What’s My Calling and Related Questions

THE “WHAT IS MY CALLING QUIZ”

The Calling FlowerSeveral years ago, I was having the same conversation I’ve had countless times, this time with a young woman I was mentoring on my team.  She was trying to navigate where she fit best.  She is one of those talented people that can carry a variety of different roles with ease.  She felt torn between different parts of the church.  “Should I do youth ministry? Worship ministry? Missions? Women’s ministry?”  She felt like she needed to choose one area, or that she should know the specific thing God was calling her to do.  She felt a little lost.  After several hours of conversation, I can remember her looking at me with frustrated envy in her eyes.  “How are you so certain of what you are supposed to be doing?” she asked me.

Google is interesting for two reasons.  Not only does Google always know the answers to the very random questions I pose every few hours, but Google also knows what every one else is wondering.  When I enter the search string, “what is my calling,” Google suggest these similar search strings:

“what is my calling from God quiz”

“what is my true calling quiz”

“what is my calling quiz”

“what is my calling test”

“what is my calling in life”

I was a little startled by the idea that we are searching for an online quiz and its computer-generated answers to discover our calling.  The kinds of quizzes that float around Facebook tend to be fairly inconsequential.  I’m sucked in occasionally, but usually end of a little disgusted at myself for bothering.  The results are less than earth shattering.  Are we really so desperate for direction that we need a quiz to figure it out for us?  I guess we are.

Many people have written great stuff about how to figure out your calling.  Casey Treat wrote a great book called, Fulfilling Your God-Given   Destiny.  If we can find the sweet spot between what we are good at; what we are passionate about; what we have worked hard to master; and what smart people in our lives have identified as something we have potential in; then I think we will find something resembling a calling.

This article dives into this idea a little further if you have absolutely no idea what you are supposed to do with your life.

You may be saying, yes, Anna, I get all that.  But what does God want me to do?

WHERE DOES GOD SPEAK TO YOU?

There are things that I do that feel so right.  This is a hard idea to describe, but when I am doing them, I sense God in it. I think Jacob experienced something similar.  “Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God.  Jacob called the place where God had talked with him Bethel.”  (Genesis 35:1, 15 NIV)

Jacob had this place, Bethel, where he knew he could go and would always hear from God. God speaks to us in certain places.  We feel a sense of rightness there that can’t be explained, except that they are our Bethel. Bethel literally means, “house of God.”  Our Bethel will always be in a local church.  As we connect ourselves to the community there, God speaks to us and puts his purpose in our hands.

Calling Graph3God literally appeared to Jacob and spoke to him audibly, but that doesn’t happen to many people.  People frequently have a hard time hearing God speak to them personally.  Jesus is a master of subtlety.  To hear him, you have to be paying very close attention.  “For God does speak—now one way, now another—though no one perceives it.”  (Job 33:14 NIV)

God speaks to us in a variety of ways.  Sometimes God speaks through the wisdom of a trusted leader or pastor.  Sometimes he speaks through dreams.  Sometimes he speaks directly to the deepest part of our identity.  It’s the part of us that doesn’t use words; it just knows.  Some refer to that place as their “knower.”  We have this unexplainable certainty that compels us.  Most often he speaks to me through the Bible.  I’ll be reading along, and all of a sudden, a scripture lights up on the page.  In this deep inner place, a connection is made, and it’s like the lights have turned on around that scripture and how it applies to my life.

If we look for this prompting, we will find it.  It can’t be found through a sense of urgency or ambition.  It’s found in the quiet urgings of rightness.

IT’S MORE PARTNERSHIP THAN SLAVERY

Some people are afraid to discover God’s calling for their lives.  Years ago, Scott Wesley Brown wrote a funny song you may remember, “Please Don’t Send Me to Africa.”

Please don’t send me to Africa

I don’t think I’ve got what it takes

I’m just a man. I’m not a Tarzan

I don’t like lions, gorillas or snakes

I’ll serve you here in suburbia

In my comfortable middle class life

But please don’t send me out into the bush

Where the natives are restless at night

This song, as silly as it is, exaggerates what many of us have worried about. It’s normal to worry a bit. If we let God into the driver’s seat, will he make us do things we really don’t want to do?  Will we be obligated to do boring things with boring people?

