A few weeks ago, I was listening to a Facebook Live event at the FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) conference by Father Mike Schmitz. Since then, I have listened to the recording at least five times and have forwarded it on to many women in my life. The talk was THAT GOOD. (In case you want to watch it, here’s the link; https://www.facebook.com/focuscatholic/videos/10156231444499887/.)
I have struggled throughout my life to find authentic virtuous friendships. I have been in and out of groups of women who left me feeling alone and unfulfilled. It is rare in this life that we find friends who do not judge, who love you even in spite of your faults, who don’t gossip about you when you walk out the door, and will be there no matter what. Over the past five years, my friendships have completely changed. Because of my new found deep faith in Jesus Christ, I lost many friends and the road become very lonely. By focusing on Him, challenging myself to extend invitations, and striving for virtue in my own life, God brought women of virtue into my life in abundance.
Finding true authentic friendship requires recognizing God in the other person. It also requires stepping out of your comfort zone and inviting someone into the bowl. It’s hard to invite someone into friendship, but when you recognize God, your soul opens and begins to become vulnerable. That vulnerability is what leads to a deeper friendship and the beginning of a walk together through life.
I want to share the stories of my friendships with the women in my fish bowl. I will race with these women to the end because they have loved me, faults and all, and continue to strengthen my belief in God with every encounter. My friendships with these women took time to build. It wasn’t an instant friendship, but the effort put forth by each of us has touched my life in immeasurable ways. I have given these amazing women their own “name” based on what they mean to my life.
My Racing Partner – To say that my friend Sarah and I are soul sisters is an understatement. “She completes me” (yes, I had to throw something corny in). God brought her into my life exactly when I needed it. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of my dear friend. She is a rock. She gives me hope in this world and in working toward eternity. I recently told her that when I first met her I never would have imagined how close we would become. She concurred. She shares all of my struggles and successes. We are both deeply in love with our faith and the Catholic church. I admire her and the choices she has made through the most dire of circumstances. I thank God for bringing her into my life. She has taught me more than she will ever know.
My Life Changer – When I first met my friend Jenny, she had just experienced the tragic loss of the love of her life and father of her three beautiful daughters. I didn’t know Jenny before the accident. I arranged meals for her family following the tragedy and one night when I delivered my meal, we began to talk. The friendship that bloomed from such horrible circumstances has taught me so much about life, suffering, picking-up-the-pieces, strength, courage, and finding love again. At the end of my days, I will look back on this friendship as one of the most important relationships of my life.
My Fellow Convert – When I met Rebecca, she had just moved to my neighborhood. Jesus brought us together by fate. She has built me up when I am feeling low, she has reminded me just how much Jesus can change a soul, and she gives me hope that no matter the circumstances, your faith in Jesus is all you need.
My “Good for the soul” friend – Last Saturday I spent the morning over coffee with Bridget. We hadn’t seen each other in several months, but we picked up right where we left off. Laughter is the key to our friendship. We respect each other, we laugh at each other’s faults, and we love one another for what each of us brings to the friendship. Bridget has been through some very difficult times, but through it all, her faith remains strong. She has faith that it will all work out and I love that in her. Seeing her does my soul good because I never smile as much as I do when I’m with her.
My Church Buddy – Jen is my sister in Christ. Our “happy place” is the church. I have known Jen for years, but it wasn’t until my conversion that she and I grew to be great friends. We both love kids and dream of the day that every child has an Encounter with our Lord. She is my sounding board, my confidante, and the one person that challenges me to give more of myself.
My Best Friend – And of course, my mom. She brought me into this world. She has loved me like no other and she has been an incredible witness to faith in God. She worked tirelessly when we were children to ensure we made it to church every week. She planted the seeds in our hearts that brought us back to Jesus even after straying for many years. Without my mom, I would be nothing. She is my best friend. Nothing more needs to be said except, I love you mom.
The women in my “fish bowl” are diverse, few of them are friends with each other, and most of them jumped into the bowl through the most unlikely of circumstances. They are my witnesses in this life. We walk together through good times and the most unbelievable struggles. I may not see one of them for a month or two, but when we are together, our souls speak.
My “bowl” runneth over with love for these women who I never would have connected with had it not been for Jesus. Changing my focus from the things of this world to focusing on Him and the life He wants for me has healed every hole in my heart and has filled my life with such joy. Joy that I share with these women every day.
If you are struggling with finding authentic virtuous friendships, you are not alone. I too was there. Look for God. Let Him lead you on your journey, and when you find someone, jump into the bowl together and glorify God with your every encounter.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 – “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help.”