I grew up with a sense of aloneness, but I was 4 or 5 years old when I made my first friend. When I was 6, I moved away and I never saw her again. I grew up in a small town in Alabama where everyone knew one another, and I had about 2 or 3 closer friends off and on throughout elementary and middle school. When I was in 10th grade I transferred high schools but lived in the same small town, and although I tried to remain in contact with my old friends, we grew out of touch. I made 2 new friends for my sophomore and junior years of school. We were close, but when they disrespected my mom and granny on a beach trip, our friendship ended. My senior year I was close to no one in particular, and it was the year I joined the church and was baptized. I had asked Jesus into my heart many times before that, and even though we were Baptist, I still sorta felt like I had to be baptized to be saved. Needless to say, an 18 year old kid who regularly attended church but was unbaptized was rare. Baptism was, however, an act of obedience that spurred on tremendous growth. After I graduated high school, I moved to Auburn University and majored in engineering. I grew an enormous amount spiritually while I was in college. I have always been extremely socially awkward. If you imagine the shyest person you’ve ever known and then add a little bit more awkwardness, that was me. I don’t imagine myself quite so shy anymore, but one never really knows how they are perceived.
When I was at Auburn, I asked a girl in the dorm room across from mine to be my prayer partner. She and I became best friends and considered ourselves kindred spirits. I had several friends, but only a small amount of close friends. I was still socially awkward and even though I got involved with the Baptist Campus Ministries, I found it very hard to break out of my comfort zone when it came to developing friendships. Sometimes just attending a Tuesday Night Together praise and worship meeting was more than enough stretching for my comfort zone. However, for the most part, the friends I made in college are life long friends. I did summer missions my sophomore and junior years of college. During this time, God and I were tight. I loved the adventures I was having. I often felt God’s leading and prompting even in others, and felt one with Him in heart and in soul especially during these times on mission. At the end of my sophomore trip God clearly said to me, “Follow me and you will receive.” At the time, I foolishly thought he meant a husband.
I finished college and after I graduated, I could not find a job right away. As I said before, I was socially awkward and therefore I gave a horrible interview. In finding a job, I was biding my time until I made enough money to go to seminary and be a missionary or something in ministry. I tried my best to move anywhere else besides home or anywhere else in Alabama, but I got no bites from the resumes I sent out. No one wanted to hire me, and I moved home for 6 months before I started working for Southern Company. Six months later, I decided to move into an apartment in Birmingham. I made work friends but they were all male. Then my best friend from college decided to move to Birmingham and we became roommates.
I was extremely lonely during that time of singleness and transition into adulthood on my own, and it was the darkest time of my life spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and even physically. Shortly after I moved, I started going to Valleydale (my home church now) and was involved with the singles ministry. Connecting was hard, though, because I was depressed and lost.
While I was in Birmingham, everything fell apart in my life - my parents were thinking of divorcing, the crush I had did not feel for me what I had hoped he felt, my job was crappy, my best friend at the time had to pull away to protect herself, she eventually moved 6 hours away, and nothing was the same. I was crushed - I never expected to feel pain from the people I had loved and trusted so much. Many choices were made that showed me just where my place was in their lives, and it was not were I thought it would be. I didn’t have anyone to lean on, and even God seemed to have abandoned me. People would say, “Have faith,” but Hebrews 11:6 says, “without faith it is impossible to please God.” The verse goes on to say that “anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists.” I never stopped believing in His existence, but I would get stuck in my thinking that I was faithless and could never please Him.
In my darkest time of despair, I cried out to God telling him that I needed to know that He cared. I was not suicidal, but I wanted to die and I was extremely angry with God for seemingly deserting me. Afterall, didn’t His word say He would never leave me nor forsake me? I would read His word, but I still felt empty and could no longer find Him on His pages. It felt as though His Holy Spirit had departed from me. I was in a pit and all of the fail-safes - my friends and family - that were supposed to support me in my time of need were no longer there. The day after I cried out, a co-worker sent me an email with Eph 3:16-19, which says, “I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God.”
