We were sitting on the couch, three in a row; two of us looking over her shoulder as she browsed her laptop. She was looking for post maternity clothes, and I couldn’t help but think back to three years ago when we were sitting in the same formation on a different couch, looking over her shoulder as she searched for the color of bridesmaid dresses she wanted us to wear.
These friends have gone through so much with me, and I have gone through so much with them. I’ve walked through engagement and wedding planning with them both. Trying to offer advice and insight but also keeping my mouth shut a bit – what did I know about engagement rings? Fast forward to now and I was holding her newborn, giving mama’s arms a much deserved break and offering color choices – you wear a lot of gray, how about that that stripped one?? – but also trying to keep my mouth shut a bit. What do I know about nursing tanks?
Life gets funny, when your friends start to enter very different life stages at very different times. When we met, it was all so easy. We were all in college. We were all at the same college. We met up on Monday nights because none of us has class, we lived within a 2 mile radius of each other (and that felt far!), we texted the afternoon of to see what groceries we all had to contribute to our hodgepodge meal that evening. We turned 21, all in a row. We graduated college, all in a row. But suddenly one of us was engaged, which was exciting and new. And then two of us were in relationships and, before you knew it, it was me plus two married couples.
(Now it’s 6 adults and a baby. Our little group grew, as families tend to do.)
I remember feeling so ill equipped, when most of my friends were planning weddings. I could offer relationship advice, but I didn’t live it. I could come up with ideas for the wedding, but it wasn’t advice from experience – they were things I saw on Pinterest. My wedding knowledge was the extent of how many I had been to (which, to be fair, was a lot) – but nothing I had actually planned. You don’t really know when your voice is welcome, in these kinds of things.
Friendships change so much. People don’t like to say that, we like to pretend a friend meets their future husband and your friendship stays exactly the same. Or someone gets married, and don’t worry, you’ll see them just as much! Your best friends are expecting? The newborn haze only last a few months – give your friends some space, you’ll see them again when the baby starts sleeping through the night!
But things change. People change. It’s only natural – we shouldn’t expect people’s life to change so drastically and yet expect them to stay the same exact person.
And in the midst of this change, it can feel like we should pull back. We fall into this lie that friendships only thrive when we’re all in the same exact season, same exact life stage. It can be tempting – to only want friends who’s lives mirror our own. It’s easier to make plans, it’s easier to make small talk. It’s easier in a lot of ways, really.
But you know what? Easy doesn’t make for good relationships.
It’s so beautiful, to have people in different life stages. It’s so rich, having friends who have gone through what you’re currently going through, or to be able to walk a friend through a season you just ended. Diversity brings depth and a gratefulness for each other. We shouldn’t shy away from it. We should cherish it. I want other experiences and expertise, I want other perspectives and insights. More so than wanting a friend whose live stage is similar to mine, I want a friend who will walk through it all with me: the good, the bad, the unknown, the familiar. I treasure my friends who have seen a different world than me. I hope they treasure me, too.
It can feel daunting. I remember when my friends first started getting married, I felt out of my league. I had no words to contribute, no experience to offer. I didn’t know how often to ask about wedding planning, or how often I should avoid the topic. I didn’t know what people needed from me. Worse, I didn’t know if I could offer what they needed. And then I remembered the simple rule of friendship: show up.
You show up. It doesn’t matter if they have a new ring on their finger or a new baby at home – you show up. When you no longer know how you fit into their lives and it would be easier to back away slowly – true friends say show me. Show me what you need. Show me what space I can fill. Tell me what tangible needs I can meet, tell me what specific prayers to pray. Tell me when you need me to go home and tell me when you need me to show up.
You don’t stop being friends because life looks different. You don’t care for someone any less because their day-to-day looks different than yours. They might have problems you can’t speak into from experience but, guess what, you probably have problems they can’t speak into from experience. Life is messy – no one is ever going to match yours perfectly. And thats okay. I don’t want people to match mine. I just want people to show up for mine.
Now, as friends of mine are navigating motherhood or cross-country moves or job transitions or the million other things that are hard but are not my current reality – I show up. I can’t offer the best advice, but I can promise to be me. I can offer to babysit; I can watch their dog for a few hours; I can simply buy coffee, give them a hug, and go on my way. It’s not about being perfect (who is?), it’s about being there. It’s about getting down in the trenches, too, even when its not your war and you didn’t dig the hole – but you sit next to them and say what do you need? How can I help?
Sometimes it’s a card in the mail. Sometimes it’s an 8 hour road trip to give them a hug. Sometimes it’s homemade dinner. Sometimes it’s holding the baby. Sometimes it’s so much, sometimes it’s so little – but you just try. You just do it. You just show up.
I might not know exactly what you’re going through – but I know you’re going through something. And I can choose to show up, because that’s what friends are for.