I'm Writing a Book
The Mexican restaurant we had just arrived at made me nervous. My husband Jimmy had a concert to perform that night and our gracious hosts had decided to honor our Texas heritage by taking us to their favorite south-of-the-border spot. The problem? We were in Nebraska.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t just like Mexican food, I love it. I was raised on the stuff. Give me some tender beef fajitas and fresh house-made guacamole and I’m a happy girl. My problem with the Nebraskan place was not that I didn’t like Mexican food. It was that I liked it too much. As a native Houstonian, I was spoiled by the good stuff. And I had enough experience to know that any Mexican place north of Dallas would likely disappoint.
As expected, the food that night wasn’t great. But our hosts sincerely believed it was and waited eagerly for our approval. I’m not sure what we said to avoid exposing their subpar experience, but we tried our best not to offend. Sadly, they just didn’t know good Mexican food.
Today is National Best Friends Day. Friendship is such a great thing to celebrate! The gift of friendship has produced some of the sweetest joys I’ve ever known. It has saved me from despair, given me courage to do things I never dreamed possible, comforted me in grief and loss, and sheltered me in the storms of suffering. I don’t just like friendship, I love it.
And by God’s unfathomable mercy, I’ve been raised on the good stuff. I had great friendships since I was very young and mercifully some of my closest friends began following Jesus around the same time I did. I experienced depths of camaraderie before the age of 30 that many people wait their whole lives for.
It is because of a profound love for the irreplaceable role of friendship in the life of a Christian that I am so dissatisfied with anything less than the best. I’m not content to settle, not for myself or anyone else.
Over time, my exposure to the typical experiences of other people’s friendships was shocking. Like the taste of Nebraskan Mexican food, my taste of Christians living in very worldly friendships produced disappointment and a longing for the real thing. I’ve done a lot of writing on this topic and it’s forced me to realize many people have never tasted anything other than worldly friendship. When I began tearing down this inferior model of friendship in my writing, some suspected that I was anti-friendship. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I love it so much that I only want the good stuff. For myself and for you.
CHANGES IN THE CULTURE
In 2017, Megan Gerber of The Atlantic made this observation:
“Friendships, increasingly, are playing an organizing role in society. Long conceived as side dishes to the main feast—marriage, kids, the nuclear family above all—friendships, more and more, are helping to define people’s sense of themselves in the world. During a time of emerging adulthood and geographic mobility, friendships are lending stability—and meaning—to people’s, and especially young people’s, lives.”
Gerber isn’t the only one to notice this cultural shift. Rebecca Traister, in her article Girlsfriends are the New Husbands writes:
“But as mating patterns change, and many women put off marriage until their 30s, we gain a decade of independence; a decade that might once have been dedicated to bonding with husbands and children, but is now often unfettered by men or the limitations of family. We may be single, but rarely do we spend those years without a coterie of girlfriends. We may not be growing up within the context of our marriages anymore, but we are not alone. Women become each other's de facto spouses...”
But this isn’t just a trend relegated to women. A recent study of college men in the Journal of Men and Masculinities found that they preferred intimate friendships with a male companion (a “bromance”) over a romantic relationship with a woman, expressing that their “bromantic relationships were more satisfying in their emotional intimacy, compared to their heterosexual romances.” One participant said, “Lovers are temporary; a bromance can last a lifetime.”
The authors of the study concluded: “the bromance could increasingly become recognized as a genuine lifestyle relationship; whereby two heterosexual men can live together and experience all the benefits of a traditional heterosexual relationship.”
As marriage and family slip lower on the list of priorities, friendship is becoming a surrogate family for many, providing the stability that they still long for.
A shift is taking place in our culture. As family units grow more unstable, as the average age of marriage increases, friends step in to play the role of family. As the sexual revolution progresses, same-gender friendships become more confusing. How should Christians respond? We know friendship is a good thing, but is the world’s model the only way to do it? What does the Bible have to say about it anyway?