When we give our lives to Christ, we are set free.  We no longer have any obligations, no debts.  Freedom in Christ is real freedom.  It doesn’t mean that right and wrong go away.  It just changes our status.  We go from being slaves of sin to sonsCalling Graph4 of God.

I discovered the PBS series, Downton Abbey, last year some time.  It’s this fairly addicting show about British nobility during the turn of the century.  The show follows the lives of a wealthy Earl’s family and their servants.  There is a very firm line dividing the two classes of people.  The servants have very structured lives, and do whatever the family asks them to do.  The lord and ladies do pretty much whatever they feel like at any given time.

It’s a similar thing with Jesus.  When we receive Christ, we are adopted into his family.  Our family status has been elevated; we are now sons and daughters of God.  We have the privileges and the authority that sons and daughters have.  The closer we get to Jesus, the more freedom we have, not the less.  God is not an autocrat, dictating our every move.  God is a loving Father who empowers us to do great things for his house.

Moses had this kind of relationship with God.  God asked Moses to do certain things: Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me.’” Moses asked God to do certain things: “Moses cried out to the Lord about the frogs he had brought on Pharaoh. And the Lord did what Moses asked.”  (Exodus 8:1, 12-13 NIV)  It’s enough to make you wonder, who is in charge here? Moses received his mission from God, and then it became a partnership.  Sometimes God was doing the directing, and sometimes Moses was doing the directing.  Both God and Moses were working toward the same end: freedom for the Jewish people.

If we will pick up the mission that Jesus has given us, we have quite a bit of freedom in how that unfolds.  All we have to do is ask.

YOU GET A SAY – JUST ASK!

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need. “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:5-10 NIV)

Do you have something that you want to do?  Try asking.  Apparently Jesus responds to shameless audacity!

It’s worth noting that the request that got answered was not self-focused.  This request was for help to be able to meet someone else’s need. As divine nobility, we have both great privilege and great responsibility.  Jesus’s Great Commission was all about reaching out to the world around us.  If our dreams have lots of “I want” in them, then maybe it’s time to broaden their scope a little.

DO WHAT YOU CAN RIGHT NOW WITH WHAT YOU HAVE

Some of us have some pretty definite ideas of what we want to do, but it seems so far off that it’s discouraging.  What then?  The sinful woman who anointed Jesus was in this state.

No one sets out in life to be known as “the sinful woman.” Her dreams had been long since trampled.  I’m sure no one was more disappointed than she was by her own behavior and the results.  There just wasn’t enough time to turn it around; she had lived a lifetime already.  She was trapped by her own reputation, and she had no one to blame but herself.

Maybe she felt like leaving it all behind and joining the crowd that followed Jesus around but was afraid she would damage the Jesus’s reputation by her presence.  Maybe she was too ashamed.  Maybe she was too proud and worried about what the people who followed Jesus would say about her.

After some thought, she decided to give Jesus a moment, a memory.  She took an expensive jar of perfume, and crashed a dinner party.  She found Jesus at the table, and poured it on him there.  It must have been a dramatic moment; an unforgettable moment.  This is what Jesus said.  “She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Mark 14: 8-9 NIV)

Calling Graph2She did what she could do, right now, with what she had.  For Jesus, that was more than enough.  Our calling may have complicated dreams and future plans, but sometimes our calling is in a moment, in a single act.  What can I do right now, with what I have in my hand?  If we will just do that, we will gain the pleasure of our Father.  So often we over-complicate things when God is calling us to the simple, faithful acts of serving his people.  As we serve people, we serve Jesus.  Let’s not overlook the power and significance in these small moments.

Questions to consider:

* What can I do with the time, talent, ability, and resource I have right now?

* What gives me a yes in my spirit when I get involved?

* Am I waiting for God to open a door when God is on the other side, waiting for me to knock?

Advertisements

Offensive, Scandalous Grace

TRIPPING UP

Grace, the Stumbling Stone
Grace, the Stumbling Stone

I am klutzy.  I trip over the tiniest variations in sidewalks, over cobblestones, up and down steps.  Usually I can awkwardly recover before I go all the way down, but it’s still embarrassing.  My sweet husband keeps count of the number of times I stumble when we are out together.  I think I average 3-4 wobbles per outing.  I never set out to trip.  Usually when I do, it’s because I was distracted and not paying attention to my feet.  I hit a hazard that I just didn’t see, and boom—down I go.  It’s painful and humiliating.

