I was a tomboy growing up, so most of my friends were guys. It wasn't until I became a speaker for the Women of Faith conferences—along with Barbara Johnson, Patsy Clairmont, Thelma Wells, Marilyn Meberg, and Luci Swindoll—that I finally gained the kind of deep female friendships for which I'd secretly longed.
After years of traveling and sharing a stage together, we've all become close friends. And I've learned valuable lessons from these dynamic women of God.
Luci taught me to celebrate life's little moments. For example, when we arrived early at one of the Women of Faith conferences to familiarize ourselves with our new stage set-up, nothing was ready. Everyone—except Luci—stared at one another, not sure what to do. But Luci said, "Let's have a party! Let's make coffee, talk, and sing songs." What could have been a lost day turned out to be awesome—thanks to Luci.
Barbara's an amazing conduit of God's love. She's a great listener. When people are hurting, she just listens and weeps with them—a stark contrast to how I've handled hurting people in the past. Now, thanks to Barbara's example, I've learned to shut up and listen when others are in pain.
Thelma's a prime example of the "what you take in is what you give out" theory. I used to wonder how Thelma always has the right Scripture verse to share at the right moment. Then I realized she's never without her Bible. She's always taking in biblical truths, so she always has them to give.
Patsy taught me to tune in to others around me. Although she's spunky onstage, she's introspective off. But even while she's quiet, she's paying attention to others. Patsy's the most physically fragile of us all, yet she'll come over to massage my shoulders and say, "You've got a headache, don't you?" She looks past her pain to attend to yours.
Marilyn's a beautiful example of unconditional love. No matter what I've done, she still loves me. I feel so safe with her. At one point I was going through a tough time—my mother-in-law was slowly dying. But when my husband was distracted by his mom's ill health and everything else in my life was going crazy, I could unload on Marilyn. I desire to offer that kind of love and support to others.
I realize now I need these dear friends to help me become the kind of woman I want to be. It won't happen on my own. I'll always have solitary tendencies, especially when the depression that plagued me years ago tries to creep back into my life. While my first reaction is to pull away from others, now I have a group of friends who constantly check in with me. What a privilege!
as told to Camerin Courtney, SHEILA WALSH is the author of The Shelter of God's Promises.
1999 by the author or Christianity Today/Today's Christian Woman magazine.