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  • Maggie Wallem Rowe

Where Are Your Sisters?

Who are your sisters? Where are they now?

This is not a rhetorical question. It’s been over six months of isolation for many of us, cut off physically for the most part from coworkers, church, neighbors, friends, even family. I need to know you are OK.

When you join me here on Tuesdays to take a new view from the ridge, I wish we could sit together on the porch with a cup of herbal tea in hand, sharing our lives.

As women, it’s said we’re wired to “tend and befriend.” We’re many things: CEOS and homemakers, entrepreneurs and employees, married and single. Yet at our core we want to be cared for even as we care for others. We want to know we’re not alone.

Men have a deep capacity for friendship as well, although some are slower to realize they need it. (Have you ever tried to set up a playdate for your husband?) Years ago journalist Elliot Engel watched his wife and her best friend say their goodbyes before a cross-country move. He found their last hugs so painful to witness that he finally left the room. “In our society,” he wrote later for Newsweek, “it seems as if you’ve got to have a bosom to be a buddy.”

We. Need. Friends.

God designed it that way. Wisdom literature in scripture emphasizes the need for cooperation, working together rather than jockeying to be first. And while the “cord of three strands” is often taken to refer to the strengthening presence of Christ within a marriage relationship, its meaning is broader than that. It’s not good for men or women to be alone regardless of marital status. We are created for companionship.

“This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.” John 15:12

Empathy is at the core of camaraderie. In his classic book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis famously wrote, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”

In a mobile society where we’re continually uprooted by job transfers and other factors. where do we find that kindred spirit, bosom buddy, sister of the heart?

Let’s unpack the possibilities.

Some friendships begin in shared seasons of life when we’re walking side-by-side with another in the same neighborhood or school, raising kids or building a career together. Other friendships are nurtured through shared activities or affinities when we’re working side-by-side on a committee, sweating in a spin class or raising funds for a community organization. Another powerful bond is shared faith: worshipping side-by-side, praying or doing Bible study together.

I recently read a remarkable book of true stories by veteran missionary Pauline Brown, who spent 35 years living in Pakistan where she and her husband Ralph lived, worked, and raised their children. During that time, Polly forged deep friendships with Muslim, Christian and Hindu women who became sisters to her. In Where Is My Sister? she tells their diverse stories.

As I closed the pages on this fascinating journey through Pakistan with Polly, I pondered the question in this title: Who are my sisters?

I’ve been blessed with nine by birth and marriage: Cindy, Jody, Jan, Jeannine, Susan, Sherry, Linda, Lori, and Christine. When I shop for birthday cards, I skip right over the sister-in-law section. Legal distinctions have long since ceased to matter. These women are my sisters.

The nearest sister in my physical family is a good six hours away, though. How grateful I am to also have sisters-of-the-heart from my church whom I study and play with, and for neighbors-turned-fast-friends Patty and Janet who are just up the road.

Yet more to Polly's point, where are the sisters I need yet to befriend?

I used to say to my kids, “Do you need a friend? Join a team.” It’s amazing how quickly friendships can develop when you join a musical group, sports team or theatrical cast. When you’re working towards a common goal of winning that game or acing that opening night, you bond through shared experiences.

But do you know what I’ve discovered is the greatest friend-finding principle of all? Simply being in the place God has for you doing the things God has for you to do.

Jesus put it this way: “But more than anything else, put God's work first and do what he wants. Then the other things will be yours as well.”(Mathew 6:33). Earlier in that same passage he taught that we’re not to worry about our lives – what we eat or drink, or about our bodies – what we wear. If God has promised to take care of those physical things, he’ll bring us the friends we need as well.

“You are my friends if you do what I command,” Jesus taught (John 15:14). Obedience. Being in the place he’s called us doing the things he’s called us to. When we are faithful to follow, we can trust him to meet all of our needs, including the powerful need for friendship.

New England novelist Sarah Orne Jewett once wrote, “Yes’m, old friends is always best, ‘less you can catch a new one that’s fit to make an old one out of.”

I have known loneliness. Lots of it. My prayers are with you, too, that you’ll soon catch some new friends fit to make old ones out of.

And until then, you’ve got a friend in me, sister.

- Adapted from This Life We Share by Maggie Wallem Rowe, copyright 2020 NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

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