We all want a friend that we can talk about real stuff with. For me, one of those friends is Jessica Honegger and I got to interview her this week for the podcast! She is the founder of Noonday Collection and author of Imperfect Courage. Jessica is a friend that pushes me past my comfort zone. Today we talked about how raw and real our friendship is, and how you can develop those relationships in your own life.
WE ALL CRAVE IT
We all crave a relationship that goes to the hard places. Talks about the hard things. A friend that says what other people are afraid to say. Someone that will push you closer to Jesus, fight for continued friendship, and believe in you. These things have marked my friendship with Jessica, but it has been hard won. We both adopted our sons from Rwanda and her friendship has been an absolute gift to me.
I asked Jessica why it's so hard for people to develop friendships like this. Why can't we just share the real and the vulnerable and the raw with each other? She actually referenced back to our episode with Curt Thompson on shame:
"shame wants us to stay in hiding. It wants us to keep us from saying the thing that we see. It keeps us from wanting to own our truth. I think that's what it comes down to is you and I can both still be hesitant to say it all out loud. Some of our good tension is making sure that we are calling each other forth out of the darkness and into the light.We're both willing to press each other until we say that thing out loud. We can create a space for each other to do that, because we're not gonna leave one another. There's nothing you can say ever in your life, I mean you could call me from jail, and I'm like, I love you. You know?... I think that's the safety there...I think it's our shared value of wanting each other to fully live in the light because we know that that's where freedom is. That's where the good stuff is. All of us have the tendency to hide a little bit. So it's just important to be able to have those friends that, you can call and say the thing, but they're gonna dig a little bit more."
Jessica always presses deeper with me. Common questions she asks on our call are: "Jennie why are you posturing? What is it that's bugging you? You don't seem like you're saying it? You don't seem like yourself."
She will not let me stay in the gray or the hiding. I try to be vulnerable - I'm not even trying to hide! Oftentimes, I just haven't processed my thoughts yet. But those questions force me to think about it. Jessica described a moment on a bus trip in Rwanda where she was confessing a story she was telling herself about her book.
"I was telling myself this story that it was a failure. That I was never going to be able to write a book again. The time in the van, that was the scariest thing for me to say. I said it and that story lost power over me. Honestly within minutes of me saying it and having a soft place to land. And you telling me that is a lie and you pep talk me but you also ask the hard questions too in those moments...It truly is this dance of being able to be fully vulnerable and then having someone else be able to create a space of empathy and a shame-free zone, that is what ushers in freedom.That's the beauty of what God calls us to. This is the narrow of life. So I'm glad we get to do that for each other."
A safe place to land. We are ALL craving that in our friendships. So how do we find it? Jessica made an excellent point we all need to hear:
"It's not a matter of finding it, it's a matter of doing the work to build it. We have put the work in. You can only have that kind of friendship when you're willing to share the thing that you don't want to say out loud. Sometimes you have to go first. Sometimes you have to be the one to go first and say the thing and that immediately creates a space for the other person to say the thing."
I call these friends sister friends. That's how I work with friendship. When I come over to to your house, I don't want it to be clean. I'll help you clean it. Sisters just kind of jump in together. They don't really need entertainment. They just need to be alongside. Jessica has built that culture at Noonday. She has fostered a community that builds commitment to each other instead of just casual friendship. Most of us are decent at casual friendships. A lot less people are good at sister friends, but that's what we want.
"I think it's that idea of imperfection. I loved it when you guys were literally, your moving trucks were in your driveway and it was Cooper's birthday and you just said to a few of us, come over let's celebrate Cooper's birthday. You had no furniture in the house. No cupcakes left over at the grocery store except for pink ones. I think there's gotta be that place where you're willing to not put up the masks we all tend to
put up . I think of Adam and Eve and that hiding that happened and you know, when they sinned and hid. I think that so much of us are in hiding and we have facets of ourselves that go into hiding. God came looking for them saying "where are you? I wanna be with you. Even in your sin and shame." That is the kind of friend I wanna be in God's image. I want that very same character. God is so about community and he created these people to walk with him and they hid in sin and shame, but he came looking for us even in our sin and shame. That's what friendship is. It's coming to one another not just when you launched the book and it went awesome or when your kid went to state - we want to celebrate those things - but also come looking for one another, literally looking for them when they're hiding in shame. That is the power of pursuit. We all want to be pursued. So what if we became those people that were pursuers of one anothers hearts? That's what God does for us and that's what God calls us to do in our friendships."
Jessica and I both took our boys to Rwanda recently, and it was honestly a really vulnerable time for both of them and us. They are the children we adopted and we're going back to their home country for the first time. We both felt scared and exposed to be parenting in front of other people. But the coolest thing happened - we all went in together. Every woman on that trip helped us coparent our boys. They moved into our boys' struggles. While it felt scary, it actually caused everyone to bond with them. It was an incredibly meaningful part of the trip.
This is how our societies used to function. We used to have front porches. There used to be communal living. We don't do that anymore. Everyone has isolated themselves in their square footage, and we can hide. We don't have to show our imperfection. You miss the invasive and offensive parts of friendship. And in missing those parts, we miss the best parts God has for us in friendship. Because the abrasive and offensive is often what makes us better.
So what does it look like to create this kind of friendship in your own life? How do we share the hard, vulnerable, abrasive, and offensive parts of life with each other?
First of all, it didn't come out of thin air. We have put in the work. We have prioritized each other. We have been intentional. We call each other and ask the hard questions. It is not easy, in fact it's very difficult. But it's incredibly powerful. Here are a few practical steps Jessica had to offer:
"First of all you've got to be willing to be the pursuer. I used to tell myself the victim story. I'm always the one to pursue and I make myself feel like an outsider because of that. And really, now I think that's a gift. I like to pursue people. God likes to pursue people! Cool! I'm kind of like God in that way. You know, I think that you can tell yourself, you can look to confirm the story that you'll never have a friendship like this and that you've tried this and it never worked, or you can look to confirm the story that God has a friend for you. Maybe tag you're it. You get to be the one to pursue and build that and cultivate it and you've gotta be willing to go first. Willing to exercise vulnerability. Then, learn to be a listener. People are longing to be heard and seen and known and there's some practical ways you can practice listening to other people, where they share and you reflect back to them, "what I hear you saying is this, is that right?" I think that's another really practical thing. Spending time. Call them up. Do the fun things too. I called you a few weeks ago when I was crying to you in my car, and I thought, I can cry alone or I can call a friend and have someone witness this and bear witness with me in this...So I think it's important to be willing to show all the range of emotions."
Jessica's friendship to me has been one of the best parts of my life. It's often said that if something is worth it, you have to fight for it. I believe that is true for deep friendship. We have to be willing to put ourselves out there. To go first. To make time. To prioritize. To not hold back. To listen. Cultivating these friendships will not happen on their own. They will happen when we step out in faith and seek the relationships God has for us in our places.