by Joanie Butman
Last year my childhood friends and I visited Nashville to celebrate our new title as sexagenarians. Believe me, it’s not as suggestive as it sounds. Based on conversations with my peers, I’ve decided that title was created by an overly optimistic, newly retired male, with vastly different ideas than his wife as to how he was going to fill his day. Either that or it’s some kind of cosmic joke.
Regardless, we had so much fun on our trip down south that we decided to make it an annual event, visiting a new site each year. We are in Newport, Rhode Island this weekend. While in Nashville people repeatedly referred to us as Red Hatters even though the cowboy hats we wore were pink. Confused, I did some research and discovered The Red Hat Society* honoring women over 50. Clearly, we were a decade late to the game. Who knew there’s actually a society for those of us entering the invisible years. No longer is growing old something to dread but a privilege to be celebrated and embraced in fellowship with other women. Their motto is We’re Not Done Yet!
Truth be told, my crew has been celebrating our friendship since elementary school where we christened ourselves The Insuranettes. Our name was born out of sheer boredom on one of the hundreds of afternoons we loitered on the stoop of the insurance company around the corner from our school in Brooklyn. Though the name came much later, the friendship was conceived in first grade. Some joined in second grade, some even later, and I can’t actually remember when the eight of us solidified as a definitive group. All I know is that this group of eight girls, then tweens, then young women, and now middle-aged women, came of age together and continue to do so. We went through all our ‘firsts’ together--our first kiss, first date, etc. Now it's our first pair of orthotic shoes and elastic waistbands. We’ve ridden the rollercoaster of life together watching each other graduate, marry, divorce, marry again, give birth, tackle health challenges, anguish over our families, bury spouses, parents and siblings, along with any other number of life events.
The best thing about having life-long friends is that you never forget your roots. Regardless of the diverging paths we’ve taken, when we get together we are in every respect the same young girls who composed our theme song and proudly christened ourselves The Insuranettes. There is nothing safer than being in a relationship with someone who knows EVERYTHING about you yet still remains a loyal friend. There’s a certain freedom to be yourself that comes easily and naturally, which is why, even though we do not see each other on a daily basis, we slip back into our camaraderie like one might slip into a pair of their favorite jeans, old and worn but comfortable because they fit just right.
That description epitomizes the eternal friendship I enjoy with my BFF – Jesus. While I’m blessed to have good friends, He alone deserves that title. He truly knows everything about me, yet loves me unconditionally. He goes even further by inviting me into a deep, intimate, eternal friendship like no other. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends…I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:13-16)
At 50 The Insuranettes bought infinity jewelry to mark our entry into middle-age. The infinity signifies the lasting nature of our friendship. The cross I choose to wear does the same. It is a reminder of what Jesus suffered on my behalf and the glorious blessing I’ve been given to be called His friend. There’s no doubt that choosing your friends will be one of the most important choices you make in life. Why? W. Clement Stone explains, “Be careful of the environment you choose for it will shape you; be careful the friends you choose for you will become like them."
The decision to accept Christ’s invitation into a divine friendship was indeed the most important decision of my life, and one of the rare instances where I definitely made a wise choice. I just wish I had done it earlier because it did (and continues to) shape me. Isn’t the goal of every Christian to become more Christ-like? To shine His light into a dark world? Unlike The Insuranettes, I need daily visits with Christ if I hope to become an image bearer of His love. That transformation is a life-long journey with my BFF by my side. Like the Red Hatters, I’m not done yet either and neither is God.
*Red Hat Society® began with the gift of a red hat and has grown into a universal symbol for women around the globe as they victoriously celebrate turning 50 and entering into the next phase of their lives. Its main purpose is to provide women with opportunities for pleasant social interaction, both for reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.