When Sisters Become Strangers (A Word On Friendships)

A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.

Proverbs 17:17

Moving continents away from everything and (almost) everyone I knew at the age of ten gave me a deep sense of longing to “belong” somewhere with someone. Coming to the United States from Nigeria meant that my close-knit family would finally be together under one roof but it also meant losing every friend I ever had, except my older brother. In middle school I struggled to make meaningful connections with my classmates who didn’t quite understand why I was so “dark-skinned” or why my shoes weren’t name brand, or why I “spoke funny,”  and a host of other things. Thankfully, my community had a close-knit Nigerian population and I was able to make friends my own age who were either immigrants or children of immigrants from my homeland. The first two friends I made within the Nigerian community became more like sisters to me and we journeyed through my teenage years arm in arm – forming our own three-strand cord that was meant to be unbreakable. We called ourselves – Three B – I was Brown Sugar, and my lovely sisters were Baby Girl and Baby Boo (LOL!) Cheesy right? But we loved it! So much so that I still have an email account dedicated to our little sisterhood (anyone of yall ever emailed me at threeb_forlife@yahoo.com – now you know where that name came from lol. Give me a break – I was 15).

When Baby Girl moved from North Carolina to Michigan, our little lives were rocked but we were determined to stay best friends. Baby Boo and I clung to each other as the remaining North Carolinians and made it a point to call, write and keep in touch with our long-distant sister. Other friends who became sisters came along and added much joy and richness to all of our separate lives but for me, there was no replacing my Baby Girl and Baby Boo.

I finished middle school, graduated from high school, finished law school and passed the bar exam to become an attorney and the three of us were still as thick as thieves. My two sisters went on to college, one gained a track scholarship, one was pre-law and pre-med (lol yes the same person) and many more adventures and accolades along the way. Through it all, we had each other’s back.

Baby Boo became my unofficial little sister in the eyes of the watching world. We stopped introducing one another as “cousins” and simply told those we asked that we were siblings. I took my position as big sis very seriously – doing things like hosting 90% of Baby Boo’s birthday celebrations from the age of 13 till she turned the big 21. We were inseparable. Baby Girl, although still living in Michigan, would come to visit periodically and solidify the bonds of our three-way friendship. As far as I was concerned, we were unbreakable.

When I came to Christ four years ago, Baby Boo and I were still closer than sisters and more like twins separated by years. We had expanded our friendship to include another childhood friend who deemed herself both of our best friends. I was happy with our group. Both girls were to be my sisters just like it had been with Three B. A year or so before I came fully to Christ, I was experiencing some pangs of jealousy over the friendship between Baby Boo and our new sister – they seemed to be forming a duo that excluded me and I didn’t like that – at all. I kept most of those feelings at bay and we went on in our friendship unhindered.

After I came to Christ, I recognized with a deep sense of urgency that my lukewarm ways had set a very bad example for my two sisters, both of whom were younger than me. I was in a hurry to make amends and get my sisters on the path of purity and holiness with me. Rather than trusting that the God who convicted me of my sin and brought my heart to repentance would capture my sisters hearts as well, I started trying to manipulate their friendships and relationships to cause rips between them and anyone I felt was a bad influence. My attempts at trying to play God in the lives of my two sisters, especially Baby Boo, backfired on me big time and we lost a lot of our friendship for the next following months and even years. Our newest sister had her own instance of betraying Baby Boo’s trust and that friendship fell apart as well.

I was devastated by the loss of both friendships. Baby Boo had been my constant companion and listening ear for fifteen years at the time. Not having her to call on, laugh with, and share with broke my heart. My other sister that fell by the way side was someone I had confided in time and time again. I had given her my secrets, my deepest darkest fears, the things I dared not repeat to anyone else for fear of being shunned, and she had dropped out of my life without a word. The most devastating part of that loss was this – when we last spoke of our friendship she told me that she “heard” some things about me that made it difficult for her look at me in the same way and thus continue a friendship. She wouldn’t fill me in on the details. Hearing those words from someone I had entrusted with the most vulnerable parts of myself also broke my heart.

So as a new Christian, I was flying solo; my most treasured friendships had fallen apart and I had nowhere else to turn. I had other sisters and friends who were still in my life but most did not understand my new walk with Christ. Many were cool with me being a real Christian but were not ready to live their own lives solely to please God. The others, like Baby Girl in Michigan, were separated from me by distance that made it difficult for me to effectively communicate the new things that God was doing in my life.  After almost twelve months of what became the loneliest time of my life, God graciously brought like-minded women into my life through Bethel Campus Fellowship (a college ministry that has played an intricate part of my growth in Christ), and through my home church – as more of the young ladies in my own age group caught the vision of a life sold out to Christ.

I was (and am)  so grateful for my new sisters in Christ. With them I learned that transparency can bring healing; I learned to love sacrificially and unconditionally and to rebuke rather than entertain jealousy in the midst of a friendship. Even with these new friends, a part of me still desperately missed my Baby Boo. We had become more like strangers, acquaintances on a good day – but not sisters. It was hard to watch her go on to make new “best friends” and share her thoughts and secrets with others who hadn’t been a part of our 17-year history. But I prayed for God to give me a heart that would love her without limit, even if she never reciprocated. And I prayed for God to restore our friendship, if it was His will for it to continue.

