Spiritual friendship involves caring, accepting, serving, encouraging, and practicing hospitality.

How to Do the Hard and Holy Work of Faithful Friendship

“So who’s mentoring whom here?” my friend asked with a mischievous grin.
Good question!
When friends challenge one another with shared books, Scripture reading, and transparent prayer, everyone is sharpened and restored in a way that uniquely shows the love of God. Janice Peterson calls this “spiritual friendship,” and has reached back into her long memory for the purpose of sharing her friend Gertrude, the woman who poured lemonade and listened to Jan’s teen-age thoughts and dreams.

Being seen and valued by a friend who was “always present, always caring,” set Peterson on a course to be that person for others, to live given, and to love well. In Becoming Gertrude: How Our Friendships Shape Our Faith, Jan remembers lemonade on the porch and shares her deep conviction that friendships can be life-altering in all the best ways.

A spiritual friendship differs from mentoring in that no one takes the lead. There’s no resident expert or hierarchy at work. Instead, spiritual friendship is characterized by an unstructured giving and receiving, “appreciating the gifts individuals have to offer. It’s being willing to share when you need to share and learn when you need to learn. It’s caring for the well-being of the other person, and letting her care for you as well.” (xviii)

Ministering alongside her husband, author and pastor Eugene Peterson, Janice seized the life-enriching opportunities that her role as a pastor’s wife provided for investing in relationships. With rich insights lifted from Romans 12, she has distilled for her readers five elements that have infused her most formative relationships:

Caring

“Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.” (Romans 12:1 MSG)

We become caring people with practice, strengthening our awareness of others like a muscle. The author witnessed this outward focus modeled in her long-ago friend Gertrude and has concluded that regardless of gifting and personality, anyone can choose to put others first and pay attention to the needs of others.

As she matured, Peterson found her own caring heart drawn to the larger world. She began to serve on the Fair Housing Committee in her area and to practice cooking and eating habits that demonstrated her concern for the challenge of world hunger.

To become more caring:

  • Pay attention to those who are doing it well and copy them.
  • Push down your pride and receive unselfish caring from others.
  • Take note of the needs of the people God has placed right in front of your eyes.

Acceptance

“Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.” (Romans 12:2 MSG)

Peterson warns, “A spiritual friend is someone you enjoy being with, but you may not always find the friendship simple or straightforward.” (30) As a “classic extrovert,” Janice finds it easy to take others at face value, but connecting with those who are more challenging to love can take the special effort of seeking to see the world from their perspective. Ironically, the first step in accepting others may be the task of self-acceptance.

To become more accepting of others:

  • Connect with them by participating in the things that interest them.
  • Spend time connecting with God to learn His heart of acceptance for you and for others.

Service

“Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.” (Romans 12:11, 12 MSG)

Living her way into God’s calling upon her life, Janice Peterson swam upstream in the 1960’s when other women were leaving their homes in droves to seek employment. Called to be a pastor’s wife and a mother, she has served and loved in her own unique way, motivating others to do likewise by her example.

To serve well:

  • Be ready to spring into action, loving your community in concrete ways.
  • Serve courageously when God points out a need that you are able to meet.

Hospitality

Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. . . Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.” (Romans 12:13, 16 MSG)

Hospitality puts into practice the caring, serving, and accepting that friendship requires. Taking time to rightly align her readers’ understanding of the term, Peterson defines hospitality through a biblical lens: “the welcoming reception and treatment of guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.” (67) The welcome of hospitality is a bridge to wholeness as we generously receive others and let them know us, warts and all.

To become more hospitable:

  • Forget about “entertaining” guests and just enjoy them, feed them, and listen to them.
  • Start with your family and move in ever widening circles.

Encouragement

“Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.” (Romans 12:14-16 MSG)

The church provides the perfect backdrop for mutual encouragement as believers motivate one another to acts of service, use of God-given gifts, and a continual focus on God and His faithfulness. Reorienting one another gently toward an others-orientation, we discover the truest and most healthy version of ourselves, and then offer that up as a gift to God. In the process, we also become a gift to others, a spiritual friend, putting on display the caring, accepting, serving, hospitable, encouraging heart of our relational God.