Before the season of darkness, I knew God intimately. I felt Him moving and often hard His voice. But after the darkness, I knew that I knew that I knew with no lingering doubts that He is exactly who He said He is. He is good, and He is good all the time even when I could not hear His voice. He taught me what 2 Timothy 2:13 means, “if we are faithless, He will remain faithful for He cannot disown Himself” and He was living inside of me. My prayer during that time was from Psalm 51, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, You, God, will not despise.” And even though I didn’t ask for friendships during that time, he brought me 2 co-worker friends - one of whom had shared the verses with me.
Over time, I begin to get out of the pit. But my friends jobs changed, and I no longer got to see them regularly. God took me on a different path than I expected as far as the mission field was concerned, and I got married. My husband and I were in a small group at church, but I did not develop friendships with my small group like I wanted and desired. I felt in a sense that I had to be fake, because when I mentioned the darkest parts of me, I didn’t feel that I received support. I kept trudging on and believing and trusting God anyhow. I grew enough to realize that I should pray for deep friendships. And then God sent me a friend at work and a new friend I met at bible college. We got pregnant and had babies around the same time. But by the end of my pregnancy, I no longer worked at Southern Company or went to bible college.
I became a stay at home mom, and it was very lonely because I wasn't around any other stay at home moms. After we had our babies and they began to grow and change, my communication with my two friends again trickled off. God continued to refine me during that time. He spoke to me again and showed me that when He had promised me back in college that if I would follow Him, I would receive Him - it was the promise of Himself always to me. He was jealous for me and would not stand for all the other people I had in the past set up as little gods, who I had expected to save me in times of hardship and despair. He was good enough to cut them off for a time and allow Himself to be the only God that was in my life. I did not always appreciate this though and wanted God to allow me to be in community.
So again I prayed for friendships. Again, Daniel and I joined another small group here. Toward the end of the life span of our small group I started developing close friendships with two ladies. But just as I was starting to get close to them, God moved one family away and He called the other family to leave our home church.
What I have often wanted from relationships, besides God-centeredness, is accessibility. I find comfort in knowing the details of people’s lives and want to know that people care about the same details of my life. I am still friends with my best friend from college. My parents did not divorce, though my dad did pass away shortly after that time of darkness, but my relationship with those people changed. Relationships have been to some degree restored. However, they were no longer readily accessible or able to share all of life’s details, and I no longer expect them to be little gods for me, and I cannot return to my old ways of relating to them. God, however, is always accessible and He knows all the details, even keeping track with how many hairs I have on my head. I still hunger for deep close friendships built on biblical foundations with people I see regularly, but for now, I see that God has brought me many friendships that look a lot differently than I expected or wanted.
I don’t have friends that I call or talk to on a regular basis. When I am in crises, I don’t have one go to person to call for wise counsel, but I have God Himself, and time and time again, He says, “Am I enough?” The Message version of 2 Cor 5:20 says, “Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.” Though I long for depth and intimacy in my friendships and a friend like Jonathon was to David, God has provided many friends with whom I go deeper with, but they are no longer small in number nor am I extremely intimate with any one person on a regular basis. I fully believe He doesn’t give me exactly what I crave because I cannot yet be trusted not to make little gods out of the people He provides. What I do know is that I now see each one of these precious friends as the body of Christ, each one serving its own purpose at the appropriate time. It is beautiful and I am in awe of God’s love for me, for who am I that He would love me so? What I can also say is that since I shared my testimony in January, God has begun showing His faithfulness specifically to me in the area of friendship in incredible ways.
Who or what do you think your little gods are? What are the things you make bigger and better than God and don’t realize it? What do I think God would want you to take away from my story? I think He wants you to know that you are valued. You are treasured. You are loved. And that His love for you is deeper and wider and bigger than you’ve ever begun to imagine.