Do you have a Paul? What about a Timothy or a Barnabas? They don't have these actual names (although it would be freakin' cool if they did!); it's the relationships I'm talking about.
The references come from the New Testament, and these people are typically not related to you, although they can be at times.
Your Paul is your mentor. Someone you can trust, someone you know will give you honest advice when you need to hear it (usually when you don't want to hear it), someone you can always go to for help. She's the one who steps in when your life isn't going so great, and maybe you can't even see it, but she can, and she's been there, and she loves you, and helps you.
Your Barnabas is your friend. Your buddy. Someone you walk with, share life with. She helps you. You help her. You cry on each others' shoulders. You laugh until milk (or red wine) comes out of your noses. You freak out and take your kids to her with a 15 minute heads-up, only because that's how long it takes to drive to her house. She shows up on your doorstep, a mess, leaves her kids with you, and goes to Starbucks for two hours. Or Mexico. And you're delighted that you could help out in some way. You hold each other accountable without malice or judgment.
Your Timothy is the person you mentor. Usually younger than you, but not always. She calls you and asks for child training tips. She has a fight with her husband (or sister, mother, daughter, son, whoever) and calls you in tears, asking how to fix it. You give her the honest advice she might now want to hear, and you do it with love. You step in and take over once in a blue moon, and you have the trust between you that you can say, 'I don't think you can see this in your life right now, but it isn't healthy, and I'm worried about you. Here's where we can start.'
I've been blessed by more than one each of the above. And I've found that sometimes, most times, the lines merge, and your Barnabas becomes your mentor for a brief time, or your Timothy is your best friends for a while.
Pace is my all-the-way-Paul. Pace is our pastor's wife, expecting baby #7 in the next few days. I wouldn't say that she and I are buddies, but we are friends. Pace is well-read, and wise, and answers my theological questions, and patiently gives me advice for dealing with Evelyn's temper, or Sam's disposition. Other than church I might not talk to her more than once or twice a month, but she is invaluable to me.
I have been blessed with several Barnabas'. Sarah and Margaret are my two BFFs from high school. They are true, dyed-in-the-wool friends. I'm the only one with kids (hey, Sarah, hurry up already!!!!), but we're all married to wonderful, godly men, and we have similar over-all goals for our lives. And we all love the Astros, even when the Astros suck. We call each other and chat, we have Girls' Night once or twice a year, we give and get advice, and we love each other unconditionally. (And Sarah just moved away, and Marg and I are sad. But we're going to visit her this spring.) I love these women like you don't even know.
Becky and Kristie are two more close friends. Each is a true Barnabas. But each has been married longer than John and I, and they both have children older than mine. Kristie's oldest is 10 (her youngest is a pinch older than David), and Becky's oldest is 14 (her youngest is a pinch younger than David). Kristie took my kids without a single second hesitation the day I started to miscarry, and was a shoulder to lean on. She helped me immensely in the months following, because she's been there before. She is occasionally a Paul, too, when it comes to marriage, and keeping my house, and teaching my children.
Becky is amazing, too. Becky is a peer, in that we have very similar personalities. We both would rather spend 4 hours in the mud with our kids than wipe down our kitchen counters, or do laundry. We have a 5-minute (ok, 20-minute) chat every morning, and ask how our goals for the previous day turned out, and share our goals for the day ahead. More than once, after I've put the kids to bed, I've thought, 'Ahh, now I can plant my butt on the couch now and curl up with that book I'm reading. Oh! Crap! I told Becky I was going to clean off all the surfaces in my bedroom today, and fold an extra load of laundry. I'd better get that done, so when I talk to her in the morning, I can tell her I did it.' It's a wonderful system. I love it.
Here's another really, really important aspect to having a Barnabas like Becky. A few weeks ago, I did something incredibly stupid, and I lied to John. And promptly got caught. It was the first time I'd ever lied to him, and I felt horrible. Worse than I've ever felt before. It was awful. (I'm not talking infidelity or anything like that, just me being stupid.) I didn't want to tell anyone about it, because I was so embarrassed, and ashamed, but I knew I needed to talk to someone and get some advice. I called Becky. Being the wonderful friend she is, she listened patiently to my tearful confession, asked me questions, and thought it over.
Then she called my a dumb ass. And told me I'm an idiot.
Properly chastened, I could do nothing more than agree with her. Because she was right, and I needed to hear it. She told me stop making excuses, buck it up, and own up to what I had done. Becky's been married twice as long as I have, and knows all about that communication stuff a husband and wife are supposed to do. Which, in this case, was me swallowing my (very stupid) pride and begging forgiveness from the single most amazing and important person in my life, my wonderful husband. We talked for quite a while.
Then she told me that this couldn't wait another night, and that this is a talk John and I needed to have without our kids running in and out of the room the whole time. And she told me that she would meet me at Chili's in 20 minutes when we went to pick up John, and take my kids to spend the night at her house.
You need a friend like this in your life. And you need to make a point to be a friend like this, too.
I don't think I have a specific Timothy at the moment. I have friends that come to me for help in certain areas, like cooking or budgeting. My friend Tana called me the other evening, and I finally heard those eight wonderful words I've been waiting my whole adult life to hear:
"Brea, will you teach me how to bake?"
Ha ha ha! I kid (mostly), but my friends do come to me for advice in areas that are my strengths, some friends more than others. And your relationships with your friends are constantly changing, and some seasons they'll be your Timothy, and some will be your Barnabas, and some will even be your Paul.
These friendships don't just happen; like all good things in life, they take work. Some people make friends faster, or more easily, than others; some people really have to put forth the effort. Me? I'm a mix. Being friends with Sarah and Becky is like breathing. It comes easily and naturally and seems like it's always been there. I've really had to work at my relationships with Kristie and Pace, but I'm incredibly grateful that each of these women is a part of my life.
So. Do you have friendships like these?
(ps-John and I are good now. No worries, we're actually better in a lot of ways than before it happened. And in case I haven't mentioned it before, communication is a good thing!!!)