Bridge Over Troubled Water

A troubled heart is one weighed with worry, or guilt.  It is a heart that is not free to enjoy life because of concern and anxiety.  A troubled mind is one consumed with thoughts that distract and dismay.  A troubled soul is one that is not right with God, and also man.  Troubles are caused by many things — and they affect each of us differently.  Often our troubles cease to simply be happening to us, but become us.  We become so consumed with our troubles that we become rather troublesome ourselves.

I have been a troublesome friend in the past.  I was conceited and contentious, always insisting on my own opinion as correct.  I was proud and selfish, seeking only my own gain and others’ attention.  I never let lie — I pursued, and prodded, and pushed with tongue and action.  I put up a facade of security, but deep down, I was very insecure.  I took out this trouble on all those who had the unfortunate circumstance of crossing paths with me. 

These habits of my lifestyle are not stowed in the archives of my ‘testimony’, meant to make you all marvel at how I have conquered them.  Yesterday I revived several of these vices in my own home.  I failed.  So I think:  why did I fail?  Why did I become troublesome?  I realized that it is because I let the troubles be my thermometer of emotion.  Rather than cast them on Christ, I held them close to my heart, which in turn made my heart a dark and dank place to venture.

Even in my troublesome nature, there have been friends who have endured.  These are the friends who somehow built a bridge over my troubles and crossed from their heart to mine, giving when I wasn’t worth giving to.  When I was angry, and ready to burn any bridge in sight, they built one anyway — because they are true friends.  They don’t depend on my emotions, my troubles, to dictate their own.  They love no matter what.

As I see my own actions, and then view theirs, I can see what sacrifices these people made in their friendship, or family relationship, to me.   Even while they let me rage and crash like a hurricane-ridden sea, they had the courage to build a bridge to me, and keep a connection — even when I have been less of a friend, daughter, or sister I could have been.

Those closest to us know when to build the bridge, even when we are emotionally disraught.  Their love is unconditional, and their faith, enduring.  I only hope I can be like them in the smallest way.

An Iron Pillow

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Friendships are wonderful.  They are simply a blast.  Yet, I think girl friends are the best friendships of all (outside the family, which we will discuss later).  There seems to be an uncanny connection between coffee, chocolate and the giggling girls who use both!  I know that with one of my best friends if we are together, there’s usually only one thing between us — a table with coffee sitting on it.  Or chocolate.  Preferably both.  (That’s me and her above)

There is a reason girl friends are important.  This reason rests on the nature of women and girls.  Females are wired to be conversational:  nurturing, emotional and caring.  Face to face encounters are what they thrive on.  It makes us feel like someone wants to be with us, is genuinely interested, and is enjoying our company.  My friend and I work out the world’s problems in the Roast and Toast cafe!

Men are wired differently.  Have you ever noticed how they talk?  Picture first a bridal or baby shower.  It sounds like a hen house, with every voice raised to congratulate and encourage, all asking the whens and wheres and particulars of the specific occasion.  Men don’t do that, which is good, or we wouldn’t marry them.  When men talk to each other, or even to us, they often turn somewhat sideways rather than face to face.  Their emphasis is not on an emotional connection, but rather on an informative one. 

The reason I bring these things up is to reveal the importance that women place on conversation and social interaction in a relationship.  For most women (although I have met a few exceptions) talking about their lives with someone helps them to understand and deal with issues they may have.  In the world, these issues are never solved because their friends simply tell them to ‘believe in themselves’ and ‘do what feels right’.  However, for those of us fortunate enough to have godly girl friends, we have the duty and the blessing of encouragement in Christ within that relationship.

The Bible says that “iron sharpens iron”.  You can’t sharpen a knife with a pillow, you have to hone the blade with something that provides resistance.  It will grate on the blade at first, but when time has gone by, the knife will be of use because of its sharpness.  In a true friendship, the friends help each other grow in their walk with Christ by being honest.  This does not mean we look for faults to correct, but if our friend asks for accountability, the door is open to speak with her. 

But we can’t be all sharpness, either.  Our job isn’t to simply hone our friends into the women they are ‘supposed to be’.  We must also be there for comfort, hope and a cheerful word.  We need to have a softness about us that will temper the necessity of a harder word later on.  It is a combination of both honesty and compassion — one of the hardest combinations to maintain!  This goes beyond the cafe table to every area of life. 

So there is a challenge for you, me and every other woman, young and old.  Can you combine gentleness and honesty?  Can you be an Iron Pillow?

What Friends Are For

“A friend loves at all times.”  (Proverbs 17:17)

That’s a big order.  What kind of person loves at all times?  Well — a friend!  This week I will be posting somewhat regularly on friendship:  what makes a good friend, more on friendships with boys and in a few weeks forward, on what can destroy a friendship from the inside out.  But for today, I am going to be talking about girlfriends — those wonderful, laughable, giggly gals you have in your circle of closest relationships.

The thing about good girlfriends is the fact that they can share in your feelings, understand your mentality, comprehend your situations and support you in trial.  While guy friends are great (we’ll revisit their whole end of the deal at a later date) girl friends are going to be able to identify with you much better than guys.   Men have an entirely different outlook on life than women; they tend to be much more practical, less emotional, and often simplified (not simple!) in their thinking.  Their comprehension of the world is less complex than a woman’s.  For instance, in a romantic relationship the woman might go home after a date evaluating the inflection of the second syllable in ‘Can I see you again?’, while the man may simply go home thinking, “Wow, nice girl.  Glad she accepted another date.  What’s in the fridge?”

So friends that are girls can be a wonderful support to you.  Unfortunately, good friends can be hard to come by.  A ‘good friend’ is not defined by how much she laughs at your jokes or how many times you go out for coffee;  a good friend is defined by her character.  “Do not be deceived:  bad company corrupts good morals.”  (1 Cor. 15:33).  A woman of good character will encourage you to become a better woman yourself; one that lacks spiritual stability or who does not take seriously her walk with God will lead down her path if you spend ‘quality time’ with her.

What are the qualifications for a good friend?  There are several Scripture passages that can point to what she needs to be.  One of them is what I used for my WONDERFUL group of girls and boys here up north:  1 Corinthians 13:4-8.  Since we know a true friend ‘loves at all times’, what does it mean to ‘love’?  According to that passage, love is “patient and kind, love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.”

A true friend will either possess or be working on these qualities in her own life.  Most likely, it will be a combination of both!  We all struggle with specific temptations and sins.  This is very important to note, because what you require in a friend you must also be.  You know what they say:  “If you wish to have a friend, you need to be one.”  The standard you set for yourself will actually determine which friends you have.  If you are passionate about Christ, there will be people who don’t like you.  But you can bet it won’t be the ones who are passionate about Christ!  The same goes for hobbies and interests — a writer like myself doesn’t have a lot of girlfriends that like to hike.  I have friends that are artsy, intellectual, musical, and literary.  Who you are, what your motivations and interests are, will effect what friends are closest to you.

To check yourself on your Love Gauge, I suggest picking up a Bible and finding that passage in 1 Corinthians.  Read through verses 4-8 replacing your name for the word ‘love’.  Convicting, isn’t it?  Once you have done it, evaluate what you need to work on to be a better friend — and to better glorify Christ.  Meanwhile, perhaps you can find a very close girlfriend to keep you accountable… which gives you an excellent excuse to go out for coffee!!