Recently, my friend Rachel and I got the chance to sit down and have tea with a wise woman named Renee. Renee has poured out so much over the years into our local church and college ministry group. Her writing has also been published on our blog, Simple Everyday Style, and she is full of seasoned wisdom and life experience. The conversation with Renee was so intriguing that Rachel and I lost track of time, and so we wanted to share with our readers some of the highlights of the conversation as recorded in our interview.
Rachel: What do you think brings about insecurity in women in their relationships with other women?
Renee: This is one of the questions I really wanted to answer because I see such a need for it in the younger generation and even amongst older women.
Some of the biggest struggles in friendships between girls have to do with comparison and competition. If you get a whole bunch of single girls together who generally want to get married, then you may have struggles with contentment. There can be some level of discontentment with people who have an extended period of singleness.
Now some of us will have to learn some things on the other side in marriage that others of us have to learn outside of marriage. It’s NOT that this girl got married and won the lottery. No. God doesn’t reward people with marriage if if they have reached a certain level of contentment. Marriage is a gift, and sometimes God gives it as a sanctifying experience to people and they have to learn how to be content even in marriage. Marriage is NOT a lottery ticket for those who have attained a mystical point of contentment. Girls sometimes think that, but it’s simply not the case.
You just have to look at yourself the whole time and be praying for solid girlfriend relationships. Yes – you will see the girls who manipulate situations and try to be around guys and change their behavior when they are around them. But then you also have girls who are sincerely pursuing Christ and who are growing in the Lord. Those are the kind of girls that are more healthy and who you can spend more time with. Just focus on being the best friend that you can be, and constantly ask yourself: How much am I giving? And how much am I taking from this relationship? And it’s not so that we can come to this 50/50 in our relationships; it’s more of each person giving 100% in the relationship.
At the end of the day, the only person I can change is myself. The only person I need to be really concerned with how they think of me is God. I need to fear God and His opinion of me only. We need to fear God only.
Now how do we actually do that practically speaking? Well…..at the end of the day we sit before the Lord and pray and ask Him: How did we do today? Did we fear God or did we fear what people think of us more? We can also study strong women in the Bible and see how they interacted with their fears….because they had fears. Fear of man is something you have to tackle your whole life in all different circumstances and seasons, especially for those of us who tend to be people pleasers. It can be a daily struggle.
Rachel: How would you counsel someone who has a deep, unfulfilled longing year after year?
I would probably counsel someone off of what I have experienced. This comes down to one of the big lessons I have had to learn in extended singleness. And it is this: how to be a good friend in any relationship. Self-sacrifice. Because that is how you let the Lord work through you inside of your longing. I’ve had to work hard on it because it’s not easy. Most girls want to get married. So we can be using ANY friendship as a rehearsal for marriage.When I see genuine friendship NOT happening in the life of a single, it genuinely grieves me.
So for example, I live with Jana. She is one of my best friends. We live together and know each other so well. It would be easy to brush that relationship off and take it for granted. We know everything about each other: how to push each other’s buttons; we can finish each other’s sentences, etc. Because I’ve gotten so comfortable in that relationship, it would be easy to just take it for granted and always do what I wanted…but I have been challenged to continue to make a point of intentionally loving Jana – even when it doesn’t come easy for me. That’s doing the things for her I don’t necessarily love to do. I can love her in the ways that come easy to me, but the real sacrifice in any relationship comes in doing the loving things that I don’t always want to do.
If you are really honest God with God in any friendship, other things are going to surface in your heart that are ugly. Things like insecurity, comparison, discontent, etc. I always think of Winston Churchill’s quote: “Comparison is the thief of joy”. That goes for comparison with anything: jobs, status, physical appearance, skills, etc.
If I tie this to scripture, I think of Psalm 139 which says that God formed my inward parts. So I have had to learn that God made everything about me for a reason, and to not compare myself with others, but to see it more as an opportunity to complement someone, even a close friend. God created each of us in specific ways, so we should not be ashamed of who He created us to be.
For example, I know that I am a natural crier. I cry when I am stressed, I cry during a hard conversation, I cry to process a myriad of things. I have learned over the years to not try to hide that part of me, but that it is simply a part of who I am, even if not everyone understands it. God simply made me to be more sensitive. The fact that God made me tender speaks greatly to my heart, and it makes us vulnerable to Him and others, which is a gift in ministry. I have had to learn that tears are not weakness; they are simply an expression of emotion.