Many thanks to NavPress for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

Thank you for the visit,

michele signature[1]


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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 30 years, and together they have four sons, two daughters-in-love, two grandchildren, and one lazy St. Bernard. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

68 thoughts on “How to Do the Hard and Holy Work of Faithful Friendship”

  1. This seems like one of those that you would keep on the shelf to always go back to!! I got so much just out of your review that I really do want to get this book!! Thanks for sharing the goodness!

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  2. I think my friends are one of my life’s biggest blessings. You have written some very good advice here. One of the best things we can do for our friends is to PAY ATTENTION! Friendships must be nurtured, just like plants or children. The book sounds wonderful!

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      1. Thanks for your sharing your thoughts on this. I’m not religious, but it seems like this book offers some solid advice for life. Good old Gertrude and her lovely lemonade.

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  3. Paying attention is an area in which I’m sorely lacking. I do want to do better, and this book seems like a big help. I, too, am in awe of her publishing her first book in her eighties! This gives hope to all writers that it is not too late!

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  4. I love how you shared the difference between spiritual friendship and mentoring. They really are different things, with a completely different (albeit at times overlapping) purpose. Praying for God to raise up both spiritual friends and mentors for all who read this today!

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  5. Loving from the center of who we are would make for a genuinely, true love. With that there is empathy, caring, and concern for others. Great scripture as I go through the week. 🙂

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  6. I’m a practical-minded gal and love this practical post from the heart of Janice Peterson, Michele! I also really enjoy the spiritual friendships and mentoring relationships I have in my life. They bring me not only much-needed accountability and support, but refresh me like nothing else can! Thanks for sharing this, my friend! You know I’ll be pinning!

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    1. I was so excited to read words from Eugene’s wife–he’s been one of my book mentors for ages, and I can see that his wife has been soldiering along beside him all these years with her own very unique ministry.

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  7. What a great review. I love all the tips. They are all so do-able. I love the suggestion of starting to serve your family first and then broadening your service. Also, helping your community in concrete ways. There are so many great things in this review Michelle.

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  8. Michele, I am so incredibly grateful for the spiritual friendships that I’ve had over my life. I think of some now from years ago and still remember the joys and struggles we shared over coffee at Starbucks or breakfast at Braums. I need to read this book!

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  9. I think I come from a place of being an (I hope) friendly loner. By that I mean while I enjoy being around friends and other people, I’ve always been perfectly comfortable being alone. But the older I get the more I appreciate and see the need for godly friendships. That certainly starts with my relationship with my husband, but it’s good to have those female friendships, too. And I believe Titus 2 commands us to be both mentor and mentee. Thanks for sharing this resource with us, Michele.

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  10. Michele, wow, there’s so much profound truth in this post and in this book! I love the applications you shared at the end of each section.

    I think this:

    “Reorienting one another gently toward an others-orientation, we discover the truest and most healthy version of ourselves, and then offer that up as a gift to God.”

    spoke the most deeply to my heart. We should be about focusing on others, and to live as a living offering to the Lord.

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    1. Friends really do that for us, so I’m glad that particular sentence stood out to you. We bring our consumer mentality into everything, when perhaps our best friends are the ones we might not have “shopped for” ourselves.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I am blessed that I have had a friend of over 35 years. We are sisters through Christ which has made the relationship all the better. A true friend is a blessing. #dreamteam

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  12. I just lost my dad 3 weeks ago and the gathering of family, relatives and friends brought a new reminder to make that which is important -PEOPLE- a priority and set aside petty grievances or unimportant distractions to make sure we have time for what matters most to God. so yes… do the hard work of friendships. thanks

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    1. Karen, I’m so sorry for this loss.
      While we would never choose the grieving, there is something so precious about the gathering that takes place when people suffer together. We have felt the love of friends and family so many times in our lives, and so I echo your “Yes” here!

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  13. I love having people over to my house so that I can feed them, it’s one of my favorite joys. I also love to take baked goodies to friends just to say hi and have a quick chat. Sometimes it’s just what people need! #GlobalBlogging

    Like

  14. Hopping over from #WriterWednesday! This seems like such a great book! I love that I am in a place where I am developing these types of relationships and they are each such a blessing to me!

    Blessings,

    Amy

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