Once again, God’s mercy and grace prevailed. My prayers were answered at a pivotal point in my life – right after  I got engaged. My two sisters, Baby Boo and Baby Girl flocked to my side and were bridesmaids, listening ears, shoulders to cry on, prayer partners and much more as I prepared to become a wife. I am so grateful for the restoration of these friendships and the deepening of our sisterhood. By God’s grace, I pray to continue to be a great sister, friend and example to these ladies who have journeyed with me since I was barely eleven years old.

Now, let’s switch gears.

Coming out of my loneliest year, I had yet another friend who was more like a sister. She and I had known each other for more than four years at the time. She supported my law school accomplishments and was one of my biggest cheerleaders during my courtship with my husband. This particular sister-friend was special to me because so many people were rooting against our friendship, yet we prevailed. People didn’t understand what we had in common and why we would even like each other. Nonetheless, we thrived. I loved her and I did my best to support her as she had supported me – through school, graduation, courtship and marriage. I had one insecurity with this particular friend – I was never sure if her friends liked me for me or tolerated me for her sake. Having others constantly question our friendship make it hard for me to fully trust that others were rooting for us. Without getting into the details, I managed to offend this friend, in a major way. I wasn’t immediately aware of my offense but once I realized the rift between us, I made efforts to mend the bridges. Because the manner in which I offended my friend also affected her family, it was difficult for her to overlook and rightfully, it took some time for her to heal. I fully trusted that this friendship would be restored once I had given my friend enough time to search her heart and make peace with me. I was dealt a deathly blow when in the midst of my hopes for reconciliation this friend of mine told me that my behavior confirmed every (negative) thing she had heard (and overlooked) about my past.

I was devastated. This was someone I had shared my heart with. This was someone who knew me before I came to Christ and who witnessed, first-hand,  the woman I became after I gave my heart to the Lord. This was someone the Holy Spirit had used to rebuke and correct me in the past concerning my areas of failing. This was someone I thought was invested in my growth in Christ. I kept trying and trying to make peace with the fact that I had lost a friend but my mind would replay those hurtful last words repeatedly. It made it difficult to accept my new role as “acquaintance” rather than sister to my lost friend. I kept praying about the friendship, wondering if there was more I could have done to seek restoration, more I could have said to communicate my regret and beg (yet again) for forgiveness. God, through my husband, eventually gave me peace about this friendship. I didn’t have to continue to grovel and beg and plead to be accepted once again by this lost friend. I didn’t have to be resentful about being an acquaintance rather than an ally to this sister. I can rest assured that, yes, I made a mistake and I will probably fail in my friendships in other ways, but the God who forgives does not intend for me to continue to punish myself for my bad judgment in my past dealings. I can make peace with the fact that friendship is a two-way street. Just because I want reconciliation does not mean that this sister is ready for it. I don’t know what her personal struggles might be and I cannot impose my will upon her. This sister does not HAVE to embrace me. After all, she was the one betrayed. Perhaps wisdom on her end dictates that she keeps me at arm’s length in order to prevent being further offended and losing her own peace with God.

And guess what? For the first time in eight months. I’m okay with that.

I pray this post has spoken to your heart. Many of us have lost friendships that we still look back on with regret; we are unable to fully move forward in life because we keep revisiting the past. Some with regret, some with resentment. As someone who has had many seasons of losing and gaining friends, I’m here to tell you that dwelling on the past is not worth it. You can’t undo what has been done, all you can do is trust God. If you are the offending party, make every effort to make peace, seek forgiveness from God and from the one you have offended and, above all else forgive yourself. If you are the party offended, seek forgiveness from God for any resentment that you may have held on to, clear your heart of any trace of unforgiveness and seek God’s wisdom on whether He would have you continue in your friendship or move on to have peace with Him. It is not always possible to regain what was lost in a friendship, but there are times when God’s desire is to completely restore what was once broken. Be open to either and let God’s voice dictate and His will prevail.

A closing thought – This post is coming from a place of transparency about my own failings in friendships. Nothing written here was meant to embarrass or dig up dirt on any of my sisters. I did my best to apply wisdom in using identifying language concerning the persons to whom my unique circumstances refer. I freely used the identifiable nicknames Baby Girl and Baby Boo because these are my trusted sisters; they know my heart and they trust me not to besmirch their good names and I believe I have kept that trust. To everyone else who may have been referenced in this post, my goal was to share my heart and my life from my perspective, not to place blame or cause controversy. I pray that you see that clearly as you read through the entire (lengthy) post. God bless you.

To everyone else who is struggling from the pain of a lost friendship, I pray that the peace of God rules over your heart and mind. I pray that the Holy Spirit equips you with all that you need to continue to have flourishing friendships that will not be hindered by the hurts of the past. Trust God to give you like-minded friends, and refuse to be anxious for anything, even if life at the moment is very lonely.

Feel free to email me at threeb_forlife@yahoo.com with any prayer requests regarding this or any other topic discussed on this blog. Thank you for reading; please share and/or comment as you feel led. God bless you once again.

Yours in Christ,

Omowunmi

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