What the Snow Queen taught me about Friendship
My youngest daughter turned 7 last week in a flurry of tiaras, Shopkins, and Barbies. After the clatter and chaos that comes from too many princesses in one castle, we said goodbye to a few stragglers and prepared to take our last guest home.
Herding two giggling snow queens into my SUV, I cranked the Christmas music and prepared for a festive drive. We passed brightly lit subdivisions and the chatter from my backseat amped up as they touched on the hot-button topic of Santa vs. no Santa.
I have to admit, it was at this point that I turned the radio down to eavesdrop. It was too tempting not to. And I’m not one bit sorry. I enjoyed every moment of that conversation.
It wasn’t long before the discussion veered back into personal matters as my daughter asked the other snow queen how the previous week’s Christmas cantata had gone. Little did I know God was about to use these two tiny princesses to teach me about friendship.
Bit by bit my daughter’s friend poured out how she had gotten into trouble the week before and how one of her family members had subsequently reprimanded her. And as every good friend does, my daughter immediately commiserated and became upset for her friend.
Seeing the situation in its true light wasn’t hard for me from my advantage of age. I could understand the family member’s response and, at the risk of having my kingdom frozen, I have to say it was a fair judgment on the snow queen’s behavior. But what my daughter saw was a completely different situation. She saw her friend in the right and the family member in the wrong.
We were viewing it from vastly different vantage points.
The right and wrong of the situation was more greyscale than black and white and as a 7-year old listening, my daughter lacked the wisdom to understand her friend’s responsibility in the matter.
And in that moment, a thought hit me. How many time do I listen and commiserate while lacking the wisdom to understand a situation’s complexity? How often do I unburden my feelings, expecting sympathy when my friends don’t see the whole picture of my situation?
Yes, sympathy is good. And there is a time for everything. But sympathy with Godly counsel is so much better. What does God require from us as friends? How are we to respond? Surely not in blind sympathy and support as a child. Is there a way to marry our sympathy to wisdom as we walk a path where our friends are not always in the right? Are we open to being challenged ourselves when we are the ones seeking support?
Verses started coming to mind:
(James 1:19) “My dear brothers and sisters take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry…”
(James 5:16) “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
(Proverbs 27:6) “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”
Later I stumbled on this beauty:
(Proverbs 27:9) “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.”
As I remembered these verses, it was like a Christmas light-bulb turned on over my head: nowhere have I seen this better demonstrated than in one of my dear friends. (I met her in youth group in the 90s.) As she came to my mind during that drive, one thing stood out immediately: I can’t remember a single time that I’ve shared hurts or concerns with her and received blind sympathy and support.
So what does her friendship look like?
It looks like Jesus.
Writing this, I can see her in my mind’s eye, nodding her head as she listens. She doesn’t just wait for her turn to talk, she listens to understand—she is quick to listen.
I can hear her, asking the thoughtful and sometimes uncomfortable questions that get to the bottom of the true situation. Not just the situation as I see it—she is slow to speak.
I know she won’t mince words when she sees something in me that I’m not seeing myself. She has earned a spot of trust in my life because I know she loves my spiritual growth more than she loves comfort—her wounds can be trusted.
I know she won’t trust her own view of the situation alone and won’t counsel me to rely on mine. She inevitably drives the focus back to the only one with the wisdom to know what’s right in the gray world of life—she is powerful in prayer.
And somehow, even though our meetings are marked with confession, challenge, counsel, and prayer, being with her is entirely peaceful—her pleasantness springs from her heartfelt advice.
I don’t want to be guilty of friendship without wisdom. Seeing myself in my daughter’s response, I realize I far too often expect sympathy and support without challenge or I give sympathy and support without understanding. As Christians, we are called to a deeper walk, not only with God but with each other.
One of my friend’s frequently used lines is, “What does that look like?”
What does it look like to be quick to listen, slow to speak, wise in counsel, and challenging in love?
As I move into 2018, I thank God for the sweet friendship he brought into my life over 20 years ago. I still think about that first challenge she gave me, standing in a darkened church parking lot. One teen girl to another. I’m still digesting the challenge she gave me this summer, sitting across from each other in her dining room. One busy woman to another. And I look forward to many more challenges in the years ahead.