Through the years, I’ve been blessed with friends from all over the world. These friends have explored new cultures with me, traveled with me, drank with me, held me while I cried, celebrated life with me, and prayed with me. I truly have been blessed and touched by each of their roles in my life.
Three friends stand out as being the largest influences over my life.
The 1st is Lindy, who was my very first best friend. We met at age three and lived two houses apart so we played together often. She had the most amazing collection of Barbie dolls, but my mom didn’t want me playing with her dolls because I had a horrible habit of biting the feet of barbies (yes, you read that correctly…I used to bite the barbie’s feet). Lindy is the friend who taught me about sharing, about compromise, and about truthfulness.
The 2nd is Linina, who became my closest friend in the 7th grade. We were inseparable for the next six years and I can’t imagine how I would have done High School without her. We shared every teenage secret, church camp, wintergreen gum, and heartache over boys. Linina is the friend who taught me about Christ’s unfailing love, about loyalty, about perseverance, and about loss.
The 3rd is Erin, who became my prayer partner mid-way through my military career. While we lived in the same city for a short period of time, our daily phone calls for the last ten years have enhanced my life. We stood by one another as relationships crumbled, as children grew, and our love for God became the center of our friendship. Erin is the friend who taught me about strength, about growing, and about contentment.
As I look back on my life at these three stages of besties, I’m reminded that scripture tells us we will have similar stages of spiritual growth.
As an infant/young child, we are just beginning our walk with the Lord. 1 Peter 2:2 relates that we are like newborn babies who desire the milk of the Word. It’s essentially a developmental phase where we are learning about our new Christian walk.
In the flesh, a newborn is completely dependent on a caretaker.
In the spiritual, the newborn Christian must be taught how to study and read the Bible because there isn’t a developed ability to ‘feed themselves.’
I saw this phase distinctly with Lindy, as three-year old’s, embarking on our first friendships where we were being taught the principles and boundaries of friendship.
Maturing into adolescence, the Christian has a strong faith in God and has learned about prayer and fasting. While spiritually strong, there is often a lack of maturity at this stage. 1 John 2:14 states, “I have written unto you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you and you have overcome the wicked one.” This stage is about learning submission and patience, rather than knowledge.
In the flesh, a teenager is knowledgeable and able to care for themselves, but they can be prone to missteps in decision making based on their experience levels.
In the spiritual, the adolescent Christian must practice restraint and continue to seek guidance from authorities.
As teenagers, I saw this phase in my friendship with Linina, when we thought we knew it all but still need to submit to the authority of our parents. It was a season of becoming stronger in friendship and holding one another accountable, while still relying on guidance from wiser Christians.
In our Christian walks, maturity brings the realization that heaven is not our goal, but rather it is our destiny. Our goal is to live as close as possible to the example provided by Jesus. This includes continued growth in our personal relationship with God, as well as loving our neighbors deeply. Paul reiterated this when he wrote, “..for me to live is Christ…” (Philippians 1:21), which is indicating that from his own conversion until his martyrdom, everything he did was to advance the gospel and bring glory to Jesus.
In the flesh, an adult is comfortable with continued learning but is often the one sought for advice.
In the spiritual, the adult Christian strives to meet believers and non-believers, in order to enhance everyone’s knowledge of the Bible and the gift of salvation. During this stage, there is conscious effort to win souls for the Kingdom.
I have seen the adult phase develop over the last decade, as my friendship with Erin has grown. This has been a season of building relationships and Iron Porch, as a space to share the gospel.
I can clearly track my spiritual growth through these phases, as well as in my friendships. I’m still friends with all three of these lovely ladies; Lindy, Linina, and Erin (obviously, Erin). These three ladies influenced my “being” more than any others.
One started me on learning what friendship meant, one taught me about Christ’s love, and one has studied with me on how to bring Christ to the center of a friendship.
Each of those friendships is a reflection of the women influencing “Emily” and a reflection of the stages of a Christian’s development.
Come to the porch and share who has been influencing your development…