Friendship has always been a strange concept for me. Growing up I did not have a lot of friends but I did have very close friends for seasons and then there was always the kids on the block. I had a very close friend, Tammy who was the daughter of my parent’s closest friends. We were friends from kindergarten through 3rd grade then she just kind of dropped away as her parents did eventually as well. I then became best friends with Jill, the granddaughter of my neighbor from 3rd grade through 5th grade. Both of these gals were two years older than me. My bestest of best friends Kristen and I were inseparable from 6th-7th (then a slight falling out) and 7th-8th until she moved away to Hawaii in the 9th grade. In the 10th grade I met Diana and we were really close until the last few months of our senior year. Post high school my only close friends were the men in my life and that’s another story. I did have another close friend, Kelly, in Colorado who was very dear to me. She was about to have a baby when I met my husband and I just up and left without telling her and she has never forgiven me. It is probably the one relationship that really grieves me because I know how I hurt her.
I never understood why these relationships just fell away; I always thought something was wrong with me or that maybe they learned about my abuse and believed what I believed, that I was gross and dirty. I honestly don’t know what happened however looking back now I realize that I never learned how to be a friend. Interestingly, I am friends on Facebook with every one of these gals except Kelly (she deleted me) yet I have never asked them why. Growing up the only friends my parents had were two other couples; one couple they saw regularly and the other maybe every few years. We had a huge family and maybe because of that there wasn’t time or need of friendships, either way friendships weren’t modeled in my family.
Friendship has been on my heart a lot lately. I have met some incredible women the last few years and I absolutely adore them. In the last six months however some relationships have been significantly strained; some through sin (on my part and theirs), some through distance and circumstance, and some through “perceived” issues. When people just drop out of my life I have always allowed them to without ever calling them to more, that’s how I understood friendships to be. Some, I’ve withheld myself in an effort to “protect” my heart, which is truly sinful.
I had the blessed opportunity to restore two broken relationships this past week. The first was a dear friend who I had neglected for a period of time when life just got too crazy. I have been so grieved for this relationship that I would wake up in the middle of night sobbing. The few times I had reached out I had been met with resistance and coldness that honestly frightened me more than not having her as my friend. I finally got to a place where this was a friendship I could not risk losing, I had to keep fighting and repenting and reaching…and she finally responded! Our reunion has been so very sweet and I am so thankful at this second chance.
The second was one in which I was withholding my friendship thinking I could “protect” my heart. The crazy thing is 1) I don’t have the ability to protect my heart 2) she doesn’t have the power to hurt me and 3) God hasn’t called me to “safe” friendships but to live life openly and lovingly in the midst of messiness so that He may be glorified.
I was reading Ann Voskamp’s blog this morning on friendship and was struck by the responsibility I have as a friend (http://www.aholyexperience.com/2012/02/4-ways-to-be-a-better-friend/). Ann wrote, “It doesn’t matter what you get done if you’ve undone a heart – and there are no real accomplishments apart from relationship. I pray that someday I learn not in synapses but in marrow and in bones.”
I didn’t grow up seeing a godly marriage or watching godly parenting but that hasn’t gotten me off the hook to participate in a biblical marriage or be a godly mother so why do I feel “excused” from being a godly friend? My prayer is that Ann’s words would come back to me often as I realize a friend is in need or a friendship has not been cared for. When I think back to Kelly in Colorado and her undone heart, I know what a horrible friend I was, and I recognize that all I can do (and have done) is ask for forgiveness but I can use my godly sorrow to not allow another friendship to fall away without fighting for it.
For my friends reading this I too ask more of you, please be willing to fight for our friendship when I miss, as surely I will. I ask for your forgiveness publicly for holding each one of you to a higher standard of friendship than I have held myself to.