The other day I went for a walk with a friend of mine. At some point on the trail she said to me, “This week I have been feeling lonely. In fact yesterday I was so lonely I went to the grocery store simply to find a person to talk to.”
Two things surprised me about her comment. The first was that I understood exactly how she felt. The second was that this is a very busy woman with lots of friends whom no one would ever imagine was lonely or even had the time to be lonely.
For most women the perception is that she—that other woman—has it all together. A great family, clean house, meaningful work, and definitely close friends. But this simply isn’t true. No one has it all together. And from time to time each one of us feels lonely. We wish someone would call us for no reason—not to discuss a joint project, or ask advice, or anything else but simply to say, “I was thinking about you and thought I’d call and say hey.”
There is something within each of us that longs to be known. We were created in God’s image and a part of His “image bearing” is the desire to be known. Women need women friends and men need men friends. Often we women recognize this need more easily than men do. We long for a soul sister or two with whom we can share our deepest thoughts without the fear of being laughed at, quoted to someone else, or dismissed. We long for understanding, empathy, and simply a listening ear.
There are at least three types of friendships. We have acquaintances—the mom at the bus stop, the colleague in the next office, the gal at the gym. We say “hey” and catch up on basic things in life. It is safely superficial. Then we have friends. This is a deeper level: a mom in our neighborhood, a member of our Bible study, an exercise partner. These are rich friendships.
The third level is the smallest: soul sisters. You may have one to five soul sisters at any season in your life. These are gals with whom you are free to share your heart. They know your weaknesses and your strengths. You feel safe sharing your temptations with them, and you know they will pray for you, laugh with you, cry with you, and be your cheerleader. They believe in you.
It is vitally important that your soul sisters are women who love Christ and who will push you to Him. They must not be “husband bashers.” I remember once complaining to a soul sister how ticked I was with my husband. She empathized with me (she could identify with my feelings!), but then she eyeballed me and simply said, “Susan what are you doing to move closer to him?” Her priority was that I was moving closer to Christ and to my husband. We want friends who will push us to Christ and to our husband.
Good girlfriends enhance our marriages. A girlfriend can empathize in a way your husband cannot. He just can’t understand how you feel when you’ve spent the entire day in the bathroom potty training a strong-willed child, or cleaning up from the stomach flu. But another mom can!
It is easy to expect our husband to meet our needs. But he was not created to meet needs that we should be taking to God first and to another close girlfriend second. Girlfriends can release the pressure on our marriages.
When my walking friend shared her lonely day with me I knew what she meant. Too often I feel like I’m always the one who calls somebody, the one who initiates communication or a get together. It’s easy for me to fall into the trap of self pity.
What I need to do is simply pick up the phone and call a friend. A friend who might in time become a “soul sister.”
If you are feeling lonely today, here are a few tips:
1. Pray, Lord, make me a good friend to someone.
2. Call someone today for no reason other than to say, “How are you? I was just thinking about you and wanted to find out what is going on in your life.” It is particularly meaningful to call someone or do something for someone when there is no reason—it’s not a birthday, or an illness, or some other special occasion. Instead it’s “just because.”
3. Do something special for someone else today. For example, drop flowers off at a neighbor’s home, cook for a weary young mother, send a postcard or email to someone saying, “I am thinking of you.” Have your young child draw a picture and mail it to a friend or family member.
We want to become “there you are women”—women who look first to care for others—instead of “here I am women”—who rely on others to reach out to them.