Just Because You’ve Never Had Friends Doesn’t Mean There Isn’t Still Time by Bobbie Schaeperkoetter

One of the defining moments of my life as a Christian happened when I realized I needed friends. I am not talking about acquaintances. Most of us have plenty of those. The kind of friends that I am talking about are those who know the truth of who you are and love you anyway. They know your story. They know your flaws. They accept and appreciate the whole of who you are.

Some people might realize the importance of these types of friends early on, but not me. I was way too busy keeping up the good image I had created. I became a Christian in my 20’s and since that time had worked hard to “look like a Christian.”

My faith was real but it wasn’t perfect. Because of that, I had built too many walls around my heart and life to even consider the possibility of authentic friendships. Those kinds of friendships would require me to be open, vulnerable, and to be authentically myself. That would also mean that these other Christians who would be my friends, the ones who seemed to have it all together, might realize that I wasn’t very together at all.

I was pretty sure I didn’t need those kinds of friendships. I was much better at having acquaintances than having friends anyway.

That was how I felt until about five years ago. I had walked through some very difficult things in my personal life and had worked to keep those things private. I didn’t want to have to deal with other people knowing about my personal issues.

Instead of feeling safe and secure in the fact that my imperfections were well concealed, I felt volatile. I felt like the whole image I had protected for so long could blow up at any moment. I worried people might find out that I was a mess and realize that I was far from perfect.

I had pressed in close to God during that time. I could see that He was actively redeeming and restoring things in my life in some pretty miraculous ways. My heart and my relationship with Jesus were forever changed for the better because He was my constant companion in the midst of it all. I felt like the strengthening of my faith was a gift from a loving Father for a hard situation well endured. 

However, something else beautiful and unexpected came out of that time. I was invited into the new beginnings of a local women’s ministry called Inspire. I didn’t know the ladies who were coming together to build this leadership team. In fact, I was fairly certain that they had invited me by mistake.

Looking back, it is glaring obvious that God was at work doing something that I didn’t know I so desperately wanted or needed.

I can distinctly remember the moment I realized the power of real friendship.

We were at our first annual retreat having a time of togetherness and prayer the night before our retreat was to begin. One by one this team of women, who really loved Jesus, shared their struggles, their issues, and their hearts. It was the first time, as a Christian, that I felt like I could be myself. It was the first time I realized the images and walls weren’t helping me, they were standing in the way of my growth.

The walls that I had spent a life time building up came quickly crashing down as I got to know the other women who were a part of the leadership team. The image I had created and protected for so long was set aside as I felt safe to be myself. 

They did not judge my messy life. They did not condemn me for the things I struggled with. Instead, they loved and accepted me. They encouraged me. They listened with open hearts and open arms. They shared their own stories and through that, real friendships were built.

It’s been five years since our little sisterhood was established. Some of us have grown as close as sisters. Our lives have included a series of twists and turns that we never would have expected that night before our first retreat and maybe wouldn’t have endured as well without each other.

My faith is stronger now than it has ever been. I owe that, in a large part, to these women.

They have taught me so much about living a life of faith and freedom. They have taught me to keep my eyes firmly fixed on Jesus and to lean on the strength of friends who can encourage and uplift me in the daily battles. Above all else, they have shown me that authentic relationships, especially those grounded in our faith, are amazing examples of the kind of unified body of believers that Jesus was calling us to be.

These relationships don’t take our eyes off of Jesus or take the place of Him in our lives. In fact, they do the opposite. They point us back to Him continually. They strengthen us to follow Him more closely. 

Friend, it’s not too late to seek out these kinds of friendships. 

It is time for us, as Christians, to break down our walls, to let go of those carefully crafted images, and to be the real authentic people that we were created to be. It’s time for us to open our arms and our hearts to welcome in real friends.

We are stronger together than we ever could be on our own.

Love and blessings,

Bobbie

Article originally published on iBelieve.com, used with permission.

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