“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection” (Col. 3:12-14).
An inexhaustible topic of conversation among many pastors’ wives is that of friendship. There are the “haves and have-nots;” those who enjoy significant intimate relationships with other women and those who deeply desire such friendships. There are “Lone Rangers;” those solitary sisters who espouse the belief that Jesus is the only friend they need. And then there are the “wannabes;” those women with personal agendas who covet the exclusive company of their pastor’s wife.
Several years ago a friend shared an article with me that I would like to share with you. It too speaks of friendship and its title is: Seven Friends You Should Have by Claire Connors. Although the article was written for a secular audience still it embodies truths supported by Scripture.
Every human being is born with the same three basic needs: 1) to belong, 2) to be loved and to love; to know ones worth and value, and 3) to matter; to have and know ones purpose. Sadly, when our family of origin falls short of meeting these needs we experience rejection, disappointment and brokenness. That’s where having the following “seven friends” can help provide us with joy, healthy support, and satisfying relationships. (Note, one need not have these “seven” specific people in their life, but a few different friends who assume the same roles or possess the following attributes.)
1) The whip cracker: this is the person who gives tough love and encouragement. She does not allow you to hide or stagnate inside of your comfort zone; rather she pushes you to pursue greater goals because she sees the greatness inside of you. This woman spurs you into action and celebrates your successes.
“Wounds from a friend can be trusted… As iron sharpens iron, so one [wo]man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:6a, 17).
“I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you…For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:5-7).”
2) The mentor: Webster defines mentor as a wise, loyal advisor, teacher or coach. This is the friend you turn to with your questions. She may be older or simply more experienced in areas where you’re not as knowledgeable.
When Mary, the mother of Jesus, learned she was pregnant she went with haste to spend time with Elizabeth—someone “more pregnant”. (Luke 1:36, 39-40, 56)
3) The younger friend: “Every woman is an older woman to some other woman.” A younger woman can benefit from your wisdom, knowledge and guidance.
One note of caution: make sure she’s a “good investment;” someone worthy of the time and support you have to give.
“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God (Titus 2:3-5).”
4) Mom-away-from-Mom: this is the older woman who nurtures in a maternal way. She may comfort and care for you when you’re not feeling well; opens her heart and home providing a place of welcome and rest; or simply provides you with a much-needed pat on the back.
“God sets the lonely in families… (Psalm 68:6a)”
5) The translator: this man offers insight and understanding into the way men think. He may be a male relative or a platonic male friend who is the brother you never had. My father is deceased. I have no brothers and I married my first and only boyfriend. Thus, in addition to my husband and son, the husbands of a couple girlfriends provide me with a godly, male point of view and friendship. (This must be someone who is known and trusted by your spouse.)
6) The comedian: When you need to “lighten up” and have fun this is the friend who knows how to make you laugh. She helps to bring laughter and levity to your life.
“A cheerful heart is good medicine… (Proverbs 17:22a)”
7) The best friend: Gail MacDonald says it well in her book, High Call High Privilege, “…We need friends who accept us as normal Christian women and not as those playing roles…We need friends who are able to sustain relationships that are entirely independent of the dynamics of church life.” Gail goes on to describe what such a friend looks like. “She is a person of extraordinary flexibility and discretion. One who understands that this is a friendship best observed quietly, not talked about. One who appreciates that at a moment’s notice a change in plans may be necessary due to the unexpected that so often enters the life of a pastoral family… [She] doesn’t expect us to be perfect in every department of life and doesn’t hold it against us when those imperfections occasionally show themselves…[She] knows how to laugh, how to handle tears, how to pray, how to be silent and listen, and how and when to offer counsel and perspective. Finally, [she is] a woman who knows how to help us occasionally walk away from the intensity of pastoral life and discover all the fun there is in simply being a woman who loves God and the larger world that he has given to us.”
My prayer is that you have friends in your life who possess these characteristics, that you become this kind of person who will meet the need of a pastor’s wife longing to meet you, and most of all that you trust God to be that Friend of yours who sticks closer than a brother.
“7 Friends You Should Have” by Claire Connors, SHAPE Magazine, March 2001 High Call High Privilege © 1988 by Gail MacDonald, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.