The Friendship Project
Whitney Capps

"But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, 'And who is my neighbor?' Luke:10:29 (NIV)

It was a room full of nearly strangers, barely friends-until that day. I asked the ladies to stand as I read from a list of life experiences. If they had lived through one of the descriptions they stood up. One by one, sobbing women rose to their feet as I read the list. They were family in name only - a family of believers from the same church gathered together for a women's retreat where I was the guest speaker.

Twelve women stood together when I asked if anyone had had a miscarriage. One woman had buried a spouse. Five came from unbelieving homes. One had lived through marital infidelity. Three had escaped relationships where they had faced verbal, physical or sexual abuse. Three ladies had struggled with depression. The list went on and on. By the time I had finished, every woman in the room was standing.

We were knee-deep in one another's junk, and yet I had never felt closer to a group of women. As we closed the session I asked them to share more about their stories at their individual tables. As I surveyed the room, women who had been strangers only minutes before were huddled around one another, embracing, sharing and weeping. God was knitting hearts together. It was a moment I'll never forget.

I am realizing that women of all walks of life crave friendships. And yet so many of us feel that we are lacking meaningful, authentic relationships. How is it that a church full of women with a common thread of faith are not friends? Worse yet, if we aren't friends, can we hope to offer authentic relationships to those who enter the doors of our churches every week?

I fear the answer is "no, we can't" unless we change and make a few necessary sacrifices.

Recently I've gleaned some life lessons from the story of the Good Samaritan. In Luke 10:30, Jesus paints a not-so-favorable picture of the religious and respectable. I wonder if He would have the same indictment of our churches today? The priest was seemingly too busy to befriend the one in need.

Can I be honest? I am regularly guilty of this sin. Before and after church my husband and I busy ourselves with the work of tending to our children, and doing the business of church. I move past people who are hurting, but I don't stop with my busyness to see their needs. I rarely get off my horse. I am the priest.

The Levite rode past the hurting man too. Perhaps he felt he was too clean to get dirty in the messy business of grace and mercy. Helping the man in need would have made the Levite ceremonially unclean. He wanted to preserve his position and place.

Let me do a little more truth-telling. I don't usually want to get knee-deep in other people's junk. If I don't get into messy relationships I avoid having to deal not only with my own junk, but other's as well. So I don't get off my horse. I am the Levite.

Here is the problem. Real relationships require time and transparency. If we want to move from being casual acquaintances to genuine friends you and I will have to share pain and joy in an authentic, sacrificial way. I believe this, but for right now it's just theory.

I'm curious. What would happen if we covenanted together to get off our high horses and got into one another's junk? I wonder if our churches would explode. I wonder if lives would be forever changed. I wonder if the Church would shed a little bit of its reputation of hypocrisy.

Want to see what would happen? It's not too late to add a New Year's resolution. Let's resolve to change lives through friendship. Let's slow down. Let's share our stories. Let's get knee-deep.

Dear Lord, give me eyes to see those in need around me, and give me the courage to respond. Father, I want to be a part of life-changing friendships by offering grace and mercy. You call us to love others as ourselves. Help me obey this all-consuming command. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
The Friends We Keep: A Woman's Quest for the Soul of Friendship by Sarah Zacharias Davis

Visit Whitney’s blog today

Traveling Together: Thoughts on Women, Friendship and the Journey of Faith by Karla Worley

Join Whitney’s Facebook group The Friendship Project for more details about this campaign

Application Steps:
How can you simplify your Sunday routine to allow more time for building relationships?

With whom can you share part of your story in hopes of offering encouragement and hope?

Reflections:
Do you have genuine, edifying friendships? Why or why not?

Are you reaching out and developing new friendships with those in need around you?

Power Verses:
Luke 10:27, "He answered: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind"; and, "Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (NIV)

Luke 10:33-34, 36-37, "But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds…and took care of him… 'Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?' The expert in the law replied, 'The one who had mercy on him.' Jesus told him, 'Go and do likewise.'" (NIV)

© 2010 by Whitney Capps. All rights reserved.

