from discovering new life-giving friendships. It is her wisdom that continues transforming the way in which I approach people, uninhibitedly, extending a friendly hello and remaining mindful of the fact that the next stranger could very well be a future best friend in the making.
As inclusive as I strive to be, I can’t help but wonder how many times I’ve drawn exclusive circles around my closest friendships and unknowingly made someone feel excluded. I’m pretty certain most of us fail to pursue new friendships when it takes generous amounts of courage to reach beyond the comforts of our usual circles. In fact, a precious friend of mine confessed to telling new acquaintances that her friend card was full, with no vacancies.
It’s easy to close ourselves off from the world and remain near to only those we feel most at home with, isn’t it? But Christian friendship is so important in a woman’s life and most disappointing when not returned. Let’s face it, we all run the risk of getting caught in the trap of allowing past hurts to hinder opportunities for new friends and ruin the long-term friendships we’ve established by keeping ledgers of who reached out last or who gave more to the friendship.
During my many years of traveling and speaking at events, I have overheard far too many women unleashing frustrations, saying things like:
“She didn’t even speak to me.”
“I will not be the first to speak to her—she can come to me.”
“She’s never invited me to her house, but she’s been invited to mine so many times.”
“I am the only one giving and giving to this friendship.”
Each time, I’d think to myself how my grandmother’s challenge can help in keeping us centered on what pleases the heart of God—being a friend in order to make a friend. The enemy of darkness loves to twist truth, making us a victim. But being a Christian friend is a powerful place of honor and shouldn’t be a place where a balance sheet is kept. There’s no greater joy than being able to inspire others, to initiate coming together for fellowship, to be the person who prioritizes and cultivates meaningful and lasting friendships. There’s no greater honor than being a gatherer—a woman who brings people together and sends people out better than when they came. A true Christian friend doesn’t keep score. She’s the woman who spends her time and energy making the first phone call, planning the meetup, and scheduling events that brings strangers, old friends, and new friends together. She’s the woman who knows we are so much stronger together than left alone with sweaty palms to face all the hard life brings.
Each and every friend has something to teach us. In reflecting back on various friendships I’ve had throughout the years, I see the importance of investing time and effort to establish Christian friendships that build up instead of exhausting my emotional energy with those intent on tearing me down. The decision to move in grace and forgiveness is the most powerful decision we can make. Imagine the impact of asking God to bless relationships He approves or remove us from friendships that fail to bring Him honor and are healthy for our spiritual, emotional, and mental wellbeing. How can we move in our God-given purpose to live multiplied lives when we surround ourselves with unhealthy friendships that deplete the best of who God designed us to be?
Maybe today is the day we begin opening ourselves up to possibilities of finding new friendships and shifting our approach in choosing friends who genuinely celebrate when good things happen. Let’s stop pursuing people only to maintain status. Evaluate friends you’ve been hanging with who are bringing you down or causing you to lower your standards instead of increasing your faith in Christ.
How wonderful it is to be given the power to choose our friends. There have been times when I chose poorly. There have been times when I felt like God Himself had dipped and rolled certain friends in pure gold and dropped them into the center of my life to go the extra mile with me, sharing deep heartaches and great joys and loving me well through each season.
If you are lonely or in a transition time when you are pursuing new friendships but finding it difficult, I want to encourage you to snuggle in near to the friend who will never fail you—Jesus. His is the most life-giving friendship of all and the benchmark for finding fulfilling relationships. He is the friend that loves, at all times, not only when you’ve acquired a certain lifestyle or your house is impeccably clean, your career is going fantastically, your children are doing great spiritually, and your marriage is perfect. Jesus is the friend who loves you to your bone marrow because you are created in HIS image. He is the friend who will stand by you when everyone else in your life moves to the farthest corner of the room. Jesus befriended us, first, calling us near as friends worthy of redemption and erasing brokenness with empty past mistakes exchanged for wholeness. Everything about Jesus is elevation for us. He is not about lowering a standard. He is an all-inclusive kind of friend who brings us into His inner circle to include us as family. He loves us so much that He wants us to talk with Him on a daily basis and He withholds nothing good from us. His desire is that we are knowledgeable about everything that will equip us and make our lives better. And in gentle whispers, He generously makes Himself available to us, sharing deep and hidden secrets within the mind and heart of God with us. If we will make time in our busy schedules to rise above the noise of our lives and listen, we can experience a sacred intimacy with Jesus that grounds us in strength when our feet feel too feeble to make the climb upward. He is the kind of friend who wants us to thrive and live life to the fullest.
If you’ve never had a good friend or want to become a better friend, Jesus can show you how. Make a list of all the people in your life whom you’ve considered a friend. Ask yourself how each person leaves you better than when they came to you. This is a powerful practice and one that will help you know how to be a friend in order to have the kind of friends God desires for you. If you find yourself gossiping after hanging out with a certain friend, it’s time to make a change. If you find yourself growing angry and critical of your family after listening to a disgruntled friend, it’s time to make a change. If your personality has taken on your friend’s negativity, it’s time for change.
And it’s never too late. If you need a friend, you can BE a friend.
Here’s to more love, more loyalty, more depth in friendships than your little heart can hold—in 2024 and beyond.
LaTan Roland Murphy is a lover of people and strong coffee. She is a sought-after speaker and award-winning writer who finds encouraging others her passion and purpose. Speaking with candid humility and raw honesty, LaTan draws from her own real-life mistakes and failures, inspiring audiences with hilarious personal stories. She and her husband, Joe, recently celebrated thirty-eight years of marriage. They will be the first to tell you they are still growing up together. She and Joe have three adult children: two sons and a daughter. They are blessed to have a loving son-in-law and daughter-in-law who feel more like biological children. In her spare time LaTan enjoys spending time with her three grandchildren, who totally captivate her heart.
Visit me at: http://latanmurphy.com
Author of: Courageous Women of the Bible