Since talking about friendship is something we’ve been talking a lot about around our house, talking about this new book fits my thinking lately.
Christine Hoover’s Messy Beautiful Friendship is available today! Several months ago, I read a few blog posts she had written. I liked what she had to say about the Bible and friendship and her thoughtful style of writing, so I took a risk to volunteer to promote and write an honest blog about the book. (I did receive a free advance copy for being a part of her launch group.)
I read it twice. I read it first for me, but then read it a second time through the lens of a mother and teacher, testing Hoover’s words for applicability in other arenas.
My readers will like this book. It’s a valuable topic, and Hoover’s thoughts are biblical and clear. A lot of Christian books are true but boring, or interesting without depth. Hoover’s writing is both true and well spoken. I wasn’t surprised when I checked out her goodreads profile and saw the diversity of her reading habits. Being well read may not seem to be a big deal to some people, but it can result in a freshness of thought that is unbeatable when combined with a knowledge of Scripture. Hoover isn’t simply repeating [insert famous author] from a woman’s perspective.
Here are the major sections of the book:
- A New Vision for Friendship
- Threats to Friendship
- Discovering and Deepening Friendship
- Being a Friend
- Receiving Friendship
A few places that I particularly liked::
In A New Vision for Friendship, Hoover challenges a self-centered mindset of friendship that plagues even Christians. Instead of searching for the one friend to be all in all, or trying to be the one friend in all for all, Christians must recognize that, first, Christ is the perfect friend. People will fail us, and we will be disappointed if we expect a “true” friend to live up to a standard that only God can do. Second, friendship is an opportunity to love others, not primarily a way to serve ourselves. If we do not understand a biblical mindset of friendship, we will be chasing the wind. I like that she starts by defining friendship in biblical language and principles.
Threats to Friendship tackles fear, insecurity, discouragement, and a lack of knowhow as impediments to friendships. These probably aren’t the only threats, but they are certainly significant ones.
“If fear lies at the heart of our attempts at friendship, our interactions with other women will be drenched with insecurity. We will be entirely unable to handle conflict, we will lash out at anything that brushes against our old wounds, and we will be quick to retreat at the first whiff of difficulty…This may be the way worldly friendship goes, but it doesn’t resemble anything we see in Scripture” (page 54).
“Whether from self-consciousness or laziness, we simply don’t want to have to take the initiative with other women… Instead, we should want to be seekers. Initiative-takers.” (page 71).
Discovering and Deepening Friendship is about ways Christians can find friends. In a way, she is teaching the biblical art of hospitality in these chapters. She encourages responsible transparency (authentic friendship). Chapter 13, “Friend Magnet,” was the first place where I wished Hoover had taken more time to develop a section. She seems to communicate that making friends easily is simply a skill one can be better or worse at. I didn’t see the nuance where different personalities have different styles of friendships with different strengths and weaknesses. For example, how does an introvert develop friends differently than an extrovert, and what can we learn from each style? I loved her thought about using one’s social gifts to bring new friends together. I’ve seen some of my social friends excel in this skill, and I’ve seen how it blesses the body of Christ. This idea is worth developing more.
“…Part of honoring others is connecting others. There is a special kind of joy in connecting two women we think will hit it off or who share a story, interest, or life circumstance. We don’t have to be everyone’s bestie, and just because we’ve included someone doesn’t mean we have to become their intimate friend. We can help foster community among women by being a bridge between them” (page 114).
I also like her suggestion that we take the time to list (or name) the different friends God has brought into our lives at a given moment. We have different types of friendships that we sometimes forget about, or undervalue, until we take inventory and realize that God has given us each friend for a reason.
“Naming [our friends] is simply a marker for stewardship. What relationships are priorities for me in this season of life, and how can I invest well in those? Am I stewarding well the friendships God has given me?” (page 118)
Finally, I appreciated her discussion on giving and receiving throughout the book, and the reminders that Christ is our Savior, not any person. We do not need to become junior messiahs for our friends, and our friends cannot be junior messiahs for us! (Hat tip: Bob Needham!) We don’t have to solve our friends’ problems to be good friends. Far more often than solving problems, we can be listening, praying, and helping.
Yes, this would be a great book for discussion or a book club! In fact, this book is perhaps best read in community, because of the richness different cultures, personalities, and life seasons bring to a group.
Would it be good for kids? This is a little more tricky. The content is sound, and biblical principles are inherently universal and diverse, transcending personality, age, and station in life. However, the examples and stories Hoover tells are of adult women, so teens may not be especially drawn to the content. At the same time, the topic itself, the book organization, and the study questions are all relevant to a wider audience. I hope she’ll consider a young readers edition in the future.
Here’s an Amazon link if you’d like to buy one!