Some nights, after my husband has fallen asleep, I like to crawl out of bed and curl up on my couch. Looking out our patio doors, I’m drawn in by the dark shadows of the mountains, scattered with the twinkling lights of quiet neighborhoods. It’s mesmerizing, like the flickering light of a campfire. This is my favorite part of the day – or night, really. In the dark, the air is still and it seems like it is easier to hear my own thoughts. No TV, no talking, no phones, no kitchen appliances, and I definitely have no desire to get up and do chores. I can sit quietly and draw on deeper thoughts or enter in uninterrupted silent worship and prayer.
Ongoing thoughts regarding friendship are what drew me out of bed tonight. For me, this subject comes with a wide variety of emotions. I envy women who have had soul-sister friends since they were in grade school, or even since college. The depth of such a friendship is something I can only dream about. If you have a “soul sister” that has been decades in the making, consider yourself very fortunate! On the other hand, we can bare our hearts to someone, only to have them walk over it eventually. All relationships have the potential for pain, but I suppose we subconsciously believe friendships are exempt from pain.
I am very fortunate to have several ladies in my life I consider good friends, and I appreciate every moment I have with them. Also, I love meeting new people and forging new relationships. Just today, I received a text from a lady in my church who wanted to know if I could meet for coffee at the last minute – just for fun. Even though I was trying to not eat today (especially junk food), I was happy to go. On the way to the restaurant, I had to chuckle to myself that I am never going to lose weight because I keep meeting friends for coffee, lunch, dinner….so I’ve decided that my extra pounds are proof that I have lots of great friends! I shared this revelation with the lady I met for cake and coffee, and we had a good chuckle over it. Sometimes you need to forget about the vanity and just eat the cake!
“SOUL-SISTER” VS “CURB-APPEAL” FRIENDS
Friendships are all different. Some closer than others. The “soul-sister” type friendship is very rare – and should be. It requires the revealing of the most tender parts of our lives. It has the potential for the greatest joy and connection, yet also the greatest pain if ever betrayed or rejected. Today, as we devoured our cake unashamedly, we shared our experiences with friendships. Both of us had some difficult situations in the past that had left us, well, I’d say: cautious in regards to new friendships. Speaking in generalities, it was obvious there was still some wounding for each of us as of result disappointments but also wonderful lessons in our individual value and learning to lean on the Father more than we lean on other people.
None of us are blameless in our relationships. I have let other people down as well. We can’t get around disappointing others. Some handle it better than others. There are some of us who come into relationships eager for intimacy and carelessly share the deepest part of who we are – warts and all; only to discover that not everyone wants to know us on that level – or, we find out – (as the police tell you if you get in trouble), “anything you say can, and will be, used against you”, but this time our vulnerabilities can be exposed in the court of public opinion and judgment. It’s hard to experience rejection or betrayal by those we bear our hearts to.
Once you’ve been burned a few times in relationships, especially with friends, it can be difficult to gauge how to have a genuine friendship while protecting your heart. As a result, we resort to “curb appeal” relationships. You know what I mean, friendships that stay at the level of smiles, giggles, and safe conversations; dodging any questions that might splatter the reality of our broken or messy heart. There is a place for this as well. Age reveals the wisdom of discretion. It’s hard to know where balance is. It can only be discovered through trial and error, which can be fairly painful. Both “soul sister” and “curb appeal” friendships are necessary.
As we age we gather lots of baggage. Friends from youth grow with that baggage and they don’t have to talk about it much because they understand it – and each other. Yet as we grow older and meet new people, developing new friendships means opening up our baggage in order to give them a picture of who we are. That can be scary for both parties. Basically, we are judging new prospects for friends on the scale of who has the most baggage, and on which side of the scales we land.
CHRISTIAN VS. NON-CHRISTIAN FRIENDSHIPS
I have the pleasure of having friends with a variety of backgrounds. Some are Christians, others are not. While I share a depth and connection spiritually with my Christian friends that I wouldn’t trade for anything, ironically, my non-Christian friends are so much easier to laugh with. Granted, there is not much depth to our friendship, as it stays at the level of work, parenting, food, entertainment, etc, but at least we laugh and have a good time. When baggage is shared with non-Christian friends, we make our comments and exclamations and then, boom, done, over, on to the next thing. No judgment. No hashing it out. It is what it is. With Christians, everything is so serious and I personally have always felt compelled, even obligated, to share my life story including the deepest, darkest struggles. It was like it was my duty to lay out all my imperfections, and the imperfections of everyone close to me, so that I could be subject to the scrutiny, advice, and judgment of other Believers. I have no idea why I subconsciously felt this way. I had no filter and no understanding of discretion.
GOD AS FRIEND
Thankfully, the last few months, I have been able to enjoy the presence of my friends without feeling compelled to share every defect in my life. Now, I sit up late at night and talk to my Father about my thoughts and struggles, but even that has decreased signficantly because He is teaching me to just enjoy His presence and be thankful. The past is quickly growing “strangely dim” and the present pain is like a shadow. Every day I am overwhelmed with the fact that He loves me so much, the way I am. And, honestly, that is what compels me to no longer focus on my defects, or on the flaws of those around me. I am so consumed with the Father’s love for me, that I can enjoy a friendship without knowing their most intimate secrets, and I don’t have to feel obligated to share all mine. Really – those things don’t matter. Friendships should be fun instead of serious all the time. Oh, it’s nice to get to the point where there are moments of sharing tough stuff, but, for Christians, I think we focus so much on our tough stuff that we forget to have fun. I know I did.
Instead, I draw on the joy and happiness of constant worship and sitting in the Father’s presence. It may sound trivial, but purposely staying in the presence of the Father has made Him my primary friend, leaving me much more to offer my other relationships. Interesting how when I give all to the Father, I end up with more to give the people in my life than I had before. God as Friend, enables me to know how to have better friendships.