WHERE’S THE RULEBOOK FOR FRIENDSHIP?
The Bible is clear about some relationships: “Fathers, don’t exasperate your children.” “Children, obey your parents,” “Wives, submit to husbands,” “Husbands, love your wives,” “Elders, shepherd the flock.” But what about plain old ordinary friendships? “Friends . . . figure it out?”
Because it lacks clear biblical commands, the field of friendship can often feel unstable. Unlike the obligations of a spouse or a parent, friends don’t owe us their lifelong commitment. When we risk going deep with a friend, there’s no guarantee it will last. Seasons change, people move, misunderstanding flourishes, conflict happens.
Yes, Jesus commands us to love each other as He has loved us. But that doesn’t answer many of the questions we ask about friendship. Like, how many friends should we have? Do you keep in touch after you move? Should we covenant together like Jonathan or David? Should we be free to go our own way like the apostles in Acts? How should friendship change when someone gets married? How do we treat a friend who deals with same-sex attraction? While the Bible provides some principles, it doesn’t seem to give a blueprint for this substantial part of our lives. Friendship feels wobbly and unstable.
Many handle this problem by looking for a best friend, someone to cling to as the revolving door of other friends spins. Some protect themselves from pain by choosing not to go deep with anyone. Others accumulate as many friends as possible so that if one fails and bails, there are plenty to fall back on. But all these miss what is truly glorious and life-giving about Christian friendship.
WHY I’M WRITING A BOOK
It’s for these reasons, and many others, that I’ve decided to write a book tackling these issues that will likely release next year. Contrary to what some have thought, it is a profound love for friendship in my life, especially as a Christian, that has motivated my efforts in this.
As Christians, we must take friendship seriously. Why? Because following Jesus is an individual decision, but not an individual assignment. We are a chosen race, not a chosen person. We are a royal priesthood, not a royal priest. We are a holy nation, a people for his own possession. We are not on this journey by ourselves. In fact, it is our ability to walk in close-knit unity with one another that validates Jesus’ coming to the watching world. We see this in Jesus’ prayer just before his death:
"I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” - John 17:20-21
Our union with Christ and with one another forces the world to deal with the reality that Jesus came and is saving people. If a diverse group of Christians can do life together, flaws and all, and remain unified, then maybe this Jesus who he said he is! We must figure out how to be friends with each other, even when it hurts. Our witness to the world is depending on it.
My hope for this book is to recast the glorious vision for Christian friendship while reminding people that our friendships must take a backseat to our relationship to God. Only then will our community with one another truly flourish. And only then are we prepared to be witnesses to the world in an era where friendship is the new family.
DETAILS ABOUT THE RELEASE
The official title of the book is: Friend-ish: Reclaiming Real Friendship in a Culture of Confusion. You can preorder it on Amazon already! It releases September 3, 2019.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
So many of you have shared your stories with me, have sent words of encouragement and let me know how the content I’ve already written on friendship has helped you. And you’ve also shared ways it has been confusing or hindered you. For all of that, I am so grateful! The feedback you have given me has been truly helpful. Much of the refining of my thoughts and how I communicate them has been prompted by your stories and kind criticism and encouragement. This project has truly come to fruition because of your help!
So, as I move forward in my work on a manuscript, I’d love to ask you, my regular readers, for help. Here's how:
Please intercede for me as I work on this. Yes, I am working to write as well as I can, but ultimately human words of wisdom cannot bring about the heart change we all need. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:4-5: “My speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
Likewise, it is my hope that what people read in this book would cause them to put their hope not in any wisdom I give, but in the power of God. Please ask God to come alongside the completion of this book so that many would be helped and put their hope not in people but in Christ.
2. Sign up to receive updates
If you’re excited about this project and would like to receive updates on it’s progress, you can sign up below to receive email updates. This will give you the most current information on progress, deadlines, prayer requests, and more. It will also allow you to be first on the list to join the book launch team I’ll be putting together in 2019.
For His Glory,