When I was in seventh grade, my best friend, Chloe, and I made some grand promises to each other: Moving to a new city together, buying houses on the same street, following the same career path, and being in each other’s weddings.
Now, 15 years later, I have no idea what she’s up to. I think she got married and bought a house, but I wasn’t there to witness any major life milestones. It makes me a little sad to think about the friendships of mine that didn't last. At 12, I genuinely believed Chloe and I would know each other forever. What I didn’t realize then is that most of us will have friends come and go throughout our lives.
As I write this today, though, I’m grateful that many of the friendships I made in college—most notably the ones I made through InterVarsity— have survived life’s inevitable transitions.
Fact: Prayer Works
The summer after my sophomore year of college, I prayed to God for a community of friends. My time thus far in college had been dull and I knew something seriously important was lacking in my life. So I asked him to send people who could fill the void.
Shortly after that prayer, I got plugged into InterVarsity on campus and made a ton of new friends. Two years later I was nearing graduation and noticed that I’d become particularly close to about six of my InterVarsity friends. It wasn't hard to imagine us being entangled in each other’s lives for a long time.
And we very much were. Throughout our friendship, we helped each other get through the confusing years after college, the pandemic, relationship troubles, moments of spiritual confusion and doubt, and so much more. Even though I live 1,000 miles away from them now, I know that they’re never more than a phone call (or plane ride) away. They’ve visited me in Wisconsin, and I’ve visited them back in Florida. We keep each other updated, and whenever I’m home, I’ll join them for their weekly Bible studies.
Elisabet was one of them. I met her in my LaFe small group and we formed a friendship that led us to move to a new city and to new jobs together our first year out of college. That year wasn’t easy for me, and I’m sure I would've completely melted into a puddle of my own stress, confusion, and loneliness had it not been for Elisabet. Whether it was through agreeing to watch hours of reality TV with me, exploring quaint nearby towns together, or just staying up late painting each other’s nails and talking about work, our goals, our opinions, life, and Jesus, God used Elisabet to help me stay sane.
This year, I got to see Elisabet and Deric, another friend from our group, get married. Not only was I happy for them and their future together, but I felt incredibly lucky to be a part of their story and to witness such a milestone in their lives. We watched our group progress from strangers to acquaintances to lifelong friends. That wedding reminded me once more of how faithful God was (and continues to be) in answering my prayer.
Fact: Heaven Broke Through in North Florida
I came to InterVarsity at a very uncertain point in my life, feeling skeptical about hanging out with Christians after having grown up in church. I didn’t see how “religious” people could teach me anything I didn’t already know.
My first Chapter Camp showed me just how wrong I was.
We spent a week in the North Florida woods, feasting on good food, swinging from trees, kayaking in a lake with (one or two) gators, staying up late, hiking, swimming, worshipping, laughing. And somewhere in all that joy and excitement and life, I had an epiphany: This was happiness!
It was like I was stumbling onto some best-kept secret, some revelation that this was what life was really about. That week, we were a real community, akin to something from Acts 2. I truly believe we were living as God always meant for us to live.
Don’t get me wrong — things weren’t perfect. We weren’t really in heaven after all. There was still conflict, arguments, tension, sickness, not to mention I almost broke my nose during a 30-person game of soccer. But maybe that made it even better?
This community of friends was different from anything I’d experienced before. We talked about the hard things, knowing they weren’t friendship dealbreakers. We respected each other enough to address conflict and work toward reconciliation. We took care of sick friends, checked in on each other, included each other.
And when my bloody nose turned the soccer field into a veritable crime scene, my friends walked me all the way to the nurse, helped me get the blood out of my clothes, and tried their hardest to make me laugh. I sat there trying to recover not from physical pain, but from the embarrassment of my very public header gone wrong. One friend assured me that I didn’t need to be embarrassed. And she was right. There was a closeness between us that made everything okay. A closeness that lasted far beyond Chapter Camp. A closeness built on the fact that we agreed to be there for each other and never take this beautiful gift of community for granted.
Fiction: Friendships Only Matter if They Last
Truth be told, I’m not in contact with every single person I was once close with in InterVarsity.
But I think that’s okay — and realistic. Back then, I must have had 40 friends I could text at any given moment. Invitations to study or hang out were constantly on the table. It was awesome. I guess that’s the rough news about leaving college: it’s one of the greatest environments for friendships to flourish abundantly, but when you’re out of it, you’re really out of it.
The good news, though? Since I’ve graduated, I’ve made even more friends through InterVarsity that I can see sticking around for a while. God has continued blessing me with relationships that have added immense joy to my life. So my circle is a little smaller now. It includes my relatively new friends and my six older friends who I can text whenever I want... and I’m extremely grateful for all of them.
In fact, whether we still talk or not, I'm grateful for every single friend I made in InterVarsity. We share a bond deeper than just having attended the same college. And when we all reunite in heaven, it’ll be even better and even more beautiful than ever!
Tips on Pursuing Lifelong Friendships
I’m not an expert in relationships. I also haven’t made it to the end of my life to know whether my InterVarsity friendships will make it all the way (I believe and hope they will). Still, I wanted to share what’s helped me over the years:
1. Be intentional
“Being intentional” has almost become cliché. But it still rings true. Change is inevitable, and friendships are hard to maintain with distance and busy schedules. If you live really far from friends, make relatively small and attainable goals. I have a friend who I visit once a year. That time is extremely special, and we make the most of it. It’s enough to maintain the friendship and still be a part of each other’s lives in a meaningful way.
2. Don’t take gaps of communication too personally
Unread messages and missed calls can eat away at you. But try to give your friends the benefit of the doubt. We all go through seasons where we’re balancing a lot. Things get overwhelming and communication with friends can suffer because of it, but just try to hang in there!
3. Center God
One great way to maintain friendships is to incorporate your faith. Start a small group Bible study. Organize worship nights. Go through a book or devotional together. Have those classic accountability partners. When you center God in your friendships, they often become stronger and more spiritually fulfilling.
Emily Baez is a writer on InterVarsity’s Communications Team in Madison, Wisconsin. She enjoys long hikes, watching movies, and overly competitive game nights with friends. You can support her ministry at donate.intervarsity.org/donate#22836.