Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ,
and my dear friend Stachys. Greet Apelles, whose fidelity to Christ has stood the test.
Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus. Greet Herodion, my fellow Jew.
Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord. Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman
who has worked very hard in the Lord. Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother,
who has been a mother to me, too. Romans 16:8-13
I am not a fan of writing new year’s resolutions. They seem contrived, not born of necessity or desire. I know several people who select a word to live by rather than writing a resolution. I’ve tried that. “Joy” worked pretty well one year, but “gentleness” didn’t. I’m more of a sentence person than a word person. So, I kicked off 2021 by writing down a few measurable goals, but they were business-oriented and didn’t address my spiritual hopes. You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail (Proverbs 19:21).
What I am is a list person. I have a grocery list sitting on the kitchen counter, and my prayer list is updated weekly in a little journal. I write a to-do list for me and a “honey-do” list for my husband. There is a running list of books I want to read and movies I want to watch. I also keep a list of presents I want to get for others and a list of the items I’ve ordered online so I don’t lose track of my purchases. What list could I write in 2021 that could help my spiritual growth?
A list of names, in alphabetical order: Agnes, Anna, Anne, Anneliese, April, Beth, Bethany, Betty, Brenda, Brigid, Carey, Christine, Cindy, Connie, Corrie, Courtney, Cynthia, Dalliss, Dana, Denise, Donna, Doris, Edita, Elizabeth, Ellie, Emmy, Eva, Gina, Ginny, Glenda, Grace, Helen, Hope, Jamie, Jeanie, Jill, Julia, Karen, Kate, Kathy, Katrina, Kim, Kirsten, Lee, Lexi, Linda, Lindsay, Lisa, Loretta, Lucy, Lynne, Marin, Marna, Mary, Megan, Melissa, Meredith, Minh, Natalie, Pam, Patricia, Patty, Randi, Robin, Romey, Ruth, Sally, Shannan, Shannon, Shontya, Stacey, Stephanie, Susan, Theresa, Trisha, Tristen
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.” The women listed above left footprints on my heart in 2020, though they may not even realize it. These are women that I prayed for and who prayed for me. They made me laugh; they made me cry. They encouraged me, challenged me, and inspired me. This diverse group of women reminds me of how blessed I am, how loved I am, and just how far I’ve come.
About six years ago I was asked to speak to a MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) chapter on the importance of friendship. The request came as quite a surprise because I was not a mother of a preschooler. In fact, I am not a mother at all! Why did they want me to speak? The answer I received was, “Because you know the value of friendship.” Wow! They had no idea how far I had come!
My very first friend was Rebecca. We attended first grade together at the Catholic school. I came from farm country, and she came from the wrong side of the tracks in the city. None of the other girls wanted to play with us, so we became friends. One day I invited Rebecca to come home with me, and she accepted. Strangely, no one questioned when she got on my bus without a pass, and when I transferred buses 30 minutes later, she simply followed along. I imagined Rebecca and me having a lovely playdate in my big backyard, but my mother thwarted that idea the minute we stepped foot in the house. She wanted to know Rebecca’s last name and phone number, and then she spent the next hour trying to locate Rebecca’s parents. (This was in the days before cell phones and computers, when phone numbers were found by paging through the phone book.) Needless to say, when Dad got home from work with the lone family car, Rebecca was promptly returned to her house, and I was punished for bringing a friend home without permission.
I can’t say for certain whether this experience marred my future friendships, but I became somewhat of a loner. While my brother was surrounded by friends, I kept to myself. I made plenty of acquaintances throughout high school and college, but no true friends to speak of.
I was one of those people who simply moved on without so much as a thought about keeping in touch.
Perhaps you are familiar with this line from an old folk tune: “Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver, the other is gold.” Well, I don’t have any “old-gold” friends. But the friends I have now are diamonds.
Go ahead and ask me, “What changed?”
In 2002, in the midst of a divorce, I decided to enroll in a Bible study. I had been attending church, but I was a mere pew warmer. Luckily, I had enough sense to notice that some of the people around me appeared to have their lives in order. They seemed stable; I was not. They seemed content; I was not.
They seemed to have an abundance of healthy friendships; I did not. The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. Proverbs 12:26
I’ll save my conversion story for another day, but this was the story I shared with the MOPS group: Friendships built on Christ are a sure foundation. Like any love relationship, they take work. To have true friends, you must be a friend of Jesus first.
The letters of Paul, of Peter, of John, and of James set the standard for Christian friendships. They acknowledge people by name (Romans 16:1-16), praise their accomplishments in the Lord (3 John 5-6, 2 Timothy 1:2-5), and reprimand bad behaviors (Philippians 4:2-3). This is what true friendship is all about: building each other up in Christ and holding one another accountable to God’s standards. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses (Proverbs 27:6).
In terms of friendship, I am RICH! I trust the women in my life to speak truth, to hold me responsible for my actions and speech, and to build me up according to the Word of God. And what will I do for them in return? Well, I’ve already put that list of names into the front of my prayer journal as a reminder to pray for them, to send them notes of encouragement, to call them, and to occasionally meet them for a walk, a good cup of coffee, or a robust glass of red wine. Even in a pandemic, friendships can and should be nurtured.
Is there someone you could call today? Who would benefit from an encouraging note? When was the last time you prayed for one of your friends or asked how you could pray for them? We are living in a difficult time with a pandemic, political unrest, racial tensions, and natural disasters. If ever we needed friends, it is now. Stop procrastinating; stop making excuses. Reach out to a friend today. Both she and you will be better for it.
So, no new year’s resolutions for me. No word to live by in 2021. Just a list of names. Whether your name is on the list or not, I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name (3 John 1:14).
THE SONG THAT COMES TO MIND IS Blessed Be the Tie by Sara Groves.
Lyrics: “Blessed be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love.”