Most people who have met me consider me a very strong person with a very strong personality. I was called “the terminator” as a counselor at church camp (I had no idea until I heard someone use it); my students are constantly saying: “your not as bad as everyone says you are, you are actually really nice, but do you really make grown people cry?”; and yes, I have been accused of “shooting fire” out of my eyes at students (no I really can’t). I say all of this because if you don’t know me, you need to know this before you hear the rest of the story. It would be surprising, knowing my strong personality to hear that for several years I was too weak to resist the temptation for friendship and I tried to play both ends at the same time. You know, tried to be friends with the world and also with God. You might try to comfort me, or someone like me who makes this confession by assuring us that just about everyone does this when they’re a teenager. You might reassure me by telling me that we all are weak when we are young and therefore we must be patient with ourselves. But I wasn’t a teenager. The fact is, many women are like me and face some of the biggest temptations in their lives from friendships, not as a teenager, but as an adult.When one is a young mother, there are so many demands on our time and too often we find ourselves feeling alone, or lonely…..and craving a conversation with someone who actually knows how to spell, or at least say the word, “conversation.” (Once my husband came home one summer and asked me what I did. I responded: “I said ‘no.’” He looked at me confused. I repeated: “I said no.” “ALL day?” he asked. “Yep, ALLLLL day. That’s ALLLL I did” I answered.) Our self-esteem can take a pretty hard hit. We see our bodies change and stretch, remembering when we were once on the cutting edge of fashion, and now search the clearance racks for anything with elastic, or look forward to the cooler weather so we can “layer.” For many young mothers like I was, this is the routine. Therefore, it is it no wonder that we crave the excitement of the old days in which we sat around with our friends and ate pizza and gallons of ice cream without a worry about our waistlines, discussing the latest boyfriend, or gossip around school. Well, honestly, that wasn’t me. I never had that experience, for many reasons, so when I was a young mother and other young mothers in the neighborhood invited me into their circle, it was great! I loved it. I soon found myself, like many other young mothers, relishing the conversations, even indulging in the gossip, and pretty soon I felt like one of them. But more importantly, they saw me as one of them. Soon most of my time was spent with one of these worldly friends. She befriended me, began to plan play dates for our children, would call at a moment’s notice and offered to cook regularly for my family. It was great, I thought. I felt popular for the first time, I felt wanted.
However, it wasn’t long before my friend’s negative attitude toward her husband started to show in my attitude toward mine (Pr 6:27). She knew my beliefs about drinking alcohol, public swimming, cursing/cussing, but as our friendship continued, she became less guarded and I objected less…and less….and less…. I made excuses when she invited me and my daughter to the public pool to swim rather than explain that I knew God would not be pleased with me if I did (I Cor 10:13). I overlooked her occasional cuss word, gossip, rude comments about other people. I comforted myself by saying that I was doing all of this to befriend her so I could convert her. I would teach her about God…someday. That was my plan at the beginning. But, somewhere along the way, I lost sight of those plans.
I knew the relationship was toxic. I knew she was a bad influence. But, I had such few friends….and…well, I hadn’t indulged in any of it….That’s what I told myself. But, one day my friend said something that was particularly mean and hateful, so I made a remark about it to my husband. I told him what she said and how shocked I was, and offended. He looked at me with his big beautiful blue eyes and said, “you know, it sounds like something you have said lately.” I felt as if I had been hit with a ton of bricks. It was the wake-up call that I needed. It all became clear…. I was slowly becoming like my friend (Proverbs 6:27). I knew what I had to do. It took me a few days to make the call, and it was a hard, but the feeling of freedom, yes freedom was overwhelming when I told her I could no longer spend time with her. I ended our friendship.
I like to think that if the relationship had continued I would not have indulged in the immoral, ungodly behaviors that she was leading me too. But, although I believed that I was stronger than her, I realized that I was really kidding myself that I was not beyond the small temptations that eventually would have lead to the bigger ones (James 4:4). It was hard to let go. Most of us hold onto our friends forever and pride ourselves on being “there” for our friends no matter what: a lifetime of good, bad, helpful or hurtful. But, the world’s concept of friendship is not always a spiritual one (Eph. 4:2) .
People say that I can be intimidating, they joke that I am “the terminator” and can make students whimper with a look, but I will never again underestimate the power of Satan to know me well enough to understand where I was weakest (Matt. 26:41). I did not seek out Christian companionship, or companionship with my Lord to fill that whole. I have learned that, although I still have friends who are not Christians, they are not the center of my social circle. I spend just about all of my time with those who help me to be a stronger Christian, my sisters who do not ask me to compromise my godly beliefs for their friendship and love, those who do not tempt me with activities or conversations about evil things, or…well, I’ve learned that I can just by myself and you know, it isn’t so bad. I like to surround myself with women who are always considering the wonderful gifts they receive from God and whose conversation centers around their spirituality and the prize.
Yes, this is a confessional article, and is full of many things that I am very ashamed of, but I hope that you can see the important part. I look back on this time in my life as a very dark time. A time when I was at one of my lowest points, and didn't even realize it. We often quote I Corinthians 15:33: “Be not deceived: evil companions corrupt good morals” to our children, but I am not a teenager any longer. I wasn't when I was tempted by "evil" companions. However, I am always reminded daily that my Lord understand me better than I know myself. His word teaches me that no matter my age, “Make no friendship with an angry man [or woman], and with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul” (Proverbs 22:24-25).