Friends to the End

Confession: I’m afraid that I’m bad at long-term friendships. I know people who grew up with friends from the time they were Kindergarten clear through to their 30s, and they still spend time together and know everything about each other. That amazes me. My brain cannot wrap around it at all.

Go ahead, call me a brat.

We moved a lot when I was a kid. My dad was in the Army, so every few years we packed up and headed to a new place. I got pretty proficient at being “the new girl.” I became an excellent pen-pal. (Do y’all remember back when long-distance landline phone calls cost an arm and a leg? Letters –on paper, with stamps– were the only way to stay in touch with your friends when you left town!)

Me (holding a book of course) and my kindergarten bestie, Jacob in Anderson, South Carolina.

The four years we spent in Texas were my first taste of longevity… my bestie from Fort Sill, Oklahoma had moved to Fort Hood, Texas the year before we did. It felt like a miracle to move into a new home and already know somebody! Plus, our moms and brothers got along well, so we got to see each other once a month or so.

I’m in the center – this is my going away party in 1992 when we left Fort Hood.

Our base housing in those years was on a street on base that was filled with kids. The girl across the street was just my age, bookish and quiet like me, and we spent nearly every day together for three years. (Then her family moved to Corpus Christi, and we became pen-pals. Our moms let us make one long-distance call a month. And then, I got to go spend a week with her in the summer, which was an amazing adventure in my twelve-year-old world. But I digress.)

Julia and me, standing in my front yard in Fort Hood.
Her house is right behind us, with her mom waiting on the carport.

In high school, we had moved again, but I made a new group of great friends. Remember, I was pretty good at making friends. But maintaining those friendships? I’m Facebook friends with a few folks from those days, but really only in contact with one of my high school chums beyond social media.

Me on left. This was an Acteens celebration at First Baptist Church in Hinesville, Georgia

Sisters at heart.

My college years were another chance to pack up, move, and play the “new girl” part. The difference was, we are all new girls. My roommate and I were randomly assigned, but we got along amazingly well and became fast friends.

Me on left with Holly, plus some sweet scrapbooking stickers from the late 90’s

She’s the one who convinced me to rush and pledge our tiny (local, Christian) sorority, and that opened up a world of new friends and sisters who made up most of the fabric of my days in those years.

I’m on the third row, right. This is our “family photo” – my big sis is above me, my roommate is beside me because we “adopted” her when her big sis graduated, and my littles and newly-initiated grand-littles are on the rows below me.

Unfortunately, because I moved after college — and moved again, and again, and again — I really don’t get to see any of those old chums anymore, either. We exchange Christmas cards and keep up on Facebook, and that’s about it.

It’s not you, it’s me.

When I think about it that way, I worry sometimes that I’m deficient. I worry that I don’t have what it takes to keep friends around me for more than a few years. Maybe I’m too much of something off-putting, too little of something important.

It’s a negative spiral when I start thinking that way.

But then, there’s Jesus.

The best of friends.

For one thing, He’s the best comforter when I start feeling blue, when I’m being hard on myself. (That’s not to say He goes easy on my sin — oh no, He convicts me when I’m in the wrong with a friend, and prompts me to make amends and restore relationships. But there’s a difference between conviction and shame, and my Enemy sure loves to whisper words of doubt and shame into my ear. Jesus reminds me of the truth.)

For another thing, he’s the only friend I’ve ever had who laid down his life for me.

I want to be clear: I really, really, really can’t stand the “Jesus is my homeboy,” casual approach that dominated my youth group culture of the mid-90s. I’m not saying Jesus is my friend as if that’s all he is — just a buddy, a pal, a compadre through my crazy life.

No. It would be heretical for me to think or speak of Jesus in only those terms. He is absolutely, without question, a King returning to claim his kingdom; he is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.” (Heb. 1:3) He is the only Savior of humanity.

And yet, shockingly, extravagantly, Jesus calls me his friend.

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

John 15:15

Friendship for eternity.

What have I learned from friendship with Jesus?

  1. There’s an element of self-sacrifice and servanthood to real friendships.
  2. True friends can speak a word of rebuke or correction to each other, and can do so with love.
  3. Friends weep together, celebrate together, and laugh together. No emotion is off the table or too messy to share.
  4. A friend can sometimes see when you’re listening to fear, shame, or other whispers of the Enemy — and counter it with a word of truth.

I’ve never seen a human friendship that gets it all right. (We’re human, we mess up and we let people down, even if they’re our dearest friends.) But I feel like the longer I walk in friendship with Jesus, the better I get at being a friend to the women who are in my life right now.

No, they aren’t the same girls I knew in Anderson, South Carolina when I started Kindergarten, or the young ladies from my Acteens group and color guard in Hinesville, Georgia. But they’re the women who are here — in Owensboro, Kentucky — right now, who I get to share walks and coffee and sushi dates and shopping trips and meme-filled text threads with. And it’s my hope to be a faithful friend for as long as God keeps us in each other’s lives.

What about you?

So, what do you think: do you have a few of those known-em-forever friends or have you collected different groups of friends through the years, like me? How many friends is enough, or too many, at this stage of your life? I’d love to hear your thoughts on friendship through your own years.

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Meet the author

MICHELLE NEBEL

I write uplifting women’s fiction woven with threads of faith, grace, and Southern hospitality. My blog is where I share a glimpse of my life, and I hope you’ll find the thoughts here encouraging!

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“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Ephesians 2:8-9

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