Modern-age friendship and how we often settle for fabricated authenticity.

At a masquerade ball, your mask is the most important piece—and the more elaborate the better. Maybe you decorate it with velvet, gold trim, or even bright-colored feathers. You make it stand out, while at the same time, you hide behind it. Masquerades may seem like a thing of the past, but the truth is, many of us are walking through life, hiding our faces, so that the world never discovers who we really are. We just do it in a different way now.

Modern-age friendship looks like you holding a lighted screen. You click "accept" for a friend request and think you’re now a part of someone’s life. You know them by where they have traveled, the friends you have in common, or maybe what they do for a living. But do we really know them? Do they really know us? We filter our own photos to make ourselves look better and try to fabricate authenticity.

In my past, my friendships looked like that. In college, my friendships were more like, “let’s go to dinner” or “let’s go out.” I kept it surface level, always happy and smiling, never really opening up because I didn’t want to let anyone see the “messy stuff.” But then I met Dollie.

Dollie and I worked together at the University of Alabama’s Aquatics Center. I was a front desk attendant and she was a graduate assistant, and my boss. We both worked long hours to pay those college tuition bills, but Dollie’s main focus was on managing the pool lifeguards, so we didn’t spend much time together.

Then Dollie invited me to a dinner party at her apartment. That evening, her effortless hospitality made me feel so comfortable. When we gathered around the table to eat, she prayed over the food and for everyone there. It was the first time I had experienced a heartfelt prayer like that. Dollie’s relationship with God showed in her everyday life. I had grown up in church, but didn’t really see people living out their faith. But Dollie did, even as a young college student.

After dinner that evening and once the others left, Dollie opened up to me about a relationship she was in and invited me to talk about my own. She asked what I wanted to do with my career and seemed genuinely curious about my dreams. She was a good listener and had an incredible ability to make me feel special and known.

We did something that was completely countercultural: she took off her mask and that helped me take off mine. Because of that, we’ve been best friends for nine years now.

Taking off your mask and being vulnerable is hard, but a true friend can help you through dark times. At that point in my life, I was dealing with multiple rejections from men, financial strain, and deep family wounds that kept resurfacing. I was just starting to heal from a past relationship and stepping away from a friend group that I didn’t need to be in. I was also on the verge of failing out of school and wanted to change my major. To stay in and get the degree I wanted, I practically needed to redo my sophomore year and take fast-paced courses all summer.

Considering that my college advisor had no faith that I could get it done, I felt very discouraged. But when I told Dollie, she looked at me and said, “You are more than capable of getting the work done and turning this around. You need to work hard and when there is time to play, you can do that, but get the work done first.” She pulled me out of the pit of self-doubt and was able to spur me on to finish. Later, I graduated with a degree in marketing, just as I wanted.

Dollie and I are unlikely friends because of our backgrounds, but our different perspectives have helped us learn from each other. At the same time we’re growing closer together, I feel like we’re continuing to grow as individuals. It’s a blessing when a friendship builds you up to become more, not less, of yourself.

The most important thing any friend could do, Dollie did for me. She taught me the only solution to my problems was Jesus. She showed me what it meant to walk with him in faith. If it wasn’t for her bringing me to a life-giving church and prompting me through the Spirit to join a small group, I doubt I would have grown deeper in the most essential relationship I will ever have: my relationship with Jesus.

In Hebrews 10:24-25, we’re encouraged to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds and to not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encourage one another.”

Even back in biblical times, it seems there were people like you and me who were in the habit of isolating themselves. But Jesus knew how important deep, authentic relationships would be for us. They can change your life. Just like they have done for me.

No more masquerading. No more hiding.

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