“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.” Proverbs 27:9
I discovered Anne Shirley of Green Gables in my late teens, first in the movies, and later in the books. Prince Edward Island, puffed sleeves and raspberry cordial were part of my lexicon, along with the hidden desire to rename the Sheboygan Falls lagoon, “The Lake of Shining Waters”. This quirky, adventurous, red-headed orphan, who romanticizes the trials in her life, desperately wants to fit in somewhere and longs for a bosom friend. She finds this friend in a neighbor, Diana Barry, who Anne declares is her “kindred spirit.”
I think Anne’s plight resonates with so many of us because we all have a longing to feel connected with others, to have that “kindred spirit”. This kindred spirit will not only know that we have a deep love for the color yellow, books and good coffee, but will also know that you don’t like fishing, are nervous around dogs, and have terrible handwriting. More than that, this friend will know your heart, and despite the times you make mistakes or fall short, he or she will love, support and encourage you.
Recently, my husband shared some thoughts from a podcast about friendship that he had been listening to. The speaker in the podcast shared that the typical lifespan of a friendship may only be three to five years. She went on to say that a lifetime friendship that has spanned decades is a rarity and a special blessing. This concept of transitory friendships has little to do with our shallowness as human beings, but rather with the seasons of our lives. For example, while I was in college, I made some good friends. These friends were the ones with whom I shared meals, inside jokes and college stresses for four years. After college, we continued our friendships for a little while, but as our lives changed and went in different directions, the friendships faded. Although I can keep up with their major life moments on social media, I would say these friendships have moved more into the category of acquaintances now. Despite the shift, I am forever grateful for that season of friendship during college; they blessed my life, enriched me as a person, and left a mark that changed me.
In addition to my seasonal friendships, I have been blessed to have not just one, not two, but three friends who have reached lifetime status! Two of the friendships have lasted for over 30 years and the third has spanned more than twenty-five years. Despite not always living in the same place, we have shared major milestones together: college graduations, marriages, baby arrivals, home education, parenting journeys, children transitioning into adulthood, children getting married, and one of us becoming a grandmother. Along with the milestones, we have shared some major losses: job transitions, moving, deaths of parents, health crises and marriage challenges. No matter the milestones or losses, these friendships have remained a constant in my life that has provided me with balance, a listening ear, years of inside jokes, and decades of photos together, including some unfortunate fashion choices!
In today’s vernacular, some would call these three ladies “my squad”. But I don’t want to reduce them to just a trendy hashtag because they are so much more than that. They are not only my bosom friends and kindred spirits, but friends who have proven themselves to be some of my greatest treasures. Upon reflection, I have learned some truths about friendship from these relationships.
- First, lifetime friendships must be based on some fundamental principles not just a shared set of interests. All these friendships have been based on our personal relationships with God. It has kept our friendships centered by a set of common beliefs that shape and mold us. It helps us to reach beyond our own personal capacity to give, but in a supernatural way, to pray and serve one another. At different points in our lives, these ladies and I have prayed together at an altar.
- Second, lifetime friendships need to be intentionally cultivated and maintained. In the beginning, as in all relationships, we had some growing pains. I know you may find it hard to believe (wink, wink), but I have not always been a good friend. At times, I could be self-righteous and judgmental. Yet, I have learned to ask for forgiveness, and I have worked to grow and change. Offenses will come, even with the most wonderful friends. Yet, I have learned to look at the hearts of my friends and be open to repairing the friendship. Weeds will sprout up, but they do not have to choke the friendship. Once a friendship is established, I must maintain it by putting forth some effort. Right now, only one of these friends lives within forty minutes of me, but for almost seven years, I was at least eight hundred miles away from each of them. Despite the distance and the busyness of each other’s’ lives, we kept in regular contact. We made a point of connecting, not just through texting, but through phone calls, letters, cards, and visits. Social media was also a tool I used to keep updated on their lives.
- Third, real friends help sanctify you. All these women have helped me to become the women that I am today. They have done this by not only sharing a common history, but also by not being afraid to speak truth into my life, each in her own unique voice. Sometimes, God has used them to speak in gently, sometimes more directly, to point out a flaw in my thinking or character, and other times by just being an example of a Godly woman handling difficult situations in her own life. From these women, I have learned to set healthy boundaries, to be more graceful, gentle, consistent, principled, and loving.
There are certain scents that instantly bring a feeling of pleasure to my life: the smell of coffee in the morning, chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven, and the smell of wood burning in a fireplace. Solomon recognized the pleasure of scent when he wrote in Proverb 27:9, “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.” Etsy creators and Hobby Lobby designers have summed up this proverb with these simple words, “Sweet friendships refresh the soul and awaken our hearts with joy.” I am forever grateful for the lasting fragrance these three women have imprinted in my mind. As surely as the smell of chocolate chip cookies tingles my taste buds, the friendships of these women refresh my soul and awaken my heart with joy!