I have found growing friendships after college to be slow work. In college, it was a bit like scattering wildflower seeds on a fertile hillside. In only a few weeks or months, I had a beautiful array of budding blossoms.
But after college, it seems that friendships mature more like trees. The growing seasons are longer—years rather than months. I can’t grow as much on my hill as I could in college.
In the little arboretum of my post-college friendships, I treasure the friends I have deeply. These are relationships that necessarily have a different rhythm and require a different kind of intentionality. But they also have deep roots. These friends and I have walked through some deep valleys together.
Two women who have journeyed with me with incredible faithfulness and joy are my friends Elizabeth and Diana. For over four years, I have met regularly with these two women. We have known each other through church, in small groups, and as friends who grab dinner together. And over the years I have met their siblings. Two years ago, Diana and I read at Elizabeth’s wedding. But the primary way we have been in relationship is through a triad.
A triad is the term in our church community for a group of three people who meet regularly for prayer, accountability, and fellowship. Our church mainly has people in their twenties and early thirties. Triads are a discipleship structure that works well in place of more traditional intergenerational mentoring. Diana, Elizabeth and I started out meeting every week, but as schedules have changed over the years, we have moved to longer, once a month meetings.
So now, one Sunday afternoon a month, I have triad. Usually we meet at one of our homes. These have changed over the years, from tiny basement apartments to rambling large Victorian group houses. But, no matter where we have lived, when I come to triad I am greeted with warm hugs and the smell of something delicious.
Diana and Elizabeth are both excellent, adventurous cooks. Over the years, we’ve eaten spicy green coconut squash curry inspired by Elizabeth’s time in Thailand and sipped Rooibos tea from her time in Kenya. We’ve eaten an amazing array of meals from More with Less, or Simply in Season the Mennonite cookbooks Diana learned to cook with in Jamaica, and sipped thick Turkish coffee from her intricate and tiny colorful cups and saucers.
These days, they often make a paleo version of something for me. I think this is particularly meaningful, since when I cook, I have tended to forget that Diana doesn’t like tomatoes, and Elizabeth doesn’t like a lot of peas. But they remember the rather longish list of what I don’t eat. (Or they remember to send me recipes to approve before hand.)
Perhaps they remember because they sat with me through months of triads when I would share again and again how tired and sick I was that week. These were the women in my life who said, “Amy, you have been sick for a long time. You should try something new.”
They are the first friends with whom I shared the beginning ideas of my novel. With tea candles lit in Elizabeth’s sixth floor apartment, I sketched out the dream that had been laid on my heart. They asked good questions and smiled at my excitement. Elizabeth and Diana are incredibly smart and well-read friends. I borrow from their bookshelves regularly. Their encouragement that I could really go and write was incredibly meaningful. It would be a great honor to someday have a book of mine there next to their copies of law reviews, Thai dictionaries, Harry Potter and Jane Austen. They say they have room on their bookshelves for my work.
I have been so blessed that they have made room for me in their lives. Sunday afternoons are precious times to give one another. We have full lives of writing papers, briefs, blogs, and applications that vie for our attention. Over the years we have had housemates, husbands, and boyfriends who have also given up time with us on Sunday afternoons to help make triads possible. I know that those hours are a gift to which many people contribute.
Meaningful connections with friends don’t just happen. We have to choose again and again to make it a priority. To speak into someone’s life you have to know the details of that life. I have seen over the years that making regular time for friends like Diana and Elizabeth is the key to seeing my little friendship seedlings starting to look like real trees.
The other key for our triad has been prayer. I love using liturgical prayer for my own prayer times. But praying evening prayer and compline aloud with my triad anchors us in a unique way.
We return each time we meet to those same words. We confessed our sins together when we had ruptured relationships and uncertain futures. We prayed the collect for peace when we were celebrating raises and needing new housing. We prayed the Lord’s Prayer when one of us feels blissfully close to God and another painfully far away. We read the same Apostle’s Creed when grandparents died and when engagements were announced. And we always end with the prayer of St. Chrysostom: “and you have promised through your well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the midst of them.”
And He has. The Lord has met us in our regular gatherings. It is good to get a close look at the Lord’s faithfulness in a friend’s life. I am encouraged by the way that God takes care of Diana, giving her everything she needs. I am strengthened by the way that God meets Elizabeth. I know that He is providing her with just enough energy to finish graduate school this month. In all the hours that we’ve spent eating and chatting, laughing and praying, I can see God’s good and gracious gift of fellowship.
When you don’t live with people in a dorm or on campus together, it can be hard to know them deeply. When you are in college, you can spend a hundred hours with a friend every month if you eat a meal or two together most days. But when you live 30 miles apart, those same hundred hours can get spread over six months or a year. You have to be patient when you are growing friendships after college. But as they grow, they provide the shade and resting places that we need to take a deep breath and enjoy the view.
How have you found growing friendships to change throughout your life? How do you make it a priority to connect with a few close friends?
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