I have a confession to make. I did something I hadn’t done in over a decade. Something I really hadn’t done since marriage, and something I certainly hadn’t done since having children.
Are you ready for it?
I…took a girls’ trip to the beach with some precious friends from college.
Daring, I know! But it was oh so worth it.
It was not a “ditch the husbands” and “run from the kids” type of trip. It wasn’t even a quest for freedom or an effort to “find myself.”
It was just a good quality time of reconnecting and fellowshipping with genuine friends. Twenty years removed from college, we all live in different towns now, some in different states. We lead different lives. Two of us are pastor’s wives who also double as a school counselor and a writer/editor. One is a neonatal nurse practitioner, and the other a stay-at-home mom and soon-to-be swim coach. We have different interests, children who are different ages, and we each have our certain way of doing things. Not to mention our little quirks.
But after all these years, one thing remains the same – our bond of friendship.
These friendships were birthed at a small private college in South Mississippi in the late 90s. They are the type of friendships that can pick back up right where they left off some 10+ years ago. It’s amazing, really! A God thing, no doubt!
I have said it time and time again, the genuine friendships that God gave me while attending college are some of the greatest blessings in my life. God, in his kindness, blessed me with friendships that are genuine, godly, and lasting, and I don’t take this for granted.
Real friendships are hard to come by these days.
A recent American Perspectives Survey revealed that Americans’ friendships are struggling overall and close friendships are declining. Findings actually show a 30-year slide into social isolation. As reported by Hamilton Strategies, “Compared to 77% in 1990, only 59% of survey respondents now say they have a best friend. Men have taken the brunt of the shift, with five times as many men now reporting they have ‘no close friends at all.’ Women also faced a decline, but only 10% of women reported having ‘no close friends.’”
And what makes this so concerning is that “friendships are essential to good health.” Here is where science and the Bible collide on the value of friendship.
According to Hamilton Strategies, “A Mayo Clinic report noted the positive effects of close friendships, including lower blood pressure, less likelihood of depression, improved ability to avoid unhealthy lifestyle choices, and strengthened immunity.”
Proverbs 27:19b (MSG) says it like this: “A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.”
I can definitely attest to this.
The few short days I spent together with my friends at the beach were so refreshing and real. We shopped, we ate, we played games, we relaxed on the beach, and we ate some more. We also took lots of selfies … or should I say “usies?” We talked about everything – literally – from our days in the dorms to the whereabouts and new endeavors of former classmates, from college dates gone bad to our loving husbands, from the various stages our children have been through and will go through to good books for them to read on their grade level, from internet filters to COVID-19, from our churches to our schools, and the list goes on and on. Our conversations ran the gamut. Some serious. Some funny, and some so hilarious that they produced those belly-aching laughs from deep within the gut. The kind that makes your cheeks hurt and tears flow at the same time.
There is no doubt that laughter is good for the soul. King Solomon even said it in Proverbs 17:22a (NIV): “A cheerful heart is good medicine.”
We all got a healthy dose of this on our weekend getaway to the beach. Our time together was much needed. It was special, rejuvenating, and priceless.
Why? Because we all have a need to belong, and we all long for a sense of community. We are made for relationship – first and foremost with our heavenly Father through Christ, and secondly with each other.
Yet, our country – our whole world – is filled with lonely people.
“There may be different explanations for the phenomenon of loneliness in a nation of 330 million people,” said AFA executive vice president Ed Vitagliano, “but there is one surefire cure for it – the love of God through Jesus Christ.”
So I have to ask myself: Are others seeing the love of Christ in me and through me on a daily basis? Am I willing to befriend the stranger or only hold on to the comfort of friends I’ve come to know and love so well?
To quote the beloved song from Pixar’s Toy Story, can I honestly say – for the sake of the gospel – that “you’ve got a friend in me?”
I pray that I can, and I pray that you can too!