Nicole and I have been best friends since birth. Literally. We were born one month and three days apart.
Our mothers are sisters, so as cousins, we spent a lot of time together because our families did. We went on camping trips, celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas together, and even shared the same "home sweet home" for a few years.
As little girls, we had common hopes and dreams. During sleepovers, we’d whisper about going to the same college and getting married around the same time. We even envisioned our future families happily living on a farm in California. We had no idea where, but as kids California sounded amazing.
The first dream, about going to college together, came true. We spent a year as roommates before we both transferred to different colleges. We got along great.
That is, until the day we had a knock-down, drag-out fight. I’ll spare you the details, but it wasn’t pretty.
You know what though? On that day, a lot was said, and in those words a lot of honesty came out. It’s not that we were consciously hiding parts of ourselves, we just weren’t being completely real. We weren’t allowing one another to see how we were really struggling, how we needed to be encouraged, how we needed to grow in Christ.
Our relationship changed after that day. For the better. Now when we talk, we ask each other how we’re really doing and what our struggles are. When these questions come, we aren’t afraid to answer honestly, making ourselves vulnerable with one another.
I can count on Nicole during the storms in life. Because even in the hard times, she’s not afraid to crawl in the trenches with me. She always has my back, even when I don’t ask.
Looking back, that day’s fight was the first of many experiences showing me the important role friendship plays in helping us grow in godliness. And how ultimately, being real enough in our friendships to challenge one another isn’t simply about us. Rather, this iron sharpening iron as Proverbs 27:17 speaks of, is meant to glorify God.
In his sermon "Strengthen Each Other’s Hands in God," John Piper writes,
The whole point of Christian camaraderie is to point each other to Christ, not man, for help and strength. There is a kind of paradox here: On the one hand I say, I need you. God has appointed you as a means of grace to help me endure to the end. But on the other hand, I must say that the only way you can really help me is by saying something or doing something that will cause me to depend on God and not you.
Here we are again with our most common theme it seems: a radical God-centeredness in all we do, even in our human togetherness, our camaraderie, our friendship. It must be a friendship FOR Jesus.
In my life, Nicole has been the one to encourage me to grow in Christ. She faithfully looks for ways to help me press on and draw closer to the Lord.
I remember a time when we were catching up on the phone and I was griping about another friend in my life. Nicole lovingly reminded me that she was my sister in Christ. Rather than allowing me to vent, she stopped me and suggested ways that I might relate to her, love her, and encourage her. Nicole’s gentle correction helped me to grow in godliness.
Through it I was reminded of my responsibility as a Christian to live out the commandment of Jesus in John 13:34-35:
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
The thing is, I accepted Nicole’s correction that day because our friendship is based on a deep level of trust we’ve developed over the years. I valued her opinion and guidance as she sought to turn me to the cross. Without this, I may not have been as receptive to her.
The truth is, we don’t agree about everything. Since our fight that day, Nicole and I haven’t gotten along perfectly simply because we’re more real with one another. There are still times when we clash, but in those times I learn a lot about myself.
So often I want to be right, but when I’m challenged by a trusted friend such as Nicole I start to re-think what I’ve come to believe as true. Through this, I’m able to grow in my knowledge and love of God. I’ve come to see that when the end result is one that glorifies God, painful growth is worth the results.