“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” – Hebrews 12:1
If you know me at all you have probably seen pictures of me and my posse. My girlfriends. My GF’s. We have 27 years between us. I have been part of this group for nearly 20. I don’t remember life without them. We will show up in your feed on retreats or arranging flowers for a girlfriend’s second wedding. You’ll know that 7 of the 9 of us have the same ankle tattoo. (Two of us will make this sisterhood symbol with permanent marker when we are in the retirement home…we’ll need to find each other.)
You might think that this whole “finding your tribe thing” is easy. You might think that it’s all brunch and road trips and birthdays.
You would be right. And you would be very wrong.
You might call me lucky But luck has nothing to do with keeping relationships for that amount of time with eight women.
That’s like saying “you’re so lucky you’ve been married for 25 years.”
This gig takes a whole mess of work and humility. If you ever find yourself envious, this is the truth behind our story. This is my version of the disclaimer that should be provided on every long-term relationship of any kind.
Because community is going to cost you.
The truth is that when friendship with a group of women is fresh and new it won’t cost you much. Over coffee you can share fashion finds and recipes, your latest thrift store purchases, family stories, and parenting tips. It’s easy, breezy, beautiful.
But stick around awhile and the casual conversations will wear thin. Facades will fail.
It’ll start small. One of you will have a bad day, a series of bad days, a bump in your marriage, or a full-blown nervous breakdown. Scars will come into focus if you spend enough time together. If you dare to examine each of your sisters and keep showing up for a front row seat to life with another human being, humanness will be exposed. It won’t be pretty. You might consider leaving.
When years spin on the calendar, nearly 20 to be exact, you’ll still realize it’s the most beautiful, hardest thing you will ever be part of.
Over the years you’ll be a witness your sisters at their best. You’ll cry happy tears because one’s daughter is saying her vows surrounded by sprays of flowers. Your mother-of-the-bride girlfriend will walk down the aisle with a knowing glance into the gaggle of you, her body at the perfect weight. She is floating like an angel and you practically gloat at the opportunity to witnesses the glory. You proudly beam at the reception.
The group of you will gather, crowding around a small cafe table and lean in close to hear the latest accomplishment of one of your sisters. You’ll toast your coffee cups and drive home smiling because gosh darn it, one of you did the thing she’s been talking about for a solid four years and it’s the proudest moment deep in your heart to know she is thriving.
You’ll cheer in the audience, one of your sisters at the podium giving her acceptance speech for one award or another, her finally finding her voice.
You’ll rock each other’s babies and then watch each of them grow like a beanstalk until they grow almost out of sight and you don’t see them often enough anymore. Each holds a piece of your heart, frozen in time with one single memory of all of you tending to ALL THOSE KIDS while trying to hold a conversation at a bible study in a messy kitchen.
You’ll buy one of the girlfriends a gift at some random store, giggling, just because it reminds you of her on a Tuesday.
You’ll group text like a teenager and send all the emojis on a heartbreaking day just to make her smile.
You’ll begin to hear all the words, even the ones she never speaks because your hearts begin to know each other.
You’ll see the beauty in her when she squints to see it in herself and you’ll sing the song in her heart back to her when she has forgotten the words.
You’ll laugh at very inappropriate times together. VERY. INAPPROPRIATE. TIMES.
And these times will become your memories and a part of you forever.
Those are the good moments, but a real tribe will cost you.
A circle of real girlfriends will beg you to lay down your pride. They will demand time, patience, and more understanding than your two year old who is yet to be potty-trained. The relationships will beckon you to listen deep and to soften judgement. Your shared love will call you to be vulnerable and transparent. You’ll have to get real up in here if you want to stay.
The truth is that you’ll have to eventually decide if your are a runner or if you are a fighter.
You’ll have to know in the guts of your very self if you can grow in deep commitment. You’ll have to know if you have the strength to to come out of hiding. From yourself and to them.
You will disappoint each other, a lot. You will hurt each other, often unintentionally.
And that’s not any kind of fun.
This past weekend I sat in a circle with my tribe. The ones who have held my hand in scary times, jumped for joy in summer seasons, and slapped me right upside the head when I was way off kilter. I talked about how hiding is the true root of any sin and satan wants nothing more than for us to be divided, alone, and without community. That’s the cold hard truth so I reminded them and myself that we are gonna have to fight.
How easy it would be to overlook each other’s bad habits, the lies we tell ourselves, and to glance away from the gaping holes in each other’s hearts.
Because we have an enemy that knows every sin that hinders us from being all that God created us to be and every tender place.
We’re going to have to be intimate here if we are going to be the body of Christ. And intimacy means “into me see.” We’re going to have to look into each other with eyes and hearts wide open.
We going to have to live with eyes wide open and a great big focus on Jesus.
Satan prowls like a lion in the night searching for an “In” to destroy sisterhood, for a way between us. He knows that we are better together. Isolation and quiet despair are the recipe he concocts to tell us we are unlovable, left out, forgotten.
So if you are in it for the long, ugly, beautiful haul of being in the body of Christ… all in for birthdays and gift-exchanges and toasting sunsets at the beach, you’re going to have to also be willing to surrender to the hard. You’re going to have to show up that one day when you find yourself with your hands on your sister’s feet, sitting cross-legged below her praying bold prayers to heal the broken places in her marriage and/ or whisper “Dear Lord to please tend to the scars she carries from the past.” You will pray for her harder than you pray for your own needs.
Because over time she has become a part of you, a mirror of you.
And you better be able to face a mirror because each woman in that circle of community you joined will hold one up and ask you to look close if they really love you.
And so, yes, I do have eight very close girlfriends. And I signed up for all of that. We each did.
Right in the middle of the retreat, when we had started talking about the broken places, we scrolled our names right across the top of a blank sheet of paper. We taped them towards the light and each of us wrote the words of truth right there under each other’s names in permanent marker.
Because just like Michelangelo, we see beauty in every block of marble. A masterpiece that is waiting to emerge.
And our words to each other begin to bring each other out of hiding.
Yes. Community will cost you.
And it will fill you.
A sisterhood will challenge you.
It will also rock the lies, expose the truth, and make you do the hard work.
Community will ultimately make you come alive, looking to the cross as your only hope.
We’re just here to sing the backup verses to the song He has planted in side of of our sisters, to carry each other’s voices when we have no words. I played this song at the end of my talk Saturday, surrounded by the girls who have helped me find my voice.
If you want to be in a girlfriend tribe you better be willing to sing a strong backup.
I’m so grateful for my dear friend Jennifer Hand of Coming Alive Ministries who led our retreat this weekend and one of the GF’s Renee who spoke and gave us deep questions to ponder with each other. I’m also grateful for the GF’s who took most of the pictures in this post because I took not a one the whole weekend. It takes a village, ya’ll.