What are the similarities between roses and friendships? Your first thought may be nothing—yet if you take the time to develop the idea a number of resemblances surface. Just as the beauty of the unfurling rose remains concealed until it is fully open, so often the loveliness of a friendship remains undiscovered until you create many memories. Since you have a busy schedule, you will probably not experience the same level of intimacy in each friendship you cultivate. Perhaps the visual image of a budding rose will help you understand the various phases of friendship and assist you in developing realistic friendship expectations.
PHASE ONE—THE GREEN BUD
As with the rose when it is wrapped in its green shroud, the knowledge of your friend is vague at Green Bud phase. You know who the person is and perhaps some basic information about her. Our wise heavenly Father brings a variety of temperaments together to sharpen one another in friendships (Proverbs 27:17). Sometimes the friends will be very similar; other times they will be very different. Regardless of the temperaments of the ladies, the Green Bud phase begins with respect for one another. Though one of the ladies will probably need to initiate the relationship, the other can demonstrate that she is available.
PHASE TWO—THE EMERGING BUD
It is always exciting to observe the green shroud slowly unfold to reveal the potential beauty of the rose petals; experience teaches that if you preempt the process by your unsolicited assistance the petals may emerge earlier, but often are damaged. The same is true in budding friendships—time and patience are necessary for the Green Bud phase to transition to the Emerging Bud phase. Characteristic of the Emerging Bud phase is knowing more about your friend, her interests, what she does and does not enjoy doing, perhaps some future goals, and a bit about her past. Essentially, you know not only who she is, but also what she is like. Though you may do things together, perhaps work together, talk about interests together, and occasionally ask one another for help, generally there is little commitment or much deep, intimate sharing.
PHASE THREE—THE UNFURLED ROSE
Given the proper climate and conditions, the Emerging Bud phase gently opens up to reveal the depth of the relationship distinctive of the Unfurled Rose phase. The true character of the friendship comes forth in this phase since you know your friend in greater depth due to the time committed and intimate sharing that has occurred. Characteristics of the Unfurled Rose phase is a variety of shared interests, with similar values; the friends assume mutual responsibility to keep the relationship on track and growing. Nourishment is characteristic of the Unfurled Rose phase. Verna Birkey writes in Women Connecting with Women, “Nourishment, then, is something that feeds my soul hunger so that life will be full, healthy and growing, instead of fainting and ebbing away.”1 Within this phase the ladies offer nourishment to one another through affirmation, spiritual and emotional encouragement, and, when necessary, admonition and reproof.
PHASE FOUR—THE FULL-BLOWN ROSE
The genuine charm of a rose is discovered when it is full-blown; likewise, the authenticity of a friendship is revealed in the Full-Blown phase of a relationship. Every now and then rose buds will start out healthy but will droop or their petals shatter before they reach their maximum potential; the same is true in friendships—all will not mature into the Full-Blown phase. However, those that do achieve this level of maturity enjoy the unique quality of commitment which is the foundation of the Full-Blown phase. You will certainly enjoy the continued benefits of the characteristics of the Green, Emerging, and the Unfurled Rose phases; but it is commitment that prompts you to endure with your friend when she is preoccupied, is experiencing difficulty, or has failed. It means "hanging in there" under all circumstances, and "staying with it" when the well of spontaneous affection seems nearly dry. Ultimately it is a commitment to your friend's highest good—regardless of personal cost. Love and reciprocal contribution encourage the Full-Blown phase to flourish (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). Warmth, communication of mutual concern and respect, and a willingness to accept one another demonstrate the presence of love. Each contributing to the maintenance of the relationship furthers its growth. Extending kindness to one another, forgiving one another (Ephesians 4:32), bearing with weaknesses and idiosyncrasies (Galatians 6:1-2), and reassuring one another will insure that there are no weeds in their Friendship Gardens.
Has your multi-tasking robbed you of the incredible blessings of cultivating healthy relationships? Regardless of your answer, may I encourage you to invest time, energy, and resources to either develop or nurture them? A profuse friendship garden will most likely come forth if you choose to do so!