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25 Comments:

Anonymous Jennifer Renee said...

Every time I read a devotion about friendship tears run down my face. I'm still longing for close friends from church. Friends to spend time with. There are several people in church who I consider to be a friend but they mostly just say "Praise the Lord" or "hi" to me wehn they pass by me. Sometimes someone may even ask me how I'm doing. However, outside of church no one calls or really emails me unless they r sending a story of some sort. I try to convince myself that people just don't have time for me. Even though there are several people I know from church I don't know how to take the first step to strengthen friendships. I think the fact that I'm blind doesn't make it easy for me to go up to someone and start talking to them. I do have three very special friends but they live several hours away from me so we pretty much communicate through email. Their prayer for me is that I would find a few close friends from church.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The summer of 2000 I traveled halfway across the country for a family reunion. It turned out to be the worst nightmare of my life.

I tapped my 10 yr old daughter on the upper arm to get her to stand still and, via gossip, a cousin was told I had "hit" my daughter.
Even though she hadn't seen it happen, she called DSS and reported me for child abuse.

We had to remain halfway across the country for an extra 2 weeks while the investigation was underway. We had a video of my daughter dancing in circles later that day, showing her arms clearly, with no marks on them, and the investigator refused to look at it. She threatened to put me in jail, etc, etc, etc.

By the time we were able to leave for home, I had barely slept or ate those 2 weeks. We drove straight through, 21 hours of driving and arrived back home on a Sunday morning at 3:30AM.

After 4 hours of sleep we went to church.

While sitting in the ladies Sunday School class, it finally hit me...I was HOME. SAFE. It was OVER. And I began to cry. The relief flooded over me as I sat there and I cried, right there in Sunday School.

No one said a word. An embarassed hush came over the room, the teacher simply continued on with her lesson. There were 25 women in the room and not one of them so much as placed a finger of comfort on my knee. They sat there and ignored me.

I didn't cry very long, I gathered my wits about me and sat there a few minutes.... completely alone in a room full of "Christian women". I finally got up and went to the bathroom...and still NO ONE came to see what was wrong.

I had been a member there for 4 years. I'll never forget that as long as I live.

Today's devotional is, sadly, "preaching to the choir".

Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Anonymous
I am so sorry that you endured such a struggle and that no one reached out to you. I hope that terrible situation has been righted for you and your daughter. I do not attend the women's bible study at my church because I had a similar experience with no one reaching out- it is kind of an exclusive club.
I think that we can be agents of change; to be the change we want to see in others. I am sure that there are other women in your church who would like to be and are not part of a small group. I pray that you find each other.

Blogger Cubarado said...

Thank You so very much for this confronting post! It is truth for today and I will commit to further my relationships in a deeper and more Christ centered way. "Iron sharpens Iron" Proverbs 27:17, but if we are not entering into one another's life with grace, mercy, and love no one will be there to keep us sharp and vis-versa. Many Blessings!

Blogger Rannyjean said...

God is working in our lives, from this post to Christian womens blogs and yet, you are right. My church was awesome this summer when I had back surgery, they made dinner for my family for 3 weeks and yet, only 2 people called to ask me how I was. I try to go up and introduce myself to new people at church however I am 'guilty as charged,' by not inviting people over for fellowship! Thank you for opening my eyes!

Thanks Whitney.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is so true of we church folks.we are always too busy for each other God help us all.I have made an attempt at friendship at the church but got so betrayed I am now afraid to venture out on this friendship thing.I am single and I met a man in the church and we started dating and it was a wonderful thing that was leading to marriage until the lady I called a friend went behind my back to date this man secretly at first and now they do things like in your face.God by His mercy is still healing me but how can Itrust any one again?

Anonymous Laurie in Tucson said...

This is something that has been on my heart too. We can't all be "fine" yet that is the answer I hear at church all the time when asking "how are you?". For a people who are supposed to be known for their love, we have a terrible time of showing it even to those in our church "families". What would happen if we confessed our sins and shortcomings to each other? What if we told each other our problems? I'm afraid to do that because of the response I would get--even from our pastors. I agree with you that churches would be overflowing if we loved people.

