Chapter OneLESSON ONE
Wanted: A Few Good Women
Wanted: A few good women to form a circle of friends. Must be
smart, fun-loving, always there when I need them. The type who'll
love my kids, drop dinner by when I'm stressed, always see the best in
me, and never complain about their lives or anything I do. Gift-givers
and surprise-party throwers a plus. Required: A commitment to never
change, move away, or like anybody else better than me.
Wouldn't it be great if you could write a want ad for the perfect
group of friends, and they'd show up at your door (with the exact characteristics
you requested) to whisk you away for a Saturday adventure? It's a
nice, lingering thought, but in the real world friendships don't develop that
way. Yes, there are times you hit it off with someone immediately and the
relationship easily flourishes. But most good friendships develop over the
years, fluctuate up and down, and challenge you to grow. And, of course,
there are friendships that blow up or fizzle out, leaving you to wonder, What
did I do wrong?
However you gather up friendships, you have expectations about
them. (Even if you consider yourself the easygoing type, when you dig
inside, you'll find a friendship code lurking about-and what it says may
surprise you!) The irony is, friends seldom express these desires
(or demands) to each other. We make lists and ponder how to find
Mr. Right, buy a new car, or assess a job offer. But friendship? We
tend to enter that blindfolded. We don't know what we want or
what the other person expects. We miss each other's signals and
when the relationship falters, we're perplexed and disappointed.
But wait. Don't give up hope. Fabulous friendships are
possible. They're fun, heartwarming, cherishable, and not-to-be-missed.
And guess what? They thrive on respecting each other's
expectations, even if they can't all be fulfilled.
So for this session, you get to dream a little. You'll answer
the question, "What is a good friend like?" You have a chance to
be honest about what matters and hoot about your way-out-there
ideas. Then you'll see what the Bible says about friendship qualities,
helping you define what good relationships can be. Because
along with you, God wants the best for your friendships.
A friend is a gift you give yourself. Robert Louis Stevenson
for Quiet Reflection
1. Squeeze out a few minutes alone, grab a pen and pad (or
the computer), and make three off-the-top-of-your-head
lists. To create the first list, answer the question, "Why do I
need friendships?" For the second list, answer, "What is a
good friend like?" In the third list, "What do I want from
my friendships?" Don't censor yourself. Write as little or as
much as comes to mind. Be honest, idealistic, even silly, to
spill out your ideas.
2. Review your lists and ask, "Are my friendships living up to
these expectations?" Circle the answer that applies: Yes Some are, some aren't No You've got to be kidding!
3. Give God a state-of-the-friendships report. Thank him for
the great friends in your life. Ask him to heal the hurting
relationships and remove any barriers you have to making
new friends. Invite him to teach you how to nurture loving, lasting friendships.
Knowing God's Heart
The Bible brims with stories about friendship. Abraham
and Jehovah. David and Jonathan. Naomi and Ruth. Daniel and
his furnace friends. Mary and Elizabeth. Jesus and the disciples.
Paul and Timothy. God's Word also offers advice on making
friends and managing relationships.
In fact, most of the Book speaks to relationships. Companionship
is God's intent for us, but he knows we're only human.
Sometimes we need help sorting out our "stuff" and "behaving ourselves"
in even the best of friendships. He wants us to throw out
the junk and jump into the joy.
To get to the hugs and hilarity, though, we begin with
understanding our expectations and how they affect friendships.
1. Get ready for some surprising insights and a few laughs.
Referring to your own list, "What is a good friend like?"
create a list as a group. Write the responses on a chalkboard, easel pad, or any place everyone can see it. Include
the ridiculous ("a good friend doesn't hiss at my cat") to
the sublime ("she never lies to me"), and don't pass judgment
on anyone's ideas.
2. Now review the list, which by now probably staggers and
describes Superwoman. Why do you think we have so
many expectations about friends?
3. This will take grit, but as a group choose from the list the
five to ten most important qualities of a friend. What does
this short list reveal about the friendship needs you share
4. Though the Bible's how-to advice mostly addresses relationships
in general, it does make some direct statements
about friends and friendship. Divide the following Scriptures
among the group members and take turns reading
them aloud. For each Scripture ask, "What is the friendship
quality expressed here?" and write it on the chalkboard or
easel pad under the title, God's List. Then consider, "Why is
this quality important?"
5. God has created his own lists of qualities that he considers
important in relationships. Together, read these passages.
Which traits would affect friendship? Add them to God's
List on the board or pad.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Ephesians 4:2-3, 32
6. Compare the group's list of friendship qualities to God's
list. How are they similar? Different?
7. How might you need to adjust your expectations to be
more like God's? What unrealistic expectations will you
need to let go of?
8. Share with the group a time when a friend expressed one of
the qualities on God's list to you, and how it affected you
and your friendship.
9. "The only way to have a friend is to be one," said Ralph
Waldo Emerson. You've identified your expectations for
friends, but to be a faithful friend in turn, you'll need to
develop these qualities yourself. Of all the qualities discussed, what is the one that you need to specifically work
10. Romans 12:10 says to "Honor one another above yourselves."
Describe a time when you practiced this principle.
When you honored your friend, were you still able to meet
your needs? Why, or why not?
11. Suppose that this week, you need to lovingly express an
expectation to a friend: You think you should spend more
time together. Devise a step-by-step plan for managing the
12. Now create an addendum to the plan. If your friend balks
at giving you more time, what is your method for working
through your difference in needs and opinions?
1. You've talked about a lot of "serious" qualities about friendship, so now let loose. Describe the funniest or most embarrassing
incident that happened while you were with a friend.
2. On a small piece of paper, write your name and the one
friendship quality you want to work on developing in yourself.
Drop the papers into a bowl, mix them up, and ask
each woman to pick a piece of paper. This week, pray for
the woman you received in the drawing.
The more I experience human intimacy, the more I become
aware of its limitations. More and more I realize its
inability to satisfy totally the infinite capacity of my
heart. Therefore, experiencing the limitations of human
intimacy, I long more and more for intimacy with God, whether or not I realize I am longing for him. Paul Hinnebusch