Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Friendship and Sisterhood

Today I shared at the mothers group I run at our church, called Flourish, about friendships. I wanted to post it here as well because this topic is weighing heavily on me at the moment. Not necessarily in a bad way, but perhaps because I need to be obedient and "go there" with a topic which others might find uncomfortable. And I feel pretty vulnerable doing so. So here goes! 
Generally as a rule I think friendships are often made around common interests or hobbies. This year has been interesting for me because my closest girlfriend moved to England. The closeness of our friendship is based around a number of factors: I’ve known her for the longest time out of my Wanganui friends – we met a year before we moved here and when we did move here we lived with them for 3 weeks before they bought their house, then we took their flat; our husbands had been casual friends for a good 5 years before that; we were a similar age and at the same stage in life – bought houses at the same time, had babies around the same time; and then the winning combination of a love of food and a love of books meant that it was easy for us to be close. And of course Karen loved to do nothing. I also love to do nothing. I have discovered that my closest friends over the years have also loved to do nothing. I’m a sit on the couch with a cup of tea, read a magazine, have a chat kind of girl. I find it easiest to be friends with people who are the same. Perhaps we sort of gravitate towards each other… a laziness sensor must go off or something! But in terms of friendship it was also a friendship built around the very deepest things. Karen had the courage to call me out at a time when I was hiding behind huge emotional brick walls. She was the only person to notice and the only person who cared enough to say something and because she did, and because I was touched by her thoughtfulness, and God helped me to choose to move forward rather than pull back, we had a very deep friendship based around the biggest secrets of our lives and the deepest spiritual discussions. 
Friendships like that are wonderful. But I don’t think we can expect to get that kind of friendship with anyone and everyone we know. Sometimes we just don’t click with people. Sometimes we have absolutely nothing in common and find we struggle to find anything to talk about. I do believe that when we feel this way however it's important to pray, to ask God to help us learn to love that person and to help us find common ground. But sometimes it’s just more surface than that – we are in a different time of life, a different circle of friends, we don’t live close or our age is vastly different. And this is where I want to talk about Sisterhood.
I don’t have any sisters, I have one brother and we weren’t close until our mid to late teens. So friends have always ended up sort of becoming family to me. My two best friends in high school had two sisters each and I loved being able to make myself at home in their homes and listen to them fight and scrap and feel their hurts and celebrate their joys.
And I think that actually for us as women, especially Christian women, we need Sisters even more than we might need friends.
When I look around just my own church I see a lot of very different yet very beautiful women, all with strengths and stories, and I think, Wow, the things we could do if we would UNITE. There is a quote I read online a while ago but I couldn’t find again, that said something like that if women would unite together towards a cause, Sisterhood would be the most powerful force to shake the earth – and I agree. I know that at a conference recently that some church friends went to (called EquipHer), Lisa Bevere spoke and said that “men compare to spur eachother on, women compare to bring each other down”. And to be honest, I’m getting tired of it. I don’t want to in any way minimise anyones hurt or make light of any issues that exist for anyone at all. But I do think there comes a point in our lives where we need to decide to stop looking sideways and instead look straight ahead.
What I mean by that is this: too often I have been paralysed from doing anything helpful or constructive because I have been insecure and paranoid about what other people think of me – mainly, other women. And I have been listening to a lot of Joyce Meyer's podcasts this year, and have been struck by how often she talks about unforgiveness and grudge holding. The point she makes that when we don’t forgive we only hurt ourselves. More often than not the other person is perfectly fine. We are the ones that are miserable and angry and torn up inside. When we forgive we do it for ourselves, we do it so we can move on, so we can be free.
So I’m making some definitions of a Sister that I think we can learn from in our relationships with eachother. The girls laughed at me this morning - we decided that perhaps this is my concoction of a fantasy ideal of what a sister is, combined with my observations of actual sisters, and my thoughts on what it is to be a spiritual sister.
  • If your sister is broke you lend her money if you’ve got it. You cook her meals. You help her out. You let her move in (even if it’s reluctantly).
  • A sister might have stolen your boyfriend/clothes/barbie 10 or 20 years ago but you didn’t stop talking to her for her life – you had a big row then you got over it because she’s your sister and you love her.
  • A sister is the one you call when you really feel like life is falling apart. You know you can trust her not to report you to the authorities or to tell anyone else.
  • A sister will celebrate with you when you succeed, will feel your highs like they’re her own.
  • When you ask your sister to pray for you she will, and she will check in again the next day to see how you are.
  • You can not see your sister for weeks but when you do again it’s like nothings changed.
  • You care if someone hurts your sister, Most of the time you want to hurt them back.
  • Other people know NEVER to bad-mouth your sister in front of you, because she is your sister and you will defend her whether she is in the right or not.
  • When you hear a rumour about your sister you don’t believe it, you ask her first, or you don’t bother because you know your sister.
  • You don’t share your sisters news and feelings with other people because she is your sister and you trust each other.
  • When you are hurt your sister is hurt. When you are happy your sister is happy. When you are nervous your sister is nervous for you. 
  • Your relationship with your sister may not be perfect. You may not agree with all her choices, her hairstyle, her outfits, or her friends – but when she needs you, you’re there, and she for you.   
We aren’t all going to be best friends. But I believe we need to be sisters. Today in writing this I'm trying to encourage you. Let's find a group of women who we are in community with - be it at a church, a mothers group, in your neighbourhood and start the Sisterhood journey. I'm saying to the beautiful women in my church: I care for you all, I’m here for you, I will pray for you if you ask. It doesn’t matter if we don’t spend a lot of time together, you can know that I will still be your sister. I think that it’s time to speak truth, to put down our defenses, to choose to never speak ill of one another or to tolerate it in others. If there’s deep grievances or issues between us and our girlfriends let’s start the journey towards healing those, for our own sake as much as anyone elses. I need sisters. I need people I can trust. I need companionship. I need help sometimes. 
If women unite, we will be an unstoppable force, and it can start small: in one mothers group, one neighbourhood, one church.
I know I may have stirred up some uncomfortable things today and I'm not asking you to necessarily agree with me on it all, but I do ask you to think on it and to pray on it. For too long women have been known to be petty, cruel and malicious. It’s time to turn that around. We are nurturers, mothers, life givers, servers, encouragers and inspirers (yes I’m making up a word!) We are sisters. Let’s start today. I’m choosing to and I hope that you will choose with me.
xx Sarah

Note: These thoughts are inspired by Idelette and and their amazing manifesto.

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