Book Review: Messy Beautiful Friendship

Almost eight years ago, my husband, myself, and our baby girl were planning an international move… 45 mins from home! As we prepared for my permanent resident interview, including a short, and very sweet, trip to Montreal, Quebec to become a legal immigrant, I began praying for the friendships I would make in our new hometown. Though I was excited and eager for yet another adventure that God was calling us to, I was sad to be separated from dear, life-giving friendships that had been established and nurtured through regular three-hour-long coffee dates every other week. It was so hard to leave these friendships that began during my single years, supported me in early marriage, walking through the grief of miscarriage, and rejoicing with me in the joys of life with a long-awaited newborn. Even though I was moving a mere 45 mins away, I couldn’t bear not to have these ladies by my side, or just down the road! But that separation of a border and another country made it seem that much further away! Thankfully, those friends came and visited once or twice a month and I was able to go and visit as often as I could as well. We found a favorite coffee place in my new hometown, a new favorite walking path along the bay and, thankfully, we were able to keep up our friendships in this new season of life, stateside!

As time went on though, and as we got more settled in our town and in a new church, I knew I had to start making deep friendships there too. So I started to pray for an “American Lisa” and an “American Karen”. That God would bless me with deep friendships in our new town that were as deep and life-giving as those I had in Canada. And, through time, playdates, and mutual initiation, those friendships did come and continue to this day as well. We know that when we do get together and see each other again, we will be able to step into that closeness and like-minded friendship and conversation again. I know that these women are my sisters in Christ, they rejoice when I rejoice and mourn when I mourn. And I do the same for them. We are each other’s cheerleaders and prayer warriors and will be throughout the span of our lifetime. I’m thankful for these friendships. They are lifelines that point me to Christ and I need them.

I’ve written before about how I’ve needed to hold my friendships with open hands as God has called me to a nomadic life of serving Him in various locations. Perhaps this is why I’ve put much thought and prayer into my friendships over the years, as I know that I need community wherever God calls me, and now us, as a family. We have at least one more move before we settle down for hopefully what will be the place where we settle and put down roots for the foreseeable future, perhaps ten, twenty years or so. I’m starting to pray again for those friendships, the women who will be in my circle, serving with me, praying with me, and loving our community together for Christ.

Perhaps it is quite timely then, that God led me to read Christine Hoover’s new book, Messy Beautiful Friendship: Finding and Nurturing Deep and Lasting Relationships. As I flip through the book, it is looking rather yellow! I have marked it up quite thoroughly with my yellow highlighter. Reading so many thoughts and ideas that have echoed my own through the years was like finding a kindred friend who knew exactly what I was thinking!

Something awakens in us when we find someone who can relate to a shared value, struggle, or lesson learned. That is what I found when reading Messy Beautiful Friendship. The book is laid out in short, concise chapters, much like a devotional book, focusing on specific themes. Each of the five sections leads the reader through a pilgrimage of facing the very real challenges of friendship while leading the reader on to a gospel-centered perspective on friendship that reflects how we are to live in community as Christians.

Far from a worldly, static perspective on friendship, Christine offers water for the parched soul that is longing for friendship that goes beyond mere surface talk, common interests, and vacationing together.

“… the goal of friendship is to secure ourselves to the sure, steadfast anchor of Christ and, while holding to that anchor, give and receive the gift of friendship as we have opportunity. The goal is to enjoy God together with others and, as we move through life, to sharpen and allow ourselves to be sharpened by friends. We imitate Jesus with one another, willing to face the stark realities and consequences of sin, all the while persevering in our efforts to offer love, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, comfort, and care to one another. In doing so, we display to one another and the world how God loves and, through this, bring him glory. This is our destination, the point on the map we move toward: bringing God glory.” pg.39

Interspersed along the way are quotes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book, Life Together. I love it when authors find an old, Christian classic like this and weave the wisdom of those from another time and place into a message that is meant for our generation today. It not only reinforces what God was doing in a community from a culture and political climate of years gone by, but also shows that what God was doing then, is what He is continuing to do today, bringing the redemptive power of His Son to a hurting, broken world, a world that He will one day make new. We need the messages that are written for today as well as those words, sometimes ancient words, that connect us to times past.

Throughout the book, Christine unravels many of the reasons our friendships get so messy. It is that unspoken wish-dream of friendship that hinders so many of our relationships and prevents us from embracing the people who are right in front of us. Our idealistic expectations for community get shattered every time we put that wish-dream on its pedestal. She delves further into why its so important to enter into that messiness to find the beauty of friendship on the other side of our “ashes of insecurity”.

“In our envy of other women and who they are and what they have, we have chosen not to celebrate them or allow them to get close. In our childishness, we’ve been inconsiderate in thinking that friendship is for us and about us and should be what we want. We’ve been inwardly critical, and outwardly too, though we might not have dared to address the person directly. We’ve been judgmental and partial and argumentative and a million other things that sting and divide. These are ashes of our own making.” pg. 59

A wake up call like a back draft from an inferno rushes through my heart as I read those words and remember the times I’ve silently held back my offer of rejoicing with another in her joys, as well as the pain I have felt in my own heart when others have not rejoiced with me in my blessings. We all struggle in this way. Our insecurity breathes its venom from silent smiles when we choose the ways of the world, instead of following the Lord in his outpouring of a life of sacrificial love, obedience, and service. Our eyes need to be ever on our Lord, drawing strength from the Holy Spirit to actively listen, celebrate, and rejoice with others. Slowly, our insecurities fade away like the deadness of winter being engulfed in the new life of spring foliage. Our friendships become fruitful and life-giving to others and we find the safety of a community that lives and breathes the gospel of grace.

“But we are people of life! We can use our words to bring dead things to life, mirroring the resurrection of Christ and our own.” pg. 133

As I mentioned, my book is filled with yellow highlighting. I could write many reflections, perhaps on each chapter, as I have read this book. I will leave you with one more quote from Christine as she challenges us to enter into the hard conversations and the messiness, while seeking God’s glory and our joy in the beauty of friendship.

“We are to observe our friends. What are her gifts? What stories has God written in her life that could become an impactful ministry to others? What lies and patterns of behavior are hindering her relationship with God? What does it seem God is trying to do in her life? As we observe, we use our words to confirm her gifts, exhort her to ministry, encourage her growth, and excite her as to what God is doing in her life. Our honey-words have the power to stir up love and good works in the lives of our friends.” pg. 132

As part of Christine’s launch team for this book, I invite you to visit her book launch page, order the book before its release date next week for a sweet deal, and get those preorder goodies before they’re gone!

You can purchase her book on Amazon!