Tripping is an accident that happens when I try to do too many things at once.  My husband doesn’t get annoyed with me when I fall down.  He doesn’t judge my ability to walk and shame me for falling.  He laughs a little when I stumble, but he always grabs my arm to stabilize me.  He gets concerned if I go all the way down.  He doesn’t walk away; he helps me back up.  I am, however, embarrassed and hoping no one else noticed.

Things are similar in our walk with Christ.  I don’t believe that Christians set out to sin; it’s an accident.  We trip over the place we didn’t see coming when we didn’t realize we were vulnerable.  Sometimes we just stumble and sometimes we go down hard.  Most of the time, these incidents are accidents, not a product of evil intentions.  The fact that someone hides their sin and got caught, however, is not an indicator that they purposefully, secretly, set out to sin.  It only means that they are embarrassed by it.  It’s a normal, human response.  This perspective should change how we deal with people.  Instead of pushing people away when they fall, we reach out to stabilize and to support.

The Bible says that grace itself is a stumbling stone.  When Jesus came, religious people didn’t see it coming.  They were caught up in appearances and in following the rules to earn moral superiority.   The free grace Jesus offered threw them for a loop.  “The Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. 32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. 33 As it is written: ‘See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.’” (Romans 9:30-33 NIV)

Jesus, grace embodied, is the ultimate stumbling stone.  There are parts of Jesus that can be really hard to understand.  There are things that God forgives that I have a very hard time forgiving.  It trips me up and I don’t even realize I have stumbled over grace.  Why would someone get a clean slate, free and forgiven, for major betrayals like adultery, or for swindling little old ladies?  Does God forgive a pedophile?  Does God forgive a murderer?  Is grace big enough to cover these things?  If Hitler repented on his deathbed and God decided to save him, my Jewish family would reject God because his grace is too inclusive.  Muslims who follow Sharia law reject Christianity because of grace.  It’s too loose, too free.  Things that we hold on to, God lets go of.  I’m happy for God’s grace to cover my junk, but sometimes grace looks like injustice when it covers someone else.  Grace can be a stumbling stone.

We each carry the weight of our own failures.  Most of us have secret places in our past, distant or recent, where we tripped and fell, but we keep them hidden because we are embarrassed by the errors.  These things can make us feel under qualified to take our place serving or leading in the church.  Do those things disqualify us from connecting to the church and sharing Jesus?

NAUGHTY NAUGHTY GIRLS

I noticed something truly interesting in the genealogy of Jesus.  Matthew wrote his gospel to the Jews, to prove to them that Jesus was the promised Messiah.  He rattled off the genealogy of Jesus at the beginning of his book because where Jesus came from mattered to Jewish people.  There are some truly illustrious men in that list—superstars like Abraham, King David, and King Jehoshaphat.  The ladies that got a mention, however, are decidedly less so.  They are kind of a who’s who of the naughty girls of the Bible, starting with Tamar, the girl who pretended to be a prostitute so she could score a one-night stand with her father-in-law, Judah.  She wanted her father-in-law to get her pregnant.  Shocking!  Then there is Rahab, the prostitute and treacherous turncoat, followed by Ruth, the shameless woman who snuck into a man’s camp in the dark and slept next to him to force him to marry her.  These are Jesus’s great-grandmas.  The virgin Mary has a lily white image, but even she was a bit of rebel if you think about it.  She would have had a sketchy reputation, having gotten pregnant and giving birth before marrying Joseph.  If Mary had been my daughter, I would have married her off as soon as possible and said as little as possible, hoping people didn’t add up the months.  Mary must have wanted to make sure that everyone knew Jesus wasn’t Joseph’s son.  That’s pretty edgy.

The Bible doesn’t explain why these are the women included in Jesus’s pedigree.  There must have been other wives that lived good, tidy lives who didn’t get a mention.  God must have included these girls in the recorded lineage of Jesus for a reason.  Perhaps it is to tell us that he doesn’t pass over girls who have made mistakes; who have stumbled trying to navigate life.  Even the girl with most checkered past can be a God-carrier.  The scandal and the babies that resulted from those scandalous relationships resulted in the most gracious perfect gift to mankind.  It makes no sense; it’s a stumbling stone, but our failures and our foibles don’t disqualify us from serving up Jesus to the world around us.

