God answered this question for me during a difficult phase of my life.
It was Valentine’s Day, but instead of a special dinner, I sat on the couch and watched my husband go up and down the stairs of our split entry home with boxes and luggage. He was moving out.
One year later I sit on the same couch with no plans. Instead, I replay the scene of my husband’s departure over and over in my mind. I am so engrossed in my thoughts that I jump when the phone rings. At the other end, a familiar voice says, “Just called to invite you to spend Valentines’ Day with our family.”
Embarrassed, I stumble over my words “I don’t want to intrude on your celebration. I will bring everyone down.” The truth is that the memory of one year ago is still raw; and I want to submerge myself in self-pity and ice cream.
My young friend pleads, insists, and finally uses the kids as bait. “I already told the kids you were coming and you don’t want to disappoint them. They love you. We all do. That is what Valentine’s Day is about!” As I hang up the phone, my gloomy mood starts to dissipate. I smile to myself, wishing my former counselor had heard that call.
When my husband indicated he was unhappy and wanted out of the marriage, I had started going to counseling sessions, hoping my husband might come, too. He didn’t. Still, the counselor and I discussed ways to save the marriage—until the session after my husband’s departure. On that day, I told the counselor the marriage was over.
We discussed many things during that session; however, right before I left the office, she looked at me and said, “You’re single now. The women in your church will see you as a threat to their marriage. A support system is important, but you probably need to find it elsewhere.”
Devastated by my husband’s leaving, I was searching for advice on how to cope and move on. Were my ears deceiving me? Did this Christian counselor just tell me to prepare for more abandonment?
You see, my female counselor bought the lie that women aren’t capable of authentic friendships. Have you ever heard a woman say (or perhaps it was you), “Women are so catty” or “Females are so manipulative?” We trash our own sex and wonder why men say that women can’t be friends.
I didn’t believe women were natural enemies, but the counselor’s words put doubts in my mind and heart. The thought of my church family forsaking me was scary. During the ride home, I was very uneasy.
Questions whirled in my mind. Was the counselor right? Would my sisters in Christ not trust me around their husbands?
Two days later I walked into my church as I did every Sunday morning. But today was different. I was alone and because of my counselor’s words apprehensive.
The pastor was aware of the situation, and others in leadership had been informed. I didn’t know who else knew.
I was the Sunday school superintendent and had to open the service. Could I get through this? I felt broken. I wasn’t sure how to begin. Some looked away. I saw pity on others’ faces. Those who didn’t know were confused by the awkward silence.
As the church matriarch talked with one of the deacons I saw her eyes fill with tears. She walked towards me and gave me a long heartfelt hug. Others followed her lead, offering a deluge of comfort and kind words.
During the next few weeks, the church’s sadness was palpable. One of the members told me there is “a time to mourn,” and this was one of those times. I was comforted that my brothers and sisters in Christ grieved with me.
The next months were full of difficulties, sadness, and obstacles to overcome, but my church family (including the women) were there with me every step of the way. Everyone helped pull me over the wall when I was too weak to climb.
As I made my way through the world of divorce proceedings, there were calls just to talk, offers of financial help, cards with uplifting messages, and of course, prayer.
The thoughtful words and acts of kindness during this difficult time were as varied as the people’s individual characters and personalities.
“By this, all will know that you are My disciples if you have love for one another” (John 13:35 NKJV). Jesus does not want the world to know the church because of our intellect, success, power, or cutting-edge programs. He wants the world to know that Christians are different by the way we love one another.
The people of my church exemplified the love Jesus discussed with His disciples. The women, in particular, were there for me throughout it all. Even a year later, this family reached out in love to ease the pain of Valentines’ Day.
Some may say my experience is an exception. Is it? As usual, I look to the Bible for answers. There I found examples of biblical women who cared deeply for one another.
When the land of Canaan (Israel) was being divided between the twelve tribes of Israel, the daughters of Zelophehad were denied property because their father was deceased and there were no sons. These sisters banded together to get inheritance rights. What I like about this story is how the women worked together proving false the stereotype that women always undercut each other. They collaborated and changed the inheritance laws for Jewish women forever. (Numbers 27: 1-11; Joshua 17: 3-4)
Ruth extended love and friendship to her mother-in-law, Naomi. The older woman, to say the least, had a bad attitude. From a human perspective, her sadness was understandable; she had lost a husband and two sons. On the other hand, Ruth must have witnessed Naomi’s faith in earlier years. After all, Ruth was a Moabite, raised in a pagan culture, but now was firmly declaring her faith in the God of Abraham.
When Naomi decided to return to her homeland, Ruth didn’t use this as an excuse to separate herself from a cranky, depressed old woman. She didn’t abandon her for an easier life; instead, she stood by Naomi, demonstrating love and compassion.
Her merciful actions were rewarded. God secured both women’s futures, and Ruth is even an ancestor of Jesus! (Ruth 1: 11-21 and 4: 13-22)
Another story of loving friendship between two women is Mary and Elizabeth. Mary was to be the mother of the Messiah, and Elizabeth was honored to be carrying John the Baptist. Mary came to visit Elizabeth while both women were pregnant. When Elizabeth greeted Mary, she acknowledged that her cousin was pregnant with the Messiah. She wasn’t jealous of Mary’s status; instead, she was honored that Mary visited. “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me” (Luke 1: 42b, 43 NLT)?
These two women must have loved one another. Mary traveled during her pregnancy to make this visit, and Elizabeth provided a warm welcome. I imagine Elizabeth, who was older and further along in her pregnancy, told Mary what to expect. Surely they shared a special bond.
One of my favorite women of the Bible is Dorcas, who ministered to vulnerable widows in society by using her sewing abilities to provide clothes. Only seven verses in Scripture describe this exceptional woman, but we can glean a lot from them. These verses provide a glimpse into a life where peace reigns and women love, care, and support each other. (Acts 9:36-42)
So, was the love shown to me so unusual? Looking at these women of the Bible, I don’t think so. We can encourage one another by sharing times we’ve been on the receiving end of genuine Christian love. More importantly, can you remember a time when you gave this kind love to your sisters in Christ? Please leave your stories in the comment section below. I can’t wait to hear them.
A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17 KJV).