Weeks ago we hosted a dinner party to thank the leadership team of our small church. We had a baker’s dozen around a giant table and I discovered something amazing: the beauty hidden in authentic friendship.
You see, I’m married to a pastor. Not just any pastor–a church planting kind of pastor. If there was a scale of difficulty for pastoral positions, I’d rank the church planter as a ten, right at the top.
Part of the reason, church planting can be lonely. It’s hard to start a church from scratch (we planted alone in a town we were fairly new to).
But that night, God gave my faith some sight. As I looked around that table, I saw evidence of his miraculous hand in the lives of these people. And, I saw something else.
I saw people who were truly my friends.
If you’ve read any of my story, you know that I spent a significant part of my life chasing what I call the beauty idol. I believed (a lie) that my life would be better if I could just look better. So, I dieted, over-exercised and did everything I could to try to meet our culture’s standard of beauty.
It never satisfied me. There was always one more area to change, one more thing to “fix” that was “wrong” with me.
Now as I look back, I notice something else that was missing from my life: authentic friendships.
Sure, I had “friends.” But they were often people to shop, eat, or talk with about my latest diet or workout. Most of my friendships never went much deeper. I wasn’t really comfortable engaging that way. I could advise everyone else on their struggles, but I was blind to everything that Jesus needed to heal and sanctify in my own life. Often busy with work, I still felt very devout, even though church was just a place I checked in on Sunday because I was supposed to.
Yet, being out of community was detrimental for my struggles–including my body image battle. I needed friends in my life with whom I could share the ugly side of dieting, weight obsession and my search to find value in looking good. I needed someone to tell me that this wasn’t where value was found. I needed friends to speak into my life with the truth about Jesus and how he redeemed me so I wouldn’t have to find approval in looking good.
I needed friends who were willing to “go there” and not just say “Oh, yeah, I feel fat too. But, you look fine.”
Authentic friendship is amazing. And, it’s beautiful. It’s not hard to find, but it does take work.
If you wrestle your body image and don’t have any true friends to talk to about this issue, then can I encourage you to make that a priority this Fall? Find a church with a small groups type program that emphasizes confession, repentance and genuineness. If you find a group where everyone is “fine” and all the prayer requests are for others, then keep looking. Programs like Celebrate Recovery may also be a good place to start, especially if you’ve had an eating disorder or similar battle.
Real community is one where it’s okay to not be okay. Real community is a place where you can bring your baggage and have help sorting through it. This lightens your load in ways you can’t even imagine until you’ve tried it.
There is amazing beauty hidden in authentic friendship. This season, I hope you’ll seek it. And, more so, I hope you’ll find it.