Wednesday, February 3, 2016

How to Be A Good Friend to a Widow

Today we're on the 4th reason why the Book of Ruth is for widows -- Ruth shows the sort of friend a grieving widow needs: Available. Committed. Unafraid of emotions. Intent on following God.

Here's an excerpt from my book about the great friendship between Ruth and Naomi. You'll see Ruth's side of the friendship but please remember this was not a one-sided relationship. Naomi, too, was a wonderful friend for Ruth (most of the time).

(Postcards from the Widows' Path, pages 82-84)

"Although Naomi didn’t want to admit it, she needed Ruth. Neither woman was in an ideal circumstance, neither was there by an easy choice. Thrown together in Moab, Ruth’s example shows us what it takes to be a good friend when our friendships are in crisis.

Ruth was available. She was the sort of friend who sticks closer than a brother. When Naomi mentioned going back to Bethlehem, there was no hesitation, no second-guessing. Ruth was the sort of friend who, if you called her, would be on the next flight. She wouldn’t screen her phone calls, or be text messaging someone else while listening to you. If you needed her, she’d clear her schedule.

Ruth was committed to Naomi. In the stages of grief, committed friends are very important. They are proactive. They don’t just say, “Call me if there’s anything I can do.” They give you something to look forward to. They invite you to lunch, they go on a walk with you, they phone. They might not be able to drop everything every time you need to talk, but they do arrange intentional times with you.

When people ask what the best thing anyone did for me, I tell them about my sister-in-law, Kathy Bowman. For the first month or two after Bruce died, she called me every weekday morning. She didn’t promise me she would, didn’t ask me if I wanted her to, she just did. Once I realized what she was doing, I looked forward to her calls. They were chatty and cheerful, just ordinary, and helped me remember what normal life was like. Committed companionship, someone you can depend on when life is undependable is a sign of a true friend.

A quick Facebook survey of widows I know showed that the sheer numbers of people attending the funeral of calling hours was very meaningful to them. Also, personal and thoughtful gifts and tangible help were very significant, like visits to the cemetery, invitations to go out to eat, and offering to stay to eat that casserole instead of just dropping it off. Attempts to maintain the friendship are very important to a widow.

Ruth was acquainted with grief. She was a survivor, too, and Naomi respected her for that. We don’t see her shocked, worried or angered about Naomi and the things she said and did. She didn’t get offended when Naomi told the village she came back empty. (Ruth 1:21) Perhaps they talked through some of the weirdness of grief, the ups and downs, the unexpected joys, the sudden cloudbursts of sorrow. It’s wonderful to have a friend who has grieved well, to whom you can freely discuss mysteries and the afterlife.

Most importantly, Ruth wanted to have the true God in her life, and she was following after Him. She had a higher priority than her own feelings. This enabled her to treat Naomi with grace, and not be easily offended when overlooked. She didn’t see herself as Naomi’s savior, aide or supporter. Only God could do that. Ruth came alongside Naomi to accompany her on the journey to God’s promised land.

Friends who are acquainted with grief, who will be available and committed to walk beside you on your journey to God, are gifts from above. And, like Ruth, young and foreign, they might be whom we would least expect."

Have you, too, found some unexpected friends in your life?
I'd love to hear about the special traits that make them a God-send to you. Please add your comment today.

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