Friendship isn’t formed only on these surface-level conversations but instead on the weightier ones of life, hardship, anger, battles, confessions, and questions. We’ll never be able to minister to one another in our fights with sin and suffering if we never answer truthfully, “How are you today?” It’s impossible to bear one another’s burdens without first reaching the heart and earning trust.
We all engage in conversations on various levels. We know the light and airy conversations of the weather, the funny antics our children did last week, the novel we just started reading, and brainstorming new meals to feed our families.
In some relationships, we easily sink into deeper conversations. I think of my sister-in-law, my friend Michelle, and a pastor’s wife I know. Within a few visits together, we swim through the surface-level conversations of dirty diapers and streaky floors and, without noticing, we tread into the deeper and sometimes murkier places of life. We move from giggling about the silly things our husbands did on our first dates to the arguments from the previous night. We may start by rolling our eyes at the unreal number of dishes we wash each day to sharing the fearful thoughts for our children that come to mind as we washed those dishes yesterday.
There are some women I sit down with whose kind eyes and gentle questions seem to uncork my heart and lead me to pour out my honest questions, past hardships, and current struggles with sin. Others, though I still enjoy their presence, stay within unspoken boundary lines of wall colors, water bottle choices, and tips on how to hide vegetables in our children’s food.
What makes these conversations so different? How can we dive beyond the surface of our relationships and encourage deeper conversations?
They were willing to initiate.
Few people want to be the first one to share. I like to wait and listen to how others respond and then gauge how I should frame my response. I often do the same in conversations. If they discuss the recent snowfall, I’ll reply with how my son and I share a distaste for the cold weather. But if they share about how postpartum depression nearly debilitates them in the winter months, I may feel the nudge to tell them how my depression is likewise worse when snowstorms and snowbanks keep me trapped inside.
Those who engage us in deeper conversations are willing to go first and share their pain. They don’t over-share for sake of gasps—they want to go beyond the shallow end. They want to know us. They want friendship, a companion to shoulder suffering with. They want to know they aren’t alone. And they in turn are willing to take the risk of vulnerability so we won’t feel alone either.
Being proactive: What are some ways we can steward our stories well? Who is going through a similar experience as you that you could share your story with to encourage them?