I know some of you may feel an obligation to challenge this.  There are some pretty stern passages throughout 1 Corinthians about people who sin, and some strong requirements for the people who lead in the book of Timothy.  Yes, those who lead are judged to a higher standard.  Yes.  But are those leaders any less entitled to the same grace we enjoy?  Or is their need for grace a stumbling stone for you?

WHEN LEADERS FALL

I’ve watched a few Olympic races.  Sometimes, the racer makes an error and falls.  The sportscaster will always replay the big moment in slow motion.  They show the misstep and the athlete going down, mouth open, arms and legs flailing.  Racers nearby get tripped up in the churning limbs, and the massive train wreck results in a jumble of bodies and injuries on the ground.

This is what happens when Christian leaders stumble.  Usually their error affects the people closest to them, and can cause real pain for the people closest to them.  When they stumble, they cause other people to stumble.  Untangling those train wrecks and nursing the injuries is not a small matter.  Every fallen leader has to carry the responsibility for this.  It’s the getting back up part that I am chewing on.  Jesus gives grace freely to each one of us.  It’s very clear that none of us are perfect yet, no matter what position we hold.  Do those mistakes disqualify fallen leaders for future leadership?  If we don’t actually get back up but stay committed to our funk, clearly it does.

In church, no one has any obligation to stay or to serve or to give.  People can leave at any time and go find another church.  People only follow us to the extent that they respect us.  If your life is a visible mess, people will not follow you.  Ergo, you are disqualified from leadership because you are leading no one, because no one will follow you.  I wonder if the qualifications for leadership that Paul gave to Timothy have more to do with this practical reality than anything else.  We all require the grace of Jesus to stand righteous—every one of us.  Our own righteousness did not qualify us for leadership to begin with, so it can’t later either.

God made a point by including only flawed women in his lineage.  I wonder if Tamar will be embarrassed when I meet her in heaven.  Out of her whole life’s story, the one snapshot that got included was her scandalous baby-making endeavor.  Her story makes me feel pretty good about my flubs being redeemable.  Our journey of grace doesn’t have to be a private one.  If we are willing, our grace journey can show others the way, providing a pathway people can follow.

People root for the underdog.  People love a comeback story.  People will follow a fallen leader that gets back up and learns from their mistakes.  God’s grace covered their sin the minute they put it under the blood of Jesus.  Will his grace be a stumbling stone for us, or a point of victory?

Friends

Thoughtful woman sitting on the couch in a living room and looking sadFRIENDSHIP VS. FANSHIP

“I just don’t fit in anywhere.  I feel alone most of the time, except with my husband.  I really don’t have any friends; I don’t have time to hang out with people as friends.  We don’t really talk to any other pastors.”

I have met quite a few pastors and leaders who shared with me how alone they feel most of the time.  Honestly, this shocks me a little, because so many people are pastors and leaders in churches.  It shouldn’t be this hard; the potential friend pool is pretty big.  The body of Christ might be spread across the globe, but God designed us to be connected to each other.  Too many are feeling a little friendless!

Friendship is definitely different from popularity.  If we are honest with ourselves, most of us are interested in measuring our own popularity.  It’s a habit we started as children, evaluating how many birthday parties we got invited to or who wanted us to sit at their lunch table.  This measurement of popularity didn’t really end after Jr. High; it just morphed.  Social media provides an easy measuring system today.  I keep reasonably close tabs on all my numbers.  Hopefully it’s not just me.  There will always be people more popular than me or you.  If popularity becomes a measure of our own value, or our ministry’s value, we have navigated ourselves into truly murky waters.

For some reason, we church leaders tend to overanalyze our own popularity.  On one hand, it’s good.  Lots of people following us should mean lots of people are following Jesus.  (hopefully)  On the other hand, it’s easy to slip into Jr. High mode and feel the same way about the number of social media followers we have as we did about the number of parties we got invited to in Jr. High.  Our absorption with our own popularity is not so healthy.

I believe that a big reason that so many North American pastors feel lonely is that there has been too much emphasis on popularity and too little emphasis on friendship.