Blogger carikaufm said...

So perfect. So true. Thank you.

At Strings Attached Ministries (www.stringsattachedministries.com), this is our sole focus: to help women's groups connect on a deeper level with one another.

Blogger Kelsie said...

I heard something on the radio a long time ago that has stuck with me: "There are only two things in this world that are eternal: God's Word and people". That's it. Those should be the two things we value THE MOST!! Let's LIVE our lives alongside one another! Let's be open and willing to be vulnerable in order for others to understand us and feel comfortable to open up themselves. If we go to the throne of grace each day and submit ourselves to the will of the Father, then we should be about His business. I hope and pray that God is doing a great work in His people and lighting a fire in hearts. Whitney is onto something here, and we should all commit to being better friends. Even if you've been hurt or betrayed or feel as if no one is taking the time to get to know you, reach out to someone. Give those hurt feelings to Christ. Ask Him to restore your heart. If you need a friend, ask Him to provide one, and then be ready and willing to approach someone. Ask them how you can be praying for them. And then PRAY! You could even pray with them right there, on-the-spot, even if it's over the phone...Wow, I'm really pumped up. Thanks to whomever has read this entire comment! I hope this has been an encouragement to SOMEone!! :-) This is a subject near-and-dear to my heart... God bless!!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband was reading the Samaritan story to the kids before bed the other night and here it is again, God has opened my ears a again to its truths, its challenge. I am preparing to be part of a mothers group at my church where we welcome members who are not part of our church family and hope to share Jesus with them. I have been praying a fresh to use this opportunity well, thanks for the encouragement to do this, to take it on even it is hard sometimes to be friends with someone you dont know very well - I believe it could change them and me! Thank you.

Anonymous Lisa V. said...

Whitney, I think you just gave me my final resolution for 2010. Just the other day I was talking to a friend and got so worked up over how women don't support women. But now that I reflect upon it, I think what I was really saying was a reflection of a deep, identified need within me, in which I know my heart is called to reach out to those women around me. To cultivate a connection if just briefly. And as you pointed out to not be afraid to get in one another's junk. Whitney, I'm in love with your post today. THANK YOU SO MUCH. XOXO

Anonymous Lori said...

I just read the other comments. In some ways, it's good to know I'm not alone, but in some ways, I wish I was. I also had a bad experience at a women's fellowship where the exclusive circle had no time for a newcomer who was hoping for a little friendship. Just a little. I would have been happy with friendly faces to say hello to, but I didn't even get that. It was so painful, I'm hesitant to take the plunge now that I've moved again to a new town. All of you who are in such circles, please take note. Newcomers don't expect you to drop everything and become BFFs. Just make a newcomer feel less awkward by saying hello in church. If you can, linger long enough for a "how's it going?" While this is hardly intimacy, it's better than silence and cold shoulders.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here I am. Another night sitting without friends asking God, help me not to have suicidal thoughts. Interesting how I ran across this site. Please don't get me wrong. I'm actually born-again. Literally baptized in the Holy Spirit and 5 years later received tongues. Both of which happened in my own home and during fasts - (of course, don't tell that to the Cessationists who think the power of God has ceased.. wrongo - btw, I'm not even Pentacostal, wasn't raised to know the baptism of fire, and didn't even grow up in a church, and did NOT desire tongues.) But, I have a relationship with the Lord of which I am very deeply grateful because he showed me things that many people long for. However, to get to the point, I have tried to reach out to other women (in fact - you could do a circle around my house - they all claim they are Christian). I've tried to develop friendships with them as I was raised to know the second most important commandment well. Unfortunately, when you love your neighbor as yourself, people walk all over you. I have yet to meet a true Christian who walks in love towards me and yet, I am in a great church also. You know - "if one asks you to go with them a mile, go with them two." I have done this countless times - investing 6 months to a year each time and still to no avail. I get responses like,"I have to wash my hair." Yes, really. (I'm thinking these are trials or something because did they not remember how I helped them with their kids b-day party, what about that new pedicure biz I supported them on that took all day and I didn't get home till almost 11pm, what about the ear I lend out instantly when they want to talk about thier issues, and how I stop by during the week and we chat like we are close friends?) Then of course, when I stop visiting (because there is no reciprocation) and receive no calls or visits - I contact them and ask support-ively "Why?". I typically get the brush off but I always leave an opening for them to return because I'm forgiven in the way I forgive others. >>>>(had 2 split comment to next post)>>>

