“How are you?” I tilted my head and looked in her eyes.

“Fine,” she nodded. But then the up-and-down of her head shifted to side-to-side.

“Actually, I’m not.”

My friend had just arrived in my driveway to pick up her kids, but only after her errand had taken a detour. Turns out she’d gone to visit a little boy in the hospital after a concerned phone call. The boy had been tube-fed for a month—but his physical debilitation is small compared to his past at seven years old.

No one knew where his father was. His mom had abandoned him when she remarried, which is unfortunately common in the country where I live. He fought nightmares that he would be sacrificed via witchcraft, like his brother and sister have been. He was cared for by a Ugandan woman who took in abandoned children and loved them like her own.

I could see my friend’s face straining visibly beneath the weight of this boy’s story, tearing her heart open yet again for the brokenness that ravages so many lives here. We took time to chat, then prayed together. As she turned to leave, I thanked her for answering my question truthfully and openly.

“There’s no other way,” she chuckled. “I used to live like that. But you can’t do that here, or you’ll die.”

She’s right. I know this now. Somehow, I am feeling my need for vital relationships with other women now. It has heightened to the point that if I don’t fulfill those needs, I could easily start a downward slide into deep emotional chasms.

If I don’t listen to that nagging voice telling me to accept help, I’ll tank. If I don’t surround myself with a true community, giving and taking, I will isolate and drift away into dark waters; I’ll be attempting on my own what God designed a whole body to do. If I don’t tell the truth, I’m abbreviating the length and efficacy of the work God has for me here. If we don’t pray for each other, I may be leaving them in a battle alone, or simply doing without because I don’t ask (James 4).

I felt these when I was living in the United States, I see now. But I confess—I didn’t listen to it as well. The effects were slower and more subtle. Admittedly, I had some other comforts. Here, if I don’t listen, I have found the consequences to be swift. Just as I’ve heard of on the savanna here in Africa, the loners can be easily picked off by the enemy, or simply by fatigue.

So I have been very challenged recently by the simple words of Ephesians 4:25  let each of you put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Reality is, I have not always treated my girlfriends as if they are members of my own body, communicating like my own body does with itself. I am not always as open with them as I would like them to be with me. I am not false—not in the intentionally lying sense—but for the sake of “kindness,” I am not always intentionally truthful. Sometimes, I am not gentle in a spiritual way: that is to say, I am gentle, but not faithful; not courageous.

Thankfully, as God has worked and worked on me in this, He’s also brought me friends who are committed to being truthful with me. They’re gentle but straightforward enough to ask me about something in myself they’re concerned about. They tell me what my kids are doing when I’m not there.

Like last week—when the same friend above had enough love for me to let me know that my son was really distancing some of his friends with the ways he was treating them when I was out of earshot. As we got our kids together to talk about the problem, I was grateful that my friend knows how to handle conflict in ways that actually strengthen relationships: with loving honesty, repentance, forgiveness, and restoration. Hopefully, my kids are getting the whole “speak truthfully with one another” thing, too.

There are irreplaceable assets to a tight-knit community of other moms–not exclusive, but indeed sharing deep, genuine relationships that “do life” together, day in, and day out. I need women who can function together as a body, truly shouldering each other’s burdens and offering strengths in areas where I lack. It is a rich privilege to share whatever I have with other moms, and it meets a critical need for me where I am.

God knew when He made me that friendships which love intrusively weren’t optional. They were—are— vital.

Wherever you are.

Do you have friendships where you can be real and honest with each other? If you don’t, do some thinking today about what it is that is stopping you.