Life is often good. But sometimes it gets hard and weird, and if you live long enough, a few other things. We’ve learned that we’re not made to walk through those seasons alone, and in today’s post, Shauna Niequist from the BELONG stage team shares the importance of friendship and how it both protects us and helps us endure. 

I felt it shelter to speak to you. –Emily Dickinson

Those words hang on our wall in our hallway, painted in white on a grass green canvas. My friend Holly painted it for me—I’m a word person, of course, and so there are words and quotes and lines from poetry and songs all over our home, keeping us company, reminding us who we are.

These words remind us how central the practice of deep friendship is in our lives—the practices of listening, asking questions, making space and time for one another to be seen and known in real and unvarnished ways.

Just two weeks ago, I found myself needing that shelter. I was late on a writing project, one that seemed to require more than I had to give. I had the flu, which doesn’t help anything, and I was afraid and frustrated.

Ten years ago, I probably would have spiraled further and further into myself, berating myself for these ridiculous feelings that were getting in the way of my work. I would have spoken to myself in a stern, angry voice—pull it together. Put your head down. Work.

But one of the most important things I’ve learned in the last decade of my life is that our hearts and minds are rarely mended by yelling, but that the shelter of friendship very often provides us the shade and protection we need to move forward in grace and courage.

And so I did what I’ve learned to do: I circled the wagons. To use Emily Dickinson’s beautiful image, I pulled the shelter of friendship over me for protection and love.

I sent an email to some friends, and I asked for help. I spilled out my tangled insides all over the keyboard. I explained how much pressure I felt, how much fear. I asked for prayer. And then I closed my laptop for a while, feeling a sense of peace even before my friends replied, feeling that shelter being built just in the sharing of my words and fears.

And as their emails came—from Tulsa and Austin and Nashville and Dallas and just down the street, from friends I’ve known most of my life and friends that I’ve just met in the last couple years. Their tenderness and wisdom and encouragement made me weep with gratitude, and knit me back together.

Their words built the shelter I needed to keep going, because that’s what friendship does: it keeps us safe and makes us brave, when left to our own inner monologues we’d be trapped in fear and shame. Click To Tweet

It’s easy to think we don’t have the time or the margin or the energy to invest in friendship—that with work and kids and all the things, who has time to connect with other women in the course of a week or a month?

What I’ve learned, though, is that the minutes and hours I invest in my people are more than worth it, because it’s through them that God’s voice of love comes clear, and that much-needed shelter is built. And sometimes I’m the one who needs to be sheltered, and sometimes it’s someone else, and I count it a privilege to shelter them when the storm comes to their heart or mind or home.

Friendship, then, is one of the highest priorities in my week, because it can heal us so very, very deeply, whether you’re the one providing shelter or in need of it.