This is one of my favorite paintings EVER… Artist: Corby Eisbacher
* This post first published on February 13, 2013 but so appropriate for this season…
Depending on your own personal experiences, this word alone can either kick your blood pressure up a notch or release a jet of excitement through your veins. Or maybe both.
Relationship with others is one of the greatest gifts we receive—they keep us from becoming too isolated and ensure that we grow and mature through the various peaks and valleys that undoubtedly are a part of the ones that span over time.
But let’s not kid ourselves . . . Sometimes they’re just plain hard.
If you’ve been burned a time or two by a girlfriend or a sister or your mother or even your husband, sometimes it’s incredibly scary to stick your toe back into the proverbial waters of relationship and try again, isn’t it?
Two years ago, God walked me through an entire year of relational conflict. Yes. I know. Lucky me. An entire year.
It was everywhere. And while I can’t detail specifics, I can share what I’ve learned thus far and am still learning (because let me tell you, I won’t ever stop learning.)
You should also know that while I’ll be sharing much of what I’ve gleaned from spending a pretty significant amount of time in the Refiner’s fire, let me also assure you that I’m not sharing from a place of expertise.
I’m not preaching to you from a pulpit nor proclaiming it from my bullhorn.
I’m right there with you. We walk this journey together, sister.
I don’t have all the answers but I know who does and He hasn’t ever failed me. And He won’t.
So let’s get on with it, shall we?
If relationships can sometimes get murky, why do we even need them? Specifically relationships with other women?
Well, here’s the thing . . . We were created to be relational beings. And men and women were created quite differently. Have you noticed this? (You should probably know I’m laughing…)
My husband rocks. He’s not perfect. Nor am I. Sometimes our imperfections bump heads and we walk through valleys and have moments of pondering what we ever saw in the other to make us even consider getting married.
In other words, we’re a very normal married couple.
But suffice it to say, there are just times when I need to process with a girlfriend because though that man I married is wise and possesses more positive qualities than what I can list, he still doesn’t have the perspective of a woman.
While men tend to define their success through their occupation, women do so through their relationships. Our hearts tend to be a bit more nurturing and we can easily engage in what I call “circular conversations”. These are the ones that leave my husband wearing a befuddled look as he tries to figure out how we got on the subject of planting our garden when we were originally talking about our child’s report card.
However, this doesn’t need to be explained to a girlfriend because she was riding that train right along with me.
One of my favorite examples of female friendship in the Bible is the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth.
Elizabeth was significantly older than Mary and was also her cousin. She was the first person Mary sought after the angel Gabriel told her she would give birth to the Son of God. Mary journeyed quite a while to visit Elizabeth (remember this was before airlines and cell phones) and she stayed for three months.
What happened during those three months is not detailed in the Bible but I can guess there was a whole lot of Mary helping Elizabeth (remember she was an older woman and she was six months pregnant!) and a whole lot of talking.
One of the most tender moments between Elizabeth and Mary occurred right when Mary arrived. I can’t imagine what Mary must have felt — I mean, the girl was fourteen years old and had just been told by an angel she was going to become pregnant by the Holy Spirit and give birth to the Messiah.
To verbally share this information with anyone was a risk because, quite truthfully, it sounded completely crazy.
Yet Elizabeth knew by the leap in her womb that Mary carried the Christ child and she encouraged her (Luke 1:42-45). In fact, she encouraged her so much that it inspired Mary to respond with one of her most well-revered moments — the Magnificat.
Never underestimate the power of encouragement from a woman.
How has being encouraged by a friend impacted you? How can you encourage someone this week?