A core value in America is to live independently. We celebrate “Independence Day.” While physical and financial independence is good, we mistakenly believe that independence brings happiness. Just the opposite is true. We all need close connection with others. We’re just wired that way.
When my daughter and her family moved across the country, Jerry and I found ourselves without any family close by. It was just the two of us. Around the same time, Jerry took a part-time preaching assignment at a small church. He loved that, but it meant a rather minimal involvement in both congregations. We quickly lost touch with our former church family.
It seemed that overnight I had no friends. I had colleagues at work and many acquaintances, but no close friends. I spoke to relatives on the phone, but it just wasn’t the same as having real girlfriends. I felt lonely and disconnected and knew something important was missing from my life.
I whined a lot to my husband and to the Lord about this, and one day I sensed God say if you want friends, why don’t you do something about it?
I immediately remembered interviewing Neta Jackson for “Aspiring Women.” She’s written a series of novels about her girlfriends in the inner city of Chicago. She called the novels The Yada Yada Prayer Group (Thomas Nelson).
A Jewish believer in her circle gave the group its name. “Yada” in Hebrew and Yiddish means “to know.” Of course, “Seinfeld” made “yada, yada, yada” a familiar expression. But the actual definition found in any Bible dictionary is:
To be intimately familiar with, to discern, recognize, regard, acknowledge, pay heed to, or approve.
What a perfect description of the relationship of girlfriends who are willing to invest in each others’ lives—women who get to really know each other, care for, and pay heed to each other. Friends who can discern when another is hurting and who are willing to listen, encourage, and pray for each other.
I gathered my courage and called a few friends and sent out an email to see if these ladies would like to attend a monthly prayer group. I explained the meaning of “yada” and shared the mission of the group. It would be simply for fellowship and prayer.
I was afraid no one would come. After all, I was to blame for letting the friendships lapse and I know how busy women are. Besides, I was reluctant to commit myself. What if I couldn’t follow through every month because of travel or workload? I finally decided to take a step of faith and see what would happen.
Well, I was amazed at the positive response. Several women said, “Thank you! I needed some girlfriend time so badly, but I just never take the time to connect.”
I’ve been having my Yada Yada Prayer Group for several years now and I treasure those evenings with my friends. I consider the time sacred and re-arrange my schedule as necessary. Our group is small with ages ranging from twenty something to seventy something. We have food (always chocolate), fellowship, and fun for about an hour. Then we join together for prayer—especially for our families.
It’s a glorious time of connection, bonding, fun, laughter, encouragement, and also…touching heaven for those we love on earth. This prayer group has enriched my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined. And many, many of our prayers have been answered.
So, if you need a friend, be a friend. Why not join a women’s Bible study at church? Or you might consider starting your own prayer group. You’ll have a great time. You know you will. YADA YADA YADA.
Shirley’s Tips for Growing Friendships:
- Ask God to show you a woman who you should get close to. It may not be someone like you, but she may be the one who needs you most.
- Choose friends that are not from your age group. Intergenerational friendships can be rich and mutually beneficial.
- Make an effort to be friends with those who do not share your faith. True soul connections come with others in the body of Christ. But we cannot be “the salt of the earth” if we don’t interact with non-Christians.
- Take time each week for long telephone chats or personal visits with a girlfriend or two. Focus on taking the conversation deeper, past the normal, superficial dialogue.
- Be a good listener and focus the conversation on your friend—not yourself. For some of us, that takes special effort.
- Meet new friends by joining a women’s group or Bible study. Deepen friendships through long-term connection. Practice the lost art of hospitality. Have women and couples into your home and always serve food. Deep friendships happen over time.