Expressing emotion is not always wrong, but it’s more a question of how we are managing our emotions. You can actually be quite strong and be emotional. Girls can encourage others by learning how to understand each other better instead of coming up against each other when we operate differently emotionally. Vulnerability is okay. Part of being a good friend is learning how to understand each other better.
Sunshine: If you could do your 20s and 30s over, what would you do differently?
I feel like God has been working in me to look back and fall in love with the story that He is writing in my life. There are actually a lot of facets to that idea.
Number one: get comfortable in your own skin. Get okay with your own quirks. That doesn’t mean we should not grow and not be sanctified. We need to embrace our own quirks, and then we can understand more of how God wants to use some of our unique characteristics. You have to figure out how to be who God created you to be, without losing yourself in others. A woman needs to find out who God created her to be.
Another thing is asking God to show you the love story that He is writing in your life in regards to His affections for you. I think it took me awhile to realize and fully appreciate the love story of Christ in my life, and I wish I would have realized it sooner. But for girls I think that is key and it resonates more within us as women.
Ask God: What is the love story with Christ that you are writing in my life? What is unique about it? Fall in love with your story and share it. For me, God has only in the past five years been really showing me how to fall in love with the story that He has been writing. And then I have actually been falling in love more with God.
Worry less about being vulnerable in front of people. Figure out what your spiritual gifts are – soon. I wish I would have been okay sooner with just being honest with God and okay with being ‘not fine’ before the Lord. He knows it all anyway, and so rather than trying to be perfect for God, I think it’s better to be open and honest before Him, and letting Him work out the mess in our lives instead of trying to be perfect.
Sunshine: How do you exercise discipline in your thoughts? Even when you feel like you are failing?
There was a time when I was noticing that I was getting anxious n the mornings before work, and stressing out too much about everything I had to do during the day. So I had to come up with a plan for my thoughts before work because I was wasting too much time worrying and being anxious about things. So sometimes I would listen to worship music and sing out loud to God. Sometimes I would pray out loud, a lot of the times I have to audibly start talking truth out loud to myself in order to reorder and reframe my thoughts.
Taking thoughts captive is crucial. I think girls tend to get lost in our fantasy lives a little bit. We can get lost in playing out scenarios that have or have not happened.
One way that I have been tackling that is basically just to bring God into my thoughts. When I started getting lost into a fantasy world, I have to stop the narrative in my head of playing out the possibility of what has happened or not happened. This is where we can get lost in over-thinking about things, too. I have to pointedly invite God into the conversation and say out loud to God (or even silently in my own head), “I need You, God”. Talking out loud to God makes me more conscious of what I am actually thinking. Talking out loud in the evenings to God, while I am driving, or when I am alone, forces me to say things out loud to God. It makes us get outside of the muddle of our head, and I am asking God to give me the right substitute thoughts to replace and not just STOP unbiblical thinking.
Girls are especially susceptible to living in a fantasy in our heads. We have to check ourselves in the moment when we catch ourselves having a conversation in our heads that is not true or getting lost in something that is not true. I have to pointedly ask God to bring Himself into the conversation, specifically to start talking truth out loud to myself, even if it’s only whispering because other people are around.
Rachel: How do girls/women tend to waste their time? How can we redeem the time instead?
You have to know yourself first and your proclivities. Each person is a little different. I know for awhile, I was in this Facebook phase. I was spending A LOT of time on Facebook, and then I realized I wasn’t feeling refreshed after Facebook where I was seeing how great or maybe not so great someone’s life was….and none of this stuff is inherently wrong. You have to have balance. Now I look at Facebook here and there, and it’s only at certain times.
I have to have a schedule – a daily schedule. Routines are important and cultivating overall discipline in how we manage our time is crucial. In general, though, I have noticed that we tend to waste time more at night. So having a schedule at night, and getting ready for bed at a certain time if you plan to go to bed at 10 pm. You have to ask yourself: Am I Netflixing it? Am I always on Pinterest? Am I distracting myself with unnecessary things? Having a schedule is helpful. Know what regular bed times work for you. Ask yourself: what time of the day is best for my devotionals? Am I going to pray in the mornings and read Scripture at night? Or do both in the morning?
Rachel and Sunshine: Thank you for your time, Renee! It has been a pleasure talking with you, and we are sure other women will be blessed as well.
If you would like to read more of the questions and answers during our tea, please comment below and we can put them up in a separate post.
Renee is a single Christian woman who serves as mentor staff in the college ministry at her local church. She works as a literacy coach for a school district in San Ramon, California. Her hobbies include: boating, wake boarding, Zumba, riding roller coasters, and watching classic movies.