It was pouring rain, and my hands were full as I stumbled into the room. The last thing on my mind was meeting and greeting the other writers at the wine-tasting reception. I plopped into the first free chair, muttering unpleasant things under my breath, when she looked up and smiled. I half-smiled back and looked away. I was leaving the city in less than five days and didn't have the energy or time to make a new friend.

The next afternoon, we ended up in the same small group, waiting outside the classroom for the teacher to arrive.

"Have you been to this workshop?" she asked. She was slight of frame and freckle-faced, and had the air of being both warm and cautious.

In better spirits today, I entered the conversation. "No, I actually had never heard of it till a few weeks before I arrived in Paris, but decided since I'd be here I might as well check it out."

"I heard about it from my writer's group in Geneva. It's supposed to be wonderful."

"Is that where you live?" I asked.

"No, I'm actually from Australia, but I've been doing research in Europe all summer."

"Oh, on what?"

"It might sound odd, but I'm fascinated with this Catholic saint named Therese of Lisieux. I'm writing my doctoral thesis on her."

It was the last thing I expected her to say as we stood amid poets, novelists, and memoir writers who had all come to Paris to attend the renowned workshop.

"Hi, I'm Ruby."

Ruby and I soon discovered our mutual interests in the art of spiritual direction, and our experiences within the Catholic Church. Then the teacher showed up and we vowed to try and continue our discussion before the week ended. We didn't see one another again till the last day. On impulse, we decided to skip that afternoon session for a long uninterrupted lunch together.

Ruby and I had so much in common, it was eerie. We could have talked for hours as though we were old college girlfriends. There was no question we would exchange information and really hoped to remain in touch. But we also simply had not had enough time together to pretend that a long-distance friendship would follow suit. And yet, it was an enriching couple of hours in which we both felt met by God in one another's presence. In sharing the gifts and the challenges of our current life stages, we both felt seen anew and reaffirmed in our unique strengths and passions.

Two weeks after my encounter with Ruby, I read an article in The New York Times about the challenge of making friends after age 30. The writer, Alex Williams, makes several valid points about the difficulty various life seasons can bring to how we cultivate new friendships and maintain old ones. But though I could relate to a number of his points, I didn't agree with his rather depressing conclusion, that "No matter how many friends you make … the period for making BFFs, the way you did in your teens or early 20s, is pretty much over. It's time to resign yourself to situational friends: K.O.F.'s (kind of friends)—for now."

Yes, the challenge of nurturing friendships when folks move away, couple up, or have babies can be frustrating and at times painful. But as a busy woman in my 30s, I am not looking for the kinds of friendships I had in college or in my 20s, anyway. I am not looking to make new BFFs. I am more invested in the hard work of deepening the old friendships that have seen me through the awkward and beautiful seasons of life. Meeting Ruby is one example of how I am learning to embrace the reality of a shrinking community of friends with the ongoing appreciation that I will probably continue to meet people I'd love to befriend if I had multiple lifetimes. But the reality is, I have just this one. And in this lifetime, I have learned that long-term friendships do require time and effort and commitment.

Long-term friendships take not just the work of making time to see one another, but also the work of choosing to communicate clearly and honestly, to extend grace and room when necessary. When you've been friends with someone for a long time, you learn that sometimes friendship means weathering the seemingly unfair contexts where you are giving more than you receive, or are taking more than you can give. Part of faithful friendship is knowing when to allow for space, and making peace with the varied roles that different relationships can and should play in our lives.

In truth, my "Best Friend Forever" is really a conglomerate of amazing friends who nourish my life in essential ways. This is not to deny the difficulties of friendships. Through at times uncomfortable experiences, I've realized that some friendships are seasonal, and I continually seek to discern when that is the case. Like anything else, if we try to grasp onto something beyond its season, we often do more harm than good. Certain friendships fall into this category. And as I reflect more and more, I realize I desire to be viewed as one of a handful of deep friends within my social community. I could not bear the unrealistic burden of being any one's sole BFF.

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Whether 2 or 12 people, whether for one afternoon or 10 years, the most significant part of this entire discussion is how Friendship can orient our lives toward God and one another across a spectrum of relationships. I read John 15 and have to acknowledge the claims friendship makes on us and on God. The disciples were the people Jesus called friends, and whom he sent out to extend and receive friendship in a broken world.

We all need people in our lives who help point us toward Christ, and toward living into the fullness of whom God has created us to be. More times than not, the issue at hand is not whether you continue to make new BFFs, but rather how we open our lives, our schedules, and our imaginations to call all varieties of people "friend" as God calls us the same.