I always like to know a little something about an author before I sit down and open up his or her book. Today I’m excited to share about Christine Hoover’s new book, Messy Beautiful Friendship: Finding and Nurturing Deep and Lasting Relationships. Christine opens the door and welcomes us all to richer, deeper, and more meaningful relationships. She writes with wisdom, understanding, vulnerability, and profound insight as she unpacks the brokenness and beauty of relationships among women. This book is a must read for anyone hoping to build healthy and God-centered friendships in their lives.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Thank you for having me, Melissa! My name is Christine Hoover. I’m married to Kyle, who is the pastor of Charlottesville (Virginia) Community Church, a church we planted in 2008 after relocating from our beloved Texas. As a pastor’s wife, I enjoy a front-row seat to all God is doing in our community, and I participate in the work through discipleship, teaching, and hospitality. Kyle and I have three boys, who are 13, 11, and 9.
In addition to family and local church ministry, I’m a writer. I’ve written several books, including The Church Planting Wife and From Good to Grace, and my work has appeared on The Gospel Coalition, Desiring God, and For The Church. I particularly enjoy encouraging pastor’s wives and writing about the beauty of God’s grace, which I do often on my blog.
What led you to write Messy Beautiful Friendship?
I’ve lost count of the number of conversations I’ve had with women who are struggling to make friends, navigate hurt in friendship, or who are puzzled as how to take surface relationships deeper. Many women have given up on friendship entirely, suffering in isolation or insecurity, because they assume they’re the only ones who find friendship difficult to discover and deepen. I keep hearing a similar refrain: women hold ideals of friendship in their heads and are frustrated that they can’t attain that ideal, so they’ve become jaded.
So I decided to write about it. I wanted to address the messiness, the conflict, but also the joys of being in relationship with other women, even and especially through the messiness. I want women to know they’re not the only ones, that all of us struggle with friendship at some level.
The truth is that I have found friendship to be challenging. As a pastor’s wife, there has been an added layer of complexity for me that I’ve often wielded as an excuse. When we planted our church, I decided that I was done with my excuses and began to intentionally pursue friendships. This book is the overflow of what God has taught me in my personal life and through His Word regarding the “one anothers.”
What’s the central message you hope readers will take away from your book?
In our belief that friendship should somehow be effortless or completely organic, we often hinder ourselves from experiencing the very relationships we long for. We also are prone to pressurizing our desire for belonging, where people become outsized and God’s constant friendship is undervalued.
I want readers to recognize the ways they hinder themselves. I want them to know that friendship is, in fact, not effortless and not without challenges; it’s built upon perseverance and a willingness to bear with one another in all things. As Christians, we can continually take risks of vulnerability, initiation, and sacrificial love because we’re safe in the love and friendship of Christ. The goal and end of friendship is to secure ourselves to the sure, steadfast anchor of Christ and, while holding to that anchor, give and receive the gift of friendship as he gives us opportunity.
How has writing this book affected your own life?
As I was writing this book, I experienced several friendship losses. My friend and mentor died of breast cancer. One close friend moved away, and another told me that she soon would. I noticed a tightening of fear within me, a sort of panic that I might possibly lose all the friendships I’ve worked so hard to cultivate. I fear experiencing relational pain, because I’ve already experienced too much of it already, and I tend to fear being hurt again, even if it’s through the pain of change or loss.
Writing Messy Beautiful Friendship gave me the opportunity to think about friendship and what makes it distinctly Christian. In doing so, I realized how much friendship and longing go hand in hand. I don’t mean just longing for a friend when you aren’t sure you have any. I mean a longing for perfect community, one unmarred by separation, death, and sin. This is really a longing for heaven.
In my desire for relational stasis and security, I was turning to fear. Longing is wrong if it leads to idolatry of others, which leads further to control, manipulation, anger, or isolation. Longing is wrong when we corral it in the shapes of unrealistic wish-dreams and demand God’s submission to our desires.
But longing that seeks its end in the final redemption? This is a beautiful and freeing kind of longing, a longing to be embraced, because it turns our eyes pleadingly toward Christ’s return. It seems, then, that God himself has implanted our longing, that our sense of incomplete friendship is a catalyst that leads us to anticipate a world beyond what we can now see and experience and friendships beyond what we can now see and experience. This right longing also underlies our ability to receive friendship—and this is so very important—because then we’re able to embrace present imperfections as gifts.
Here are some quotes from Messy Beautiful Friendship:
I want the sugary sweet, easy-come community where we flit into one another’s home without knocking, laugh deep into the night, know one another and are known without effort, and never exchange a cross or challenging word. I typically envision dinner parties and game nights, vacationing together and talking on the phone every day.
It seems this is a common idea of what Christian community should be. It seems that to let it go is to let go of a right and good dream, a biblical dream of unity and community. But in reality, our wish-dreams have little to do with God and his kingdom and everything to do with us and ours. God gives us relationships that are enjoyable and a blessing but also sanctify us and challenge us out of our selfishness, because he intends to get the glory from our friendships. Our wish-dreams encourage us to seek our own glory and satisfaction in friendships that are safe, easy, comfortable and self-serving.
Isn’t this what true biblical friendship is about: being willing to love, forgive, and bear with those we might not necessarily always understand? And being willing to confess sin, inadvertent or not, and receive the grace that helps us grow? This is certainly more what it’s about than dinner parties and game nights. Biblical friendship is what helps us grow; it sharpens us just as we are used by God to sharpen others.
Friendship is a happy by-product of being more concerned with others than ourselves.
Here’s what others are saying about Messy Beautiful Friendship:
“Christine Hoover has written a book about friendship that will minister to you no matter what season of life you are in and no matter what your current perspective on friendship may be.”— Gloria Furman, author of Alive in Him
“Christine Hoover has written a book for all of us who find ourselves where we do not want to be and never envisioned we would be. Messy Beautiful Friendship is a book on how to be a friend and how to make them, how to keep them and how to keep from worshipping them. This is a book for every woman who has said to me, ‘I feel so alone,’ including myself. Christine, in an act of friendship toward her readers, makes us laugh, listen, and see ourselves on every page and challenges us to see Christ as our greatest joy-bringing relationship.” — Lore Ferguson Wilbert, author and speaker
“Everyone who is a friend or who desires meaningful friendship should read this book! As one who has struggled with the messiness and beauty of finding and maintaining friendship, I found this book so helpful.”— Kristie Anyabwile, pastor’s wife, mom, writer/speaker
Messy Beautiful Friendship released on April 18, 2017. You can read more from Christine at her blog, Grace Covers Me.