Hey Google! I Need A Friend (Yes, Parents Need Friends Too)
We purchased a Google Assistant this Christmas. I wasn’t initially a fan of this unnecessary accessory, but my techy husband was thrilled with his new ability to turn on music and lights at the mere command of his voice. He thought it was so cool; I thought it was so dumb. So, I declared, “I will never ever use this device. Ever.”
But now I don’t know how I ever turned on a light with an actual light switch. How did I ever succumb to such unnecessary labor? I don’t even know. My youngest also became acquainted with the Google Assistant and asked the bot all kinds of questions including one that particularly caught my attention: “Hey Google, will you be my friend?”
“Sure,” it said.
“Great,” I thought. My daughter just became “friends” with Google.
As Christians, we’re certainly not immune to the pervasive disconnectedness from human relationships because of our devices, and our kids have grown up in an era where friendship has dwindled to those who “like” a social media post or to a robot who answers at our beck and call. Unfortunately, this kind of distant friendship has been welcomed by parents as well because, as one busy mother told me not long ago, “After I pour into my family, I just don’t have much time left for friends.”
Parents, we must reclaim the joy that is found in meaningful friendships – and not of the Google variety. Building strong friendships is not only healthy, but it’s essential for our kids to see what Christian friendship looks like apart from technology. In the busyness of parenting, we tend to neglect our own friendships, but because God intends for us to live in community, here are three Biblical truths that show us what friendship provides and two practical applications of God’s truth in our everyday life.
Why We Need Friendships
In Genesis 2, God makes clear that man is created as a social being. We are, after all, created in His image, and our God is a communing God, interacting within the Trinity and with us as His children. It is not good for man to be alone, our Creator declares (Gen. 2:18). What is good, on the other hand, is man living in community with others. The apostle Paul echoes this truth, reminding us that is good for men and women to build each other up and to encourage one another in friendship (1 Thess. 5:11).
Our family battled COVID-19 over the holidays, and one of the hardest aspects of contracting the virus was the isolation. We’ve all experienced it to some extent, but during these unique days, each family member remained isolated in his or her own room. It was downright depressing! Not having contact with others naturally wears on a person, even the most introverted among us, because it’s not how we were created to live. Friendship, in God’s good design, answers this need and provides healthy benefits for us as parents.
Friendship Provides Perspective – CS Lewis once said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’” Friendship provides a clearer perspective than the façade of pictures we find on social media. When spending significant time with a friend, we discover commonalities that remind us we’re not alone in this job as a parent. I will never forget the time I opened up about the difficulty we were having with one of our children, and one comment turned into an encouraging conversation that lasted hours as my friend and I encountered several moments of, “You too?” when I thought I was the only one.
Friendship Provides Refreshment – We need space to relax as parents, and spending time with friends can be refreshing to a weary soul (Proverbs 27:9). When I was a child, my parents went out regularly with good friends, and I still remember how they’d come home smiling and light-hearted. It was good for me to observe this, and it made me happy as a child. Now in my adult friendships, I understand how life-giving it can be to spend a few hours laughing, sharing, and encouraging. The time spent in a community of friends often gives us the fuel necessary to parent most effectively.
Friendship Provides A Good Example for Our Children – The Bible is filled with verses that encourage the kinds of friendships that draw us closer to Jesus. We have the opportunity as parents to set an example through our own friendships of what it looks like to care for one another. The greatest love ever shown was when Jesus freely gave His life for us. We have the ability to love our friends because Christ first loved us. “Love one another,” Jesus says, “as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Talk about your friends, pray for them, and show your children by example what a precious gift it is to be loved and to love within the body of believers.
How We Build Friendships
Remember back to college when it took mere days for strangers to become best friends? It just doesn’t happen like it did in the good ole’ days, but that doesn’t mean we can’t build lasting and meaningful friendships as adults.
Building Friendships Takes Sacrifice – There is no doubt that friendship will require you to sacrifice some time and resources. I have never regretted the money spent on making dinner for a group of friends or the cost of an evening out on a double date. Never. These are good and lasting investments, but beyond the monetary sacrifice, building friendship demands our time.
We’re all busy, and we can fill our calendar to the brim with commitments that center around our kids. But in order to build healthy friendships, we need to create opportunities. There have been times in the past when we’ve missed a child’s game or extra-curricular event because of a commitment with friends. The conflict doesn’t happen often, but when it does, we’re OK with our kids seeing that every once-in-a-while, mom and dad need to invest in an evening with friends. Try to set a realistic goal and put on the calendar a night or two during the month that is reserved for friendship. You won’t regret it.
Building Friendship Takes Intentionality – In order to grow in friendship, we must be intentional. If our friendships are based on what our friends can give us, they won’t grow in depth. But if we intentionally love the friends God has placed in our life because of who they are in Christ, they will grow into significant and lasting relationships. Being intentional means praying for our friends, checking in through calls or texts, sending a note of encouragement, or even taking the initiative to plan a weekend away with a group of friends. And this intentionality can happen even during these days of COVID. Something small like a walk or hike—or even using technology in a positive way to plan a zoom call with a few friends—makes a huge difference, especially in this time of extended isolation.
I love how J.C. Ryle summarizes friendships: “This world is full of sorrow because it is full of sin. It is a dark place. It is a lonely place…The brightest sunbeam in it is a friend. Friendship halves our sorrows and doubles our joys.” Friendship is a gift from God. Invest in this blessing and experience the joy that overflows from it. It’s when life becomes the busiest that we need this sunbeam, so create space for personal interaction and find the joy and encouragement that comes from a community of God-given friends.