My grandma, Ovidie, used to take me and my cousins into her backyard in the summertime and offer to give us 25 cents for every four-leaf clover we could find. Most times, after about 15 minutes, we would give up because they were so rare. The effort didn’t seem worth the return. But other times we would spend hours searching for them. Our hard work then contributed to an incredible sense of accomplishment when we actually did find one.
Do you ever feel this way about friendships? After all, friendships are a lot of work. They require a deep level of commitment, time, and attention. Good friendships are super hard to come by. And then once they are established, some end poorly or fade away with time despite all the effort invested. Are deep friendships even worth the effort that they require? Some might say no. But I would say yes. Pursuing deep friendship with others is worth the effort.
Two are Better Than One
Our need for relationship is interwoven into the fabric of our being. In fact, it goes all the way back to the beginning of time. The only thing deemed not good before the Fall in Genesis 3 is that Adam was alone (Gen. 2:18). This points to the fact that we were not meant to do life alone. We need other people – deep and meaningful relationships. We were created for this very thing and are incomplete without it.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says, "Two are better than one, because they have good return for their labor: if they fall down, they can help each other up. But pity those who fall and have no one to help them up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."
Deep friendships are essential to life and are a gift from God; but they also require deep commitment.
Deep friendships are essential to life and are a gift from God; but they also require deep commitment. They are something you have to work at and cultivate. So what does this look like? How do we go about pursuing friendship? And how do we take existing friendships deeper? I want to submit to you 3 keys to going deeper in friendships.
Key One: Create the Space
The first key is availability. Creating space in your life for other people is a critical component of cultivating deep friendships. You simply cannot go deeper in a friendship if you are unavailable for friendship. Yet there are a lot of barriers that can get in the way of being available to people.
You simply cannot go deeper in a friendship if you are unavailable for friendship.
One of the biggest barriers is the responsibility that we carry. Whether it’s a stressful job, young kids, or too many weekly commitments, space can be hard to come by.
I am a really task driven person. The other day I had laundry piling up, dinner to make, and my work email to check. In the midst of my swirling to-do list, my son Tighe asked if I wanted to play a game of pig on our little basketball hoop attached to our pantry door. My response was, "No dude, I’ve got way too much to do, I don’t have time!"
Most days I feel like I can’t sit down and invest in something or someone I love until my responsibilities are completed. Yet as I reflect on this operating assumption, this is completely FALSE!
The truth is that responsibilities will always be there and if I let them dictate my life, relationships will always take a backseat.
So how do we become available to people? It starts with getting practical and taking a critical look at our schedules. It may look like getting rid of some weekly commitments that are taking up too much space. It may mean saying no to 100 good things so that you can say yes to a few great things. Or, if you’re like me, it may look like choosing relationships over tasks. So what if dinner is 10 minutes later than normal? At least Tighe was able to kick my butt in a game of pig!
Key Two: An Intentional Pursuit
The second key is intentionality. Friendships don’t happen by accident. You don’t just run into someone and instantly have a best friend.
The summer after Mac and I graduated from college, we got married and moved to Chicago. It was quite the transition. I had never lived more than 40 minutes from the house I grew up in. So the now 6 hour drive between Mac and I and all our friends and family was a big jump.
In addition, college was in the rear view. No longer did I live with 5 of my best friends in a dorm room. Suddenly, friendships required a LOT more intentionality.
This meant that I needed to pay closer attention to the people that God was putting in my path. I had to get creative with ways I could connect with them. I started a book club with women I barely knew, opening up our tiny studio apartment each week. From there, natural connections began to take root and it wasn’t long before I had my first true friend, a friend that finally made Chicago start to feel a little more like home.
Sometimes we are intentional when establishing friendships, but then put them on cruise control. I’ve learned that the same intentionality that brings a friendship to life must also be present for the long haul. And the choice to know and be known is what brings this intentionality about.
The same intentionality that brings a friendship to life must also be present for the long haul. And the choice to know and be known is what brings this intentionality about.
We must remain curious with one another, ask questions, and actively listen to their response. We must be willing to share our own true selves, not only the good and exciting things, but the hard and crummy things.
Intentionality is hard work, but without it a deep friendship won’t grow.
Key Three: Stick With It
The third key to cultivating deeper friendships boils down to perseverance. Most friendships start out with excitement. You are getting to know someone and enjoying all the things you have in common. The newness is energizing and propels the friendship further.
Then there comes a moment, or series of moments, when the excitement dies out. Maybe you stumble upon their annoying qualities. Maybe you start to notice some of their faults and flaws. At some point in every meaningful relationship, you reach a point where you see the other person’s strengths AND their glaring weaknesses.
The choice to persevere at this point is the very thing that takes a friendship to the next level. Loyalty and commitment build trust. Trust that you have accepted them for who they are and that you’ve got their back no matter what.
Perseverance requires wading into conflict and facing it together. It involves having honest conversations instead of brushing the disagreements under the rug. And it requires having a heart of forgiveness when you step on each other’s toes.
Deep friendships require being available and intentional with one another while persevering through the complexities of life together, but the effort is worth the return.
Questions for further reflection:
- What barriers are getting in the way of you being available to people?
- How can you become more intentional with the people that God is placing in your path?
- Name 2 friends you currently have that you’d like to have 20 years from now!