What’s in a friendship?

In the bursting of the bubble and the realization that the honeymoon has ended, there is the reminder that I don’t necessarily know anyone here well enough yet to share with on the level where I need it when everything goes wrong in my day. In Switzerland many of my friendships had been built up over many years – some of them 17 years. When you have a friend that long, you know how she will react to something like an unexpected bill, or a new blouse that’s ruined, or a new wardrobe that’s damaged. She doesn’t have to explain things, you know what she needs and you instinctively give it to her. Sometimes it’s a shoulder to cry on and sometimes it’s a rebuke – but a friend normally knows when to offer what.
As Kiki said, you have a ‘shared history’ – you have been through things together, you have all that to draw on. My new friends here are wonderful people and I am so much enjoying getting to know them – but they don’t know how I would react to any of these scenarios, and therefore they don’t necessarily know what I need. That’s not their fault – that’s just how it is when new friendships are forming. I don’t know them either.

As Gemma said in her blog recently (http://gemmarwilson.blogspot.com), what she misses is people who know that her favourite colour is pink…and what she is looking for in a guy…and walking into a room with the feeling that her life is intertwined with the lives around her.

That is interesting – for our lives are intertwined with those we meet, with our fellow-travellers on the road. Alfredo said at Alan’s Induction Service recently that the story of Westlake Church in Switzerland is intertwined with the story of our family’s lives. That is true, for we spent 17 years there, our girls grew up there – from babyhood to the teenage years. My friends and I were pregnant together, had our babies together, survived the Terrible Twos together and swapped stories on parenting, marriage and all sorts of things for 17 years. That is why our lives are intertwined. We have ‘a shared history’. We don’t have to explain ourselves.

Now, as I have the opportunity and privilege to make new friends, I hope I will quickly learn what makes them tick – what makes them laugh and what makes them cry – and that I will know how to be a good friend to them.


4 thoughts on “What’s in a friendship?

  1. Hey Pauline

    It is so good to read your comments on paper. I can totally relate to everything that you are saying and feeling. I’ve been there many times over the last 4 years, after spending all of my previous 40 years in Northern Ireland, and the coming to Philadelphia. All I can say is that without my faith, I would have “lost it” so many more times than I did. Knowing that I was where God wanted me to be helped me to get over the every day issues of people just not understanding me without me expaining myself to them. That can be a really lonely feeling at times. I cried often – and those tears have subsided as the years have gone by. I remember talking to someone who had come here from Australia over 20 years ago (Doug Green’s wife – a WTS professor) and Rosemary told me that it would be 4 years until I felt like I belonged again – and build up those types of relationships. It has been five years, and I can testify to what she said. I have friends here who do “know” me now – at last – and God has provided those friendships for me. I never thought I would find them again. And the beauty of it is that I still have my former friends in Ireland too – but God has stretched me more than I can ever imagine. I’ll pray for you Pauline – and thank you for your prayers too!!


  2. Hi Cheryl

    Thanks for your warm encouragement! Yes, the good news is that we learn to rely on the Lord (and isn’t that what much of life is about anyway?) and in the whole process, we end up with friends all around the world. What a blessing!

    Much love,

  3. It’s interesting how much we need to be known – not just by God, but by each other. I think this is why it is possible to feel totally alone in a room full of friendly people. I have only just begun to appreciate how difficult it can be to have the patience to wait for new friendships to grow to the stage where we feel comfortable with each other in any situation (just wanted to get that word in for the northern Irish).
    Seriously though – it’s an interesting phenomenon this need to be known.

  4. O you are so right – it is this ‘need to be known’ which makes us feel so lonely and so vulnerable at times. The ladies at our church had an evening for the new Youth Pastor’s wife and me last week – to get to know us. They asked us lots of fun questions about our childhoods, how we met our husbands, our favourite foods/colours/etc etc – but one senses it is the tip of the iceberg. There is so much that goes up to make any one of us – over millions of moments over decades of our lives – and we each yearn to share that essential person that is ‘me’, that is ‘you’, with at least one other person.

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