Research affirms that our happiness increases when we feel seen, heard, and loved. As women, we have an innate desire to belong. Yet most of us continue to experience a prolonged season of isolation as Covid drags on. Normal interactions defy normalcy. Work, school, casual gatherings with friends, church––changed, changed, changed, changed. Possibly forever. Many of us now experience much of life in front of a screen or behind a mask. And even when we can mingle freely, it’s terribly uncomfortable to be the new person entering a group for the first time.
Finding community and cultivating new friendships with people who “get” you and welcome you without judgement––can feel near impossible.
A few years ago I was in a very dark season of life, and I knew I desperately needed community with sisters in Christ. My desperation prompted me to stretch WAY outside my comfort zone. So I signed up and attended a women’s conference by myself. Yep––CRAZY! Going to a community-packed conference without anyone by your side amps up the anxiety meter. During one of the breaks, I went to the lobby to peruse the book tables, and I spotted a welcome friend––a big bowl full of beautifully wrapped dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is my love language, so I gladly took a piece and began to unwrap it as I walked away.
But instead of a soothing sense of joy, the message printed on the inside of the wrapper stopped me in my tracks. It read: “Be your own best friend.”
At a conference designed to develop new friendships, my candy wrapper told me NOT to let anyone get too close. Don’t reveal my real issues, it warned. Keep my secrets, shame, fears, regrets, and guilt HIDDEN. Don’t rely on or impose on someone else.
Be your own best friend. Go it alone. Stay in seclusion. Put your “life mask” on securely every single day, whether or not you wear a safety mask. You can’t trust anyone but yourself. You can do just fine without sharing your messy places with others. My response: LIES! God’s response: LIES!
LIES! All lies! The world has been lying to us. We’ve been lying to ourselves. We’re not fine on our own. We can’t keep going through life stuffing our real life issues into the dark chambers of our heart. We’ll either suffocate or explode. Don’t believe the lies!
God created us to live and work in community as sisters in Christ. We cannot flourish on our own. We just can’t. We need one another. To encourage. To pray. To discern. To mourn. To rejoice. To share life. To walk the journey together. As the writer of Ecclesiastes proclaims: Two are better than one, but three are stronger than two (Eccles 4:9–12). There are women out there who want and need our open and honest friendship just as much as we want and need theirs.
Be the friend you want to have. Don’t be your own best friend––be that kind of friend to someone else. Others need us, and we need them. Yes, cultivating community and developing a sense of sisterhood takes time. Growing new friendships can be hard, especially when we feel like the only “new person” of the group. But we have to take the next step. In Christ’s strength, we can courageously move forward and plant the first seed. We stop giving license to the lies by getting out of isolation and into sisterhood community. Here are a few suggestions for next steps:
- Pray. Prayer opens conversation with God. Prayer unleashes the power of the Holy Spirit into our lives and our situations. Prayer turns our thoughts to Jesus and allows Him to begin speaking as we wait and listen. Be open and honest with God and ask the Holy Spirit to guide your next steps. Pray for wisdom to see divine interactions in the day-to-day interactions you have with others. Pray for Jesus to raise up one new friend.
- Commit. Commit to seeking a small group of like-minded women who want to live out their faith in the whole of life. Begin looking for opportunities to connect. Consider joining a group of working women who also seek Jesus and want to interlock shields of faith together.
- Invite. Invite a co-worker, neighbor, or casual acquaintance to coffee and conversation. Get to know them, and allow them to get to know you. Consider inviting one or two women to join you in a short Bible study like the 5-day Working BOLDLY Guide: How Christian Women Can Live and Work Boldly as Ambassadors of Christ found on YouVersion or boldlyconference.com. Or take the courageous step of attending a women’s Bible study at a local church, even if you don’t know someone else to invite.
Don’t let the lies of this world and the lies in dark chocolate keep you from seeking sisterhood. Even if you’ve been hurt in the past. Even if you don’t know yet where you belong. Trust Jesus. Try again by His prompting. Take a next step.
Seeing and being seen. Hearing and being heard. Knowing and being known. Loving and being loved. This is sisterhood. Regardless of our messy details. Regardless of theirs. And by definition, sisterhood involves others. We cannot be our own best sister. Be the sister you want to have.
I’m praying for you today, sister.