A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. Proverbs 17:17
It’s a sad day as I prepare to move out of my home. I sit on the couch to take a break from packing. I shake my head trying to stop the thoughts that whirl in my mind. I can see the scene today as clearly as I did a year ago; my husband practically skipping down the hall with a suitcase in hand, bouncing down the steps of our split-entry home like a child beginning summer vacation. He looked up at me from the bottom of the steps and said, “It’s not like me to be this insensitive.” Yes, he actually said that to me as he walked out the door. It was a day that will live in infamy—at least for me. It changed the “perfect-church going family” to a “broken home.”
Today, as I sit engrossed in my thoughts, I jump when the phone rings. At the other end, a familiar voice says, “Just called to invite you to spend a birthday celebration with our family.” Embarrassed, I stumble over my words “I don’t want to intrude on your celebration. I will bring everyone down.” The truth is that the memory of one year ago is still raw; and I want to submerge myself in pity and probably ice cream.
My young friend pleads, insists, and finally uses the kids as bait. As I hang up the phone, my gloomy mood starts to dissipate. I smile to myself, wishing my former counselor could hear this call.
I started going to counseling sessions, hoping my husband might come, too. He didn’t. Still, the counselor and I discussed ways to save the marriage—until the session after my husband’s uncaring departure. On that day, I told the counselor the marriage was over. We conversed about many things during that office visit; however, right before I left the office, she looked at me and said, “You’re single now. The women in your church will see you as a threat to their marriage. A support system is important, but you probably need to find it elsewhere.”
The lie about female friendships
Devastated by my husband’s leaving, I was searching for advice on how to cope and move on. Were my ears deceiving me? Did this Christian counselor just tell me to prepare for more abandonment?
You see, my female counselor bought the sexist lie that women aren’t capable of true love for one another. Have you ever heard a woman say (or perhaps it was you), “Woman bosses are the worst” or “Females are so manipulative?” We trash our own sex and wonder why men say that women can’t be friends.
Despite the fact, I didn’t believe women were natural enemies, the counselor put doubts in my mind and heart. The thought of my church family forsaking me was scary. During the ride home, I was very uneasy. Questions whirled in my mind. Was the counselor right? Would my sisters in Christ not trust me around their husbands?
Women can have solid, meaningful and godly friendships with other women.
My 19-year-old son and I walked into church the following Sunday. The pastor was aware of the situation, and others in leadership had been informed. We didn’t know who else knew. As Sunday school superintendent, I had to open the service. Could I get through this? I felt broken. I wasn’t sure how to begin. Some looked away. I saw pity on others’ faces. Those who didn’t know were confused by the awkward silence.
The church matriarch was talking to one of the deacons. Her eyes filled with tears, and she walked to the front of the church and gave me a hug. Others followed her lead, offering a deluge of comfort and kind words.
During the next few weeks, the church’s sadness was palpable. One of the members told me there is “a time to mourn,” and this was one of those times. I was comforted that my brothers and sisters in Christ grieved with me.
As I made my way through the world of divorce proceedings, overcoming obstacles, and learning to live alone, my church family was there the whole time, with calls just to talk, offers of financial help, and cards with uplifting messages. The thoughtful words and acts of kindness during this difficult time were as varied as the people’s individual characters and personalities.
Celebrating female friendships in the Bible
“By this, all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Jesus does not want the world to know the church because of our intellect, success, power, or cutting-edge programs. He wants the world to know that Christians are different by the way we love one another.
The people of my church exemplified the love Jesus discussed with His disciples. The women, in particular, were there for me throughout it all. Even a year later, this family reached out in love to ease the pain of that fateful day.
Some may say my experience is an exception, but if we look in the Bible, we see examples of women showing loving support to one another.
- When the land of Canaan (Israel) was being divided between the 12 tribes of Israel, the daughters of Zelophehad were denied property because their father was deceased and there were no sons. These sisters banded together to get inheritance rights. What I like about this story is how the women worked together proving false the stereotype that women always undercut each other. They collaborated and changed the inheritance laws for Jewish women forever. (Numbers 27: 1-11; Joshua 17: 3-4)
- Ruth extended this kind of love to her mother-in-law, Naomi. The older woman, to say the least, had a bad attitude. From a human perspective, her sadness was understandable; she had lost a husband and two sons. On the other hand, Ruth must have witnessed Naomi’s faith in earlier years. After all, Ruth was a Moabite, raised in a pagan culture, but now was firmly declaring her faith in the God of Abraham. When Naomi decided to return to her homeland, Ruth didn’t see a way out of spending more time with a cranky, depressed old woman. She didn’t abandon her for an easier life; instead, she stood by Naomi, demonstrating love and compassion. Her merciful actions were rewarded. God secured both women’s futures, and Ruth is even an ancestor of Jesus! (Ruth 1: 11-21 and 4: 13-22)
- Another story of loving friendship between two women is Mary and Elizabeth. Mary was to be the mother of the Messiah, and Elizabeth was honored to be carrying John the Baptist. Mary came to visit Elizabeth while both women were pregnant. When Elizabeth greeted Mary, she acknowledged that her cousin was pregnant with the Messiah. She wasn’t jealous of Mary’s status; instead, she was honored that Mary visited. “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me” (Luke 1: 42b, 43 NLT)? These two women must have loved one another. Mary traveled during her pregnancy to make this visit, and Elizabeth provided a warm welcome. I imagine Elizabeth, who was older and further along in her pregnancy, told Mary what to expect. Surely they shared a special bond.
- One of my favorite women of the Bible is Dorcas, who ministered to vulnerable widows in society by using her sewing abilities to provide clothes. Only seven verses in Scripture describe this exceptional woman, but we can glean a lot from them. These verses provide a glimpse into a life where peace reigns and women love, care, and support each other. (Acts 9:36-42)
So, was the love shown to me so unusual? Looking at these women of the Bible, I don’t think so. We can encourage one another by sharing times we’ve been on the receiving end of genuine Christian love.
Can you remember a time when you gave or received this kind love from your sisters in Christ?
Patrice is the founder of WomenSeekingChrist.com, a website where ordinary women are discovering extraordinary lives in Jesus. When she is not blogging she enjoys weekend getaways with her husband, Todd. She also has the three most adorable grandchildren in the world. She also enjoys speaking at women’s events.
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