When a super cool leader is doing awesome things in their church, we want to be like them and get in their world.  It’s a similar concept to American celebrity culture.  We get consumed with the lives of popular pastors and leaders just like celebrities—how they live, what they wear, what they do for fun, how they cut their hair, what they do to grow their church. There is nothing wrong with this at all.  It’s great to be inspired by people who are doing awesome things.  We just need to be realistic—we aren’t friends with them.  This is fanship, not friendship.  Aligning with these amazing, wonderful leaders is not the same thing as friendship.  It may be a door into a real relationship, but Facebook friends do not equal real friends. (For the very few of you who had not yet realized this.)

Two women outdoors hugging and smilingQUALITY FRIENDS

We all need friends.  We find such life and strength in the God friendships of our lives.  I’m definitely not always good at being a friend, but I am learning.  I have learned by watching some people who are just really good at being a friend. I have certain friends, gifts from God, who love me—warts and all.  They have a God-given grace for me—for my weirdness, for my awkwardness, for my weaknesses.  These things don’t seem to offend them, but amuse them instead.  It doesn’t matter how badly I’ve neglected them; they stay loyal to me.  They have become part of my kingdom family, an extension of my natural family through an unwritten covenant.

The common denominator is that they are always far less concerned with what they are getting out of the relationship than they are with the well being of the person they care about.  Healthy friendships are not based on “I scratch your back, you scratch mine.”  That is a good business partnership, not friendship.  Real friendships have that Christ-like quality in them where we give without keeping track of what we get back.

There is a Seinfeld episode where a “friend” of Jerry’s starts working out.  After bulking up, he outgrows an expensive suit and offers it to Jerry.  Jerry feels nervous to accept the extravagant gift and says so.  The man thinks for a moment and says that if Jerry would just take him out to dinner, it will be even.  As the episode progresses, the dinner turns into more than one dinner, and pretty soon, nothing Jerry does is enough to balance out the gift of this fancy suit.  Jerry gets fed up, and finally the relationship breaks down because of this gift.

We aren’t born knowing how to do friendship well.  Friendship is a learned skill that we have to cultivate.  It doesn’t just happen because we like a person.  I have to choose to be someone’s friend.  I can’t just be their friend because they treat me well, or they call me their friend, or because they make me feel good.  If I did, I would wind disappointed as soon as they let me down, and the relationship would be over.  Friendship is a gift that we give to people.  It’s pretty hard to turn down genuine friendship.  It doesn’t ask for anything, just offers love and acceptance.  It doesn’t require validation or time.

When our friendship depends on mutual benefit, we will always be looking for how to even the scales, and resentful when it looks like our friend is giving as much.  “An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends.”  Proverbs 18:1 NIV

Loyalty is one of the most under-rated qualities out there.  A loyal friend, who believes in you and loves you when you dumb things and cheers with you when you win, that friend is priceless.  Real friends see the real me and love me anyway.  They laugh at you, and you laugh at yourself because you feel affection from them, not scorn.  They don’t make you feel dumb or inferior.  Most of these people in my life are old friends, who have stood the test of time.  Those friends are just awesome.  You can pick up where you left off with them, like no time has passed, even if you haven’t seen them for a few years.

I’m fully grown up now, I think.  I don’t have as much social time as I did in my teens and twenties.  When I do, my first instinct is to spend time with well-established friendships because I love them, and it’s a guaranteed easy and fun time.  I really have to intentionally make room in my life for new friends now, where when I was younger, it came quite naturally.  I don’t want my world to shrink in.  I want it to get bigger, to have a generous heart.  I want to add to my friends, not stagnate.  For us to connect with new friends, it’s going to take some extra thought!

My goal is to make at least two new, real friends a year.  I meet all kinds of people, so that’s no problem.  I don’t just want new contacts or new acquaintances; I want to be a friend to more people.  I tell myself this:

 Choose to reach out to the people you like.

Don’t feel awkward about pursuing them.

Keep pursuing, and choose not to feel rejected by what looks like the brush-off.

It takes time for people to get to know you enough to love you, so be patient.

PRACTICE THE ART OF MAKING NEW FRIENDS

For us to make new friends requires that we take the initiative.  I can’t sit around expecting people to suddenly spark an interest in me.  I have to be a friend first before I will have a new friend.  Here’s what I have been thinking about when it comes to making new friends.

1.  Friends are interested in each other and what they are doing.

The people in my world best at relationships intentionally make time regularly to check in on people, even when they are not involved in their everyday life.  I’m not great at this, but I’m working on it.  These amazing people don’t get so consumed by themselves and their own schedules that they forget about the people they love.  They make time to think about and pray for friends.  The age of the selfie and numbering social media connections has made friendship very self-focused in general.  True friendship is externally focused, not inward.  Friends are interested and ask questions.

