Tuesdays with Rainey: A Mother’s Manifesto on How to Be a Friend

Tuesdays with Rainey

We always have that hour on Tuesdays to talk. When we wind our way home through the Lycoming valley and around the Bald Eagle mountains, past the Amish farms and the place with all the John Deere tractors, this is our chance to connect.

Our topic this week, like most weeks, is friendship. She’s navigating a new problem, and like the GPS suctioned to my front windshield, I try to point her in the right direction.

“She always asks me what I’m learning in math just so she can quiz me in front of everyone and make fun of me if I get something wrong,” she laments about a friend. And I resist the temptation to drive to this girl’s house and deliver a piece of my mind.

I sip my sweet tea, nibble on the nuggets we’re sharing, and listen instead. When she gives me the green light to offer some advice, I tell her about a friend in my past who did the same thing to me.

“She’d bait me with a question to fish out some information and then use it against me,” I explain. “I had no idea what to do about it until another friend offered a suggestion.”

“What was it?” she asks.

“Well, whenever this woman asked me one of her nosy questions, my friend suggested I respond with, Why do you ask?‘”

“Did it work?” she wonders, hopeful.

“Every time,” I say, “and the best part is that I didn’t have to be mean or rude or refuse to answer any of her questions. I just asked this one simple question in response to hers, and her motives became clear. Eventually she stopped pestering me.”

We practice the rest of the ride home, role-playing typical sixth-grade conversations, and by the time we hit the intersection in town where the two state routes collide, she’s confident she can avoid another collision with this “friend.”

Tuesdays with Rainey

Later, after tucking her in and taking a few more playful stabs at our new favorite game, I think about these Tuesdays, these conversations with my daughter that canvas her life and friendships, and I reflect on my own. Like her, I’ve been frustrated and hurt by them, too.

Like the time the girls at the lunch table propped their backpacks on the spare seats and refused to let me sit with them, even though I did every single day the year before.

Or the time a friend suddenly seemed cold and distant after I returned home from a one-week vacation, without another word.

Or the time a friend verbally assaulted me for spending too much time with someone else.

Throughout my life, so-called friends have belittled and back-stabbed, competed and compared, stonewalled and slandered, and every time, my first instinct is to build high walls around my heart to protect myself against the wrecking ball of relationships.

But I don’t want this for my daughter. There has to be a better way.

So I need a guide, too, someone to point me in the right direction when I find myself lost along the twists and turns of female friendship.

Someone like him:

Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt. (1 Samuel 18:3-4)

I always knew that Jonathan and David were friends, that their friendship is often held up as a model for us to follow. But what I didn’t notice until now is how perfectly and painfully Jonathan demonstrated it. When he strips himself of his armor, essentially ridding himself of his defenses, he’s making a promise to David to be vulnerable.

I don’t do this easily in my friendships. I’m too scared. But I know that scared and sacred are practically spelled the same, that sometimes I have to risk being hurt again to be healed. And I have a handful of friends who are in the business of healing.

Like the friend who brings me homemade chicken soup when I have the flu, or the friend who never backs down from telling me the truth. The friend who drives late into the night for gooey dessert when she knows I need to talk, or the friend who isn’t one.bit.afraid to encourage me and my dreams.

These friends are worth stripping for.

So I make a promise to them and myself tonight, a promise to let down my shield, to shed my armor and take off the self-protective layers I wear to keep them away. Because the parts of me I like to protect are also the parts where God is working the most in my life, where my story is the most beautiful. And someday, someone might need to hear it.

Someone like my daughter. On a Tuesday. On our way home through the hills.

Tuesdays with Rainey