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Furthermore, sometimes, I wonder, is it because I'm pretty - but God looks at the heart - shouldn't all Christians? Maybe it's because I'm biracial. Maybe it's because I'm skinny - but that's because I have Celiac disease (which just means I can't eat gluten-so it's entirely not fair to be jealous.) I don't even like to analyze those things! So I make an effort to focus on what's within myself AND others. I don't even judge others outward appearance. My own sister has yet to be faithful, but truthfully if I went down the list of rejection and pain I have suffered in my life, NONE OF YOU COULD HACK IT - and I guess it's not important anymore. So, I can only thank God that at least He loves me, and of course, my husband and 3 kids - but sometimes I don't think they can help it - meaning my husband 'should' and my kids 'would'. These women over the years don't even realize that I would be the one who would feed them soup, and clean their drool if they were sick and dying. This is not even a boast. Isn't that what we are supposed to do as Christian women? Do they even realize that after so long, it's just a stab in the heart? Do they have NO FEAR of the Lord? Aren't we now family? Where is the love? Are people really taking up their cross and following Christ other than Keith Wheeler, lol? Now I know why Jesus says that 'the road is narrow, but few be there that find it'. And I clearly realize long-suffering. If you read about evil Haman in Esther, you will see how he thought the king was talking about honoring him, so he told the king how "the man whom the king delights to honor" should be honored (again, because he thought it was him.) This is a great example of how we are truly supposed to love one another . . . AS WE WOULD LOVE OURSELVES.

One final note: I think the most crushing thing is when I reach out to other women who are SUPPOSED to be leaders in the faith and they don't even reach back... Except with that temporal hug and arms-length smile , oh - and perhaps I might step on their toes? Once again, I will just continue to pray and spread the gospel anonymously online and through those I meet without any real friends.

Thanks for your post. I feel better now. Sorry I spilled my guts.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

One more thing I forgot to tell you - 90% of these women tell me, "You're my BEST friend." I think that's why it hurts so much. I am the Samaritan.

Bear ye one another's burdens.

Blogger Kandyss said...

Wow! I did not realize that so many women were hurt in friendships with women in the church! I experienced real Christian friendships in college through the campus ministry in which I was affiliated, but it seemed like I had to start the process over every semester when our schedules changed. I was BLESSED to have a wonderful roommate of 3.5 college years and a wonderful friend that was a senior when I was a freshman, but I do not talk to them as much anymore since we live in different states now. I have always yearned for a "best friend" to be there for you and hang out and everything, although my husband gets offended when I mention this because he says, "I'm your best friend" (he can be so cute sometimes!). I reassure him that he is my best friend, and I try to explain to him that it is different having a female best friend...

Anyway, now that I am married and busy, it seems as if I do not have enough time to call or keep up with anyone, not even myself! Please pray that GOD can give me supernatural time and energy to take care of myself so that I can reach out and fulfill one of my deepest desires - to have long-term, meaningful friendships!

Thanks for the post!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>>Me again>>>
You know sometimes I think (after all the reaching out I've done), it's really not about time or energy because a lot of the women that I have reached out to are stay-at-home moms. It's really a heart issue. Do you have a desire to know the heart of someone else? Or is it just about fulfilling your need to have a gal pal that you can call to borrow sugar or have lunch with? These are so surface-y. I know not everyone can be a best friend, but truly - have you ever noticed how many Christian women fellowship in their little comfort zone groups and build one another up without getting too deep yet they aren't reaching out to the non-Christian? Is that what Jesus did? No. He didn't come from a dysfunctional family either and yet he cared deeply about the leper.