2. Friends don’t pull away, funky and awkward, when their friend’s star is rising.  They don’t compete.

Friends promote each other because they are excited about each other’s wins.  I’ve seen friendships that got weird when one of them experienced greater success.  The other person just couldn’t seem to get their head around the inequality of their situations.  Without realizing it, they had been racing the other person.  When their friend won, the other got sour.  Jealousy is the enemy of friendship.  Sometimes we allow resentment of our friend’s blessing to rob the joy in the relationship.  Unnecessary competition is not worth a precious friendship!

Friends challenge each other, but they don’t compete.  The Klitchko brothers are two heavyweight Ukrainian boxers who were a big deal in the last ten years.  (My husband is into boxing, so I have picked up a few things over the years.)  They are probably the best two heavyweights out there, and both hold major belts, or at least they used to.  (You fight over belts in boxing.  I might be more into it if they fought over shoes, but whatever.)  These two brothers decided years ago that they would never box each other.  If they were any random two men, it would be a natural paring for a great fight. Because these two are brothers, they don’t fight each other.  They refused to let anything divide them.

“Iron sharpens iron,” means that we can be challenged by our friends’ successes and become better.  If we disengage from relationship because we feel weird suddenly, then we miss out on the sharpening.

3. Friends lean in during the tough times.

Friends lean in during crisis.  Lean in, even when your friend is pulling away.  When I feel embarrassed or hurt, I just want to want to crawl in a hole and disappear.  It’s human nature.  Sometimes people push friends away because something is going on in their world.  Those are the times we need to apply some grace and patience and just keep reaching for them.  Lean in and love them anyway.  Real friends pray for each other, in the good times and in the bad.

My husband’s best friends have leaned in with real support during his hardest moments.  One of them told him, “Some people are going to spank you, and sometimes you do need it.  Some people will love you and be for you, no matter what.  I choose to be that friend.”  That’s the kind of friend I want to be!  “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” Proverbs 17:17

4.  Friends make time for fun

Friends have fun together.  Fun creates memories, and memories connect us forever with shared history.  I’m convinced that if adults will prioritize fun in their lives, they will experience more deep and meaningful relationships.  Friends make time for each other.  Life is more than the tyranny of the urgent and important.  We need a little silly in our lives, and people to laugh with.

5.  Friends don’t let anything divide them.  They work through issues like family does.

Sometimes we make far too big a deal about accidental snubs.  It amazes me how very small issues can sour an entire friendship permanently.  We should be quick to let it go, yes, but be sure you actually can let it go and aren’t just burying it.  If you can’t let it go, have a chat about it!  It’s worth the pain of that conversation to save a friendship.  Little issues have a way of resurrecting just when you thought you let it all go.  You can be honest, without being hurtful.  Real friends speak the truth in love.  “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiples kisses.” Proverbs 27:6

6. Friends are loyal, even when they aren’t sure their loyalty is reciprocated.

Loyalty means you don’t giggle at someone else’s misfortune, or tell anyone when your friend’s life is going badly.  Loyalty means that you check in with people, even when they are sucking your energy away with their problems.  Friends don’t talk about each other in a negative way, and don’t listen to someone else spill about them.  Friends come to terms with each other’s weaknesses without judgment.

7.   Friends relax together.

You have nothing to prove.  You don’t have to be perfect to be respected, and you don’t have to have it all together to be loved.

8.  Friends are sisters of the heart.

“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 19:24

My relationship with my sister is one of my deepest and oldest friendships.  It amazes me how when she hurts, I seem to feel it intensely.  It’s not my hurt; it’s hers, but I feel it just like I feel my own.  We have a heart connection.  When she is joyful, I feel what she feels.  I am connected to her wellbeing, invested in her happiness.  Sisters of the heart carry the weight together.  What happens to her affects me, for good or bad.  I’m invested in her life, not disconnected or impartial.

I think this is what real friendship is at it’s core: to be so connected that we are unable stand by and watch our friends hurt, or be okay with their loneliness or their need.  We feel pride in their success, and excited by their joy.  We are invested in who they are.  I believe this kind of relationship is what God designed us for.