I did a study a few years ago on friendships. The author, whom I have since forgotten, made an unforgettable analogy. She equated friendships to garden flowers. She said we have two types of friends, perennial and annual.
Perennial flowers are those that are heirloom blooms– Roses, Iris, four o’clocks and black eyed susan’s. In the winter they die off, only to return again in the spring with little to no effort from the gardener. There is no reseeding or replanting, but only strong resilient roots that hang tight until spring arrives again. They are dependable, beautiful and an anchor in the garden.
Our friends who are perennial are those that anchor the heart. Though distance or time might separate us, the connection is ever present. A perennial friendship is treasure and when discovered it’s cherished closely. We have few perennial friends, but they mean so much to us.
Annual flowers are those that you plant each year from season to season–pansies, petunias, impatience and coleus. They give life and newness to the garden. As the seasons change, so do they. When winter comes, they die off, leaving but a memory of their beauty. Seasonal friendships add vibrance and newness to our lives. Possibly these are friends that you have met at work or a parent you met during a sports season on your child’s team. You might walk through several years with these friends. These are friendships that give you belly laughs and curate inside jokes with, the kind of friends that make life worth living when were get caught up in the monotony of daily routine.
It is in those knee-deep annual friendships, where we discover a perennial friend or two. Perennial friends are rare and beautiful.
The hard work of friendships
Forging new relationships is hard. It always starts out awkward, as you discover the common ground you share. This can be especially so when you’re in ministry.
Ministry wives are often thrust into a community that exists long before we enter, making it difficult to build relationships. There are back stories we have to navigate and a entire history of relationships that we aren’t privy to.
I have found that deep friendships don’t happen over night. They take time to cultivate. This is one of the hardest things about being new to a community.
Meanwhile, as I navigate new friendships, my heart is agape from the remnants of old friendships that I have just left behind. Living in the transition is the toughest.
When you let your roots grow deep
Five years ago we left a church where our roots had grown deep. We brought all three babies home in this church. They fed us, they encouraged us, they walked closely beside of us. I allowed them in, and I welcomed them. They became my people, and I loved them. (and still do.)
We moved 8 weeks after my youngest boy was born, and I could not get over the loss of our community. I went out to dinner with a group of women from our new church and broke into tears. I couldn’t get myself together and I didn’t know why. A woman asked me how I was “transitioning”, which made me a blubbering mess right in the middle of Chili’s. As I was crying into my chips and salsa, the woman said, “Heather. What you’re experiencing is grief. You are mourning your friendships.”
As soon as the words spilled out of her mouth, I realized that grief was the right word. My friendships were sweet and special, and they took 9 years to develop into what they had become. We walked through mountain tops and valleys, together. But the most important thing was that we were not alone– we had each other. And, suddenly I found myself alone.
I eventually got over my grief. I began to forge new friends in our new community, and I found “my people” once more. I was planting my new garden of annual friends.
Planting a new garden of friends
As women friendships are often our lifeblood. They breathe newness into us, and give us a comrade in the good times and bad. While my husband has remains my “best friend”, I need friends to walk with in day-to-day life, I just do.
A few weeks ago I was feeling particularly lonely due to our recent move. It feels like DC is the hardest place to make deep-meaningful friends. I threw myself a small pity party, and then the Lord said, “Heather, if you feel this way, so do other women.” Later that day, I got my computer out and started messaging people I knew in DC. I set up several lunch dates and play dates, and decided I wouldn’t allow the enemy to suck me into the lie that “relationships are too hard”. Instead, I will choose to do the hard work of building a new community for myself, because Christ set the precedent. Christ could have walked the earth alone, but he chose community–and, so will I.
The garden of our life is always changing. (Especially when you move a lot, ha!) Choose to plant the flowers. Choose the hard work of relationships and community over isolation. And, if you have recently had to pull up the roots on several friendships, remember that the bare ground will once more be full of blooms. And those perennial friends, they will be your anchor as you discover new people.
“Ministry wife life” is something that has been on my heart to write about for a long hard time. I feel that sometimes this road is lonely, especially when life gets tough. (Which is inevitable, btw.) I have committed to write a weekly installment titled “Ministry Wife Life” on different topical subjects, some of which I have struggled with while assuming my role as a “ministry wife”. They are in no particular order. The goal of each post is to draw back the veil of the title of “ministry wife” and examine the heart behind what we do. What the Bible says and what American church culture requires can sometimes contradict… simply because we are humans and we are fallible. Join me each Monday for a new post.
Click here for the first installment: Ministry Wife Life: Appearances VS Authenticity