Anonymous Tammy McConnell said...

Dear Anonymous,

I read your response to this post several times. Something about it wouldn’t let me loose. It closely parallels a recent prayer of mine. I cried out to God for an answer to a very trying, personal struggle. I said, “Won’t you send me someone who understands, that can help me through this?” He said, “I am sufficient. I am all you need. Rest in Me. I will show you how to handle this.” I said, “What about other women? Aren’t they supposed to be there for me?” Then I realized…THE ONE who saved me IS THE ONLY ONE that can help me right now. He did send others, and they could help me a little, but God is the only one who knows my situation completely, and He’s the only one that has the perfect answer.

You said you were raised to know the second most important commandment, love your neighbor as yourself. Don’t forget the FIRST… ‘Love ME’ first and foremost. Seek FIRST the kingdom of God. That’s because HE is the one that will give you the direction for the rest of your journey.

Dear, sweet Anonymous, I pray that you find comfort in God’s shelter. He IS sufficient! Know that I am praying for you fervently. I feel your pain. Please don’t blame the women at your church. They don’t know (even the leaders) that you’re in so much pain. The many responses to this post are a testament to that. Call on Jesus and tell Him EVERYTHING. Let HIM orchestrate the solution for you. I think you’ll be amazed to find that when you start reaching out to HIM, those women will start reaching out to you…and you won’t have to say a thing.

This post, “The Friendship Project” spoke so loudly to me. I will not walk away from this one thinking, ‘well, that must have been for someone else.’ Thank you for sharing it!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>>me again>>>
Dear Tammy,
I appreciate your response. However, I would not have been baptized in the Holy Spirit if I did not now know the first and most important commandment. I was referring to when I was younger and was taught the second and not the first. I want you to know that I do have a relationship with Christ. I seek him fervently on my knees morning and night and throughout the day and have read the whole bible and continue to read and etc, etc. If you knew me in person, you wouldn't have a clue to my pain as it regards to friendships, because I am joyful and friendly. However, I do have stressing moments where I am under attack and the enemy clearly reminds me of the rejection I have faced and continue to face. Last night was one of those nights. However, if there is one thing I have learned it is about deliverance and I am well. I give up all my burdens to the Lord - you have no idea. But I thank you for your concern as I probably would have done the same.

Blogger mochaflowerz said...

Dear Tammy,

I'm glad you put that out there, because I was so needing to hear what you wrote. Thank you!

I'm one of those ones hurting and lonely from past betrayals and rejection--and having a very hard time making good godly friends. On top of it, my husband expects me to be wonderwoman these days, and I'm feeling lonely in the marriage and overwhelemed being a SAHM. I really needed the reminder about the "first part."

Thank you, Tammy and all of you Ladies for what you shared here. Please pray for me. I would appreciate it so much.

Praying and giving thanks for each of you! Blessings-
Kim

Anonymous Tammy said...

Praying for you Kim as well as all the others who struggle with this. God doesn't want you to be lonely or feel rejected...especially in His house! Turn to Him first...I've found it to be a very good choice.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is a great choice, however, people need to remember that when you are a Christian who walks in love, you will be persecuted because some do not fully understand the concept of giving love.

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Anonymous FR said...

I know this comment is being posted later on since the original post, but this is something a friend and I were just discussing today. You know one of Satan's biggest goals is to keep us alone. We are stronger together, but Satan tries to put doubts in our head; "Oh, if they found out you did that, they wouldn't want to be your friend, oooh, you're such a sinner, you're the only one who struggles with such & such." But it's not true and by putting on a facade or a mask in our churches today, we are doing each other a dis-service. Be real, folks. People can learn from your experiences. Don't be ashamed of what you've been through. Use your experiences to help others, to show them they CAN get through this struggle. Join together ladies & lift up and encourage each other. BE REAL!!

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