Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as you are doing.1 Thessalonians 5:11
to my best friend, Mikayla on her 22nd birthday
Little Gifts from God
We aren’t meant to be alone. God desires us to have loved ones, a community, people who love us and support us unconditionally. Having someone who you can have fun with, confide in, and share your life with is so special. That person, a friend, is someone who loves you, grows with you, and helps you become a better person. I learned throughout my life that we don’t have to have a large number of friends to be happy. A handful of solid friends will suffice. I learned this in high school when I found my core group of ladies, and I carried it with me in college when I found my dance family and my Rock Catholic Fam. A couple of friends who stick with you have so much meaning and hold special places in your heart.
Paul knew what he was talking about when he advised the Thessalonians to encourage each other and build each other up. I’ve felt these holy qualities in my friends throughout the years, and I’m so grateful for that. I have so many wonderful friends who have touched my life in different ways, and they’ve all encouraged me and built me up in a way that only they could. Friends are truly little gifts from God. I see him in my own friends, who remind me that he’s always with me. Through them, I feel God’s love, and becoming a good friend has helped me to find a friend in Jesus.
One of my best friends and greatest gifts from God is Mikayla. Although we met a year or so prior, when we sat next to each other in chorus on our first day of high school, I knew we’d be close friends. Looking back at pictures of us through the years, it was amazing to remember growing up and glowing up with her. We were the two girls who loved to look cute and joke around all the time, and eight years later, as we laugh uncontrollably all dressed up in a nice restaurant, nothing has changed. During our high school days, we made memories as nuns in The Sound of Music, getting frozen yogurt at Sweet Frog every weekend, going to Disney World with the band and chorus, and having endless conversations of only our inside jokes. After we had navigated high school awkwardness together, we went to different colleges but somehow got even closer.
We always went to each other when college was getting rough, encouraging each other to stay strong and do what we need to do. We got coffee, Mexican food, or sushi every time I came home from school, and our excursions wouldn’t be complete without a random trip to Walmart, typically after 9 pm for some reason. Catching up on the funny and annoying things that happened at school was always a treat. I watched her get crowned Sommerset County Fair Queen, and I supported her as she earned the county, state, and national titles of Miss Agriculture USA. Whether we trek to a hipster coffee shop or the New River Gorge in West Virginia, we always have adventures when we’re together. When I went through a tough breakup in college, she sent me a care package with a succulent that I still have. She’s the first one that I tell about everything, the one who I love spending time with most, and the one who knows me better than anyone else.
Building Friendship Like a Virtue
Because friendship is a gift from God, we should cherish it and strive to become the best friends that we can be. I learned so much about Christian friendship from my friend Isabella’s blog, Bearing Good Fruit, particularly in her post titled “A Guide to Making Friends for Christian Women!” I like to think that Christians can build friendship as they would any other virtue. In a way, friendship takes practice. Just like how we become more patient through opportunities to be patient, we become better friends by being a friend. We get better at making time to see friends, listening skills, remembering their likes and dislikes, and supporting them as they reach their goals throughout our friendships.
I learned from Sarah Swafford, a Catholic speaker with a lot of virtuous insight on relationships, that friendship requires availability, vulnerability, and accountability of a person. These are the core qualities that turn us from good friends to great and even holy friends.
It’s impossible to grow closer to someone if you don’t spend time with them, so we have to be available to our friends. Sometimes it’s easy to meet for coffee or FaceTime all night, but sometimes our friends will need us when it isn’t exactly convenient for us, so choosing to be available for your friend’s sake is important.
I know it can be difficult to be vulnerable with others, but it’s worth it to allow your friends into your life. Opening up to those who you’re close to is special. It means that you trust them with information, feelings, or your past, and your friends will be more likely to be vulnerable with you.
When you share your goals with a friend, they can keep you accountable for reaching them. They can check up on you and ask how you’re making progress, and you can do the same for them. The most important thing that friends could keep each other accountable for is bettering themselves and growing in their walk with Jesus, and a great and honest way to do that is to continue growing in friendship.
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Encountering the Friend of Jesus
I feel like all of the friends who I’ve been blessed with remind me of Jesus in some way. My friendship with Mikayla has most clearly shown me him throughout the years. She helps me encounter him at all times and in so many ways. Through her joy, her kindness, her patience, her generosity, and her wisdom, I’ve gotten to know Jesus better through Mikayla. A big reason why Mikayla is my best friend is because she’s always been so Christlike not only to me, but to everyone around her. Our friendship has helped me become a better friend and grow in my walk with Jesus. Because of this, I think Mikayla and I have a truly blessed friendship.
I mentioned at the beginning of this post that becoming a good friend helps you find a friend in Jesus. The attributes that I love in my friends and the traits that have made me a better friend, I can clearly see in Jesus. He meets us where we are to selflessly spend time with us. He talks with us so patiently and generously, and meets our needs. He knows us well so that we can turn to him and trust him. Once I started considering Jesus a friend, I found myself turning to him more often. We became closer and our relationship became less of a formal, required one and more of a loving and personal one. I recognized how to spend time with him through the Sacraments, through prayer, and through everyone I encounter, especially my friends. They say that you become like the 5 people who you spend the most time with, so Jesus definitely has to be one of those 5 people.
My prayer is that my friends continue to grow into the holy ladies and gentlemen that I see them becoming. I pray that I can always be the good friend that they need and that I can show them the love of Christ through me. If you struggle to find or keep friends, I pray that you find a friend in Jesus first. As you get to know him and follow him so closely that you become like him, I pray that you radiate his love and goodness so that you find your friends and community who will run towards Jesus with you. God delights in us alive with our friends, so look for his Son in your friends and share in his joy together as often as you can.
Have a happy, beautiful, wonderful birthday, Mikayla! I thank God all the time that he gave me a friend like you! I love you tons and I’ll see you again before you know it!
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