We have different types of friends over the years, the stages of our lives. Think back to the very first friends you had, and the ones you had in your early school years. My mind leaps to Lovella, who taught me to play with someone other than my younger siblings. Linda was the first to invite me over for a sleep-over, and I saw how other families interact.
When Esther and Pat came into my life, I learned about attending birthday parties and making secret codes and sharing our first attempts at writing poetry. In high school there was Eileen who would walk to and from school with me, and asked me to come by and pick her up, but only when she was between boyfriends.
Our school friends taught us to play and socialize, and even share ideas and dreams, and plan projects together. They were someone to lean on when we entered new experiences that made us timid and fearful. Or we identified with them and were glad to have them commiserate with us when we failed. In a way they were mirrors for us to see how others see us.
But we need adult friends too. So often they make up the gap for us where our parents failed or were unable to meet our needs. Yes, there is some danger or adults befriending children or young people and misleading them or abusing their easy trust. But let's not let that cancel out the great good that comes to many of us because some adult took time to befriend us and to mentor us and guide us in the right way. Some seniors can bring us back from evil and influence us into the right direction. There is every reason to respect and admire them despite the age gap.
If you are already an adult - an emotional and spiritually healthy one - consider that you may have positive influence over some young children or teens, and should make an effort to reach out. Pass on the help you received yourself.
Mentoring friendships where we help others as we have been helped, are a special interest to me. I first began to feel fulfilled when I took on the leadership of a Pioneer Girls Club and made it my business to encourage and when a teachable moment appeared, to take it to guide "my girls" to grow wise and as healthy Christian young women.
More and more I see in the business world that people are offering to be life coaches (the new term for mentoring), and to deliberately plan meetings and sessions of sharing aimed at personal and skill-set growth.
During the latter two years I was looking after my dying mother, two young women came to ask me to disciple them in living and praying as Christians. I met once a week with each one, and naturally good friendships blossomed out of those times. One of them is still my dearest friend in whom I confide just about anything and everything.
In almost all phases of our lives, we can have friends as equals. Here one is not trying to teach the other, it is a more even give-and-take, with mutual respect and gifts to bring to the relationship.
Such friendships, between those of the opposite gender often turn into marriages. The best kind are where a man and woman learn to respect and appreciate each other in a mutual way, and that grows into a love that is ready to commit to loyally care for each other for the rest of their lives. This is not where one is trying to mentor and improve the other, but they accept one another for who they are. They plan to mature and grow dynamically in their relationship and in common goals. Neither is inclined to use or lean more on the other than what they will contribute to the marriage.
You may be craving such a friend! You want one right now! You are starved for such a friend.
All friendship move through several stages. So no one can guarantee that you'll have such a friend quickly. You may have to look at the people you know know just as acquaintances, and nurture them by reaching out to BE a good friend, so the relationship will grow into the highest state of companionship.
I will just name them for now and we can describe them in greater depth another time.
A friendship begins by making an acquaintance. This may be a very brief period and it may go on for a long time. There are many factors. It is good to think of every new encounter as a divine appointment. Some are only intended to be very short, but some are going to blossom into more.
The next stage is a casual friendship where the two parties begin to have more contact, and discover they have common interests and concerns. They begin to ask more questions and get to know more about the other person.
The third stage is a close friendship where the two will do more things together, and really try to do something special for each other. They even join forces to work on the same project or goal. They also know a lot more about each others thoughts and desires and feelings.
If they reach the fourth stage, the two friends are ready for more honesty and intimacy and they are ready to think of a life-time commitment in marriage.
Do not expect all friendships to move through all those stages. You simply will not have the time or the interest to nurture each relationship to that level.
My own policy is to be open to any and all new contacts or acquaintance-ships. Then I watch to see which ones may blossom some more. As God Himself coordinates the events and special moments with all of them, I sometimes sense that this one or that one is open to more dialogue and conversation with me - whether in person, on the phone or by email. Then as time allows, I watch to see which ones grow into closer friendships.
Sometimes a friend will remark that I need that most intimate friendship - a husband. My answer is no. At one time I did long and pray hard for that, but I've learned to love and regard the Lord Jesus as my very Best, Dearest Friend, and unless He Himself should organize such for me, it would feel like I was being disloyal to my very Best Friend - the One I have right now. I am a needy person, and He meets all my needs and expectations!
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