As I sit typing this morning I am surrounded by sliced and mashed bananas, pancakes cut into baby bite sizes and my 4th cup of coffee that is going to get cold before I even get to drink it. I am wearing my Detroit (whoop whoop.. hometown son!) Tigers baseball cap and the smell of clothes I am wearing for the third day in a row. Don’t congratulate me, I am not saving the world by not utilizing a washing machine… I am just a mom of four and don’t have time or energy to wash my own clothes. Along with many of you good people, I also surfed my social network sites this morning as well. I have been made aware by my 13 and 12-year-old that apparently “Facebook” is for (and I quote from my precious little ones) “Old people.” Ouch! I feel a good grounding from electronics will help them take that back. So, on the old people’s social network this morning I spent a few minutes checking family pages for pictures and updates and came across an old friend from way, way (ok, maybe I am old) back when. She and I used to hang out almost every single day. I can remember the times we would be listening to our NKOTB cassettes (seriously, i accept it.. i am old) laughing, and singing the songs as we shared life together. We told each other everything. The boys we liked, the girls were jealous of. It felt so good to have a listening ear and to be able to share the real me.
Isn’t that all of us? Aren’t we all just looking for an outlet? Looking for a person who would hear the good, the bad, the ugly, and still want to hang out with us, even be our friend? On this journey of being a follower of Christ, I unfortunately have run into a lot of people who I shared all of that with and were not only not willing to be my friend, or hang out with me, but were actually more inclined to use it against me and hurt me. Countless times rumors and gossip about me were circulated, sometimes disguised as “prayer requests.” I will be honest with you, it hurt… bad. I even went through a period of being angry at other “christians” who were “so hypocritical” and “hid behind their claimed belief in God to hurt others.” It was a lonely time. I was on staff at a large church, and as some of you who have ever been there know, it in and of itself can be a lonely place. I didn’t feel as if I could say or do anything about it. I felt as if I was expected to “grin and bear it”.
I have since then had an “awakening” of sorts. It all started with a post from my old friend. I saw it and “liked” it. Then about 2 minutes later I received an inbox. (don’t worry, my friend knows I am sharing this) The message was from my friend. The one I hung out with way, way, back then. It was a few paragraphs long and I was so excited to hear from her as we had not spoken in years and only were in “contact” on Facebook. It started out with “Dear Heather, why did you “like” my post?” It went on to (quite effectively) convict me of being not a very good friend. It poked and prodded at seams on myself that I had thought I was covering quite nicely. You see, I had bumped into someone we both had known back in the day moths prior and our conversation mentioned my friend. Apparently I shared something from the past that she had not made known to anyone else. Now, before you go crazy with your mind, it was not earth shattering, it was something that I thought would be quite harmless, funny even, but it wasn’t funny to her at all. It hurt her, deeply. She laid out in those paragraphs the damage my words had done. I felt awful. I asked her if i could get her number to speak with her directly and she said ok. Thank GOD she forgave me. I apologized over and over. “I was insensitive”, “I had no right to speak to anyone about you without you there or you knowing it”. After I hung up the phone (and cried a bit) my heart was pricked by a gnawing feeling of guilt once again. Here I was angry and bitter at a few people for talking about me and what I considered “gossiping” about me and I had not even attempted to talk to them about it. I just sat and stewed in my own anger, and then allowed un-forgivness to seep in and steal pieces of me that I desperately needed. Needless to say, I went to those people and spoke with them. It was painfully awkward, I am not going to lie, but it paved the way for there to be forgiveness in my heart, and for God to restore joy in my heart where I had allowed it to be taken by my own actions.
Full circle, we all crave a place to be authentic and real. We all crave to have friendships that cultivate this. But are we willing to pull the weeds that require it to be that way? Truth is, being authentic is not a one-sided thing. Having an expectation of being the only one in the relationship who can be “real” is unrealistic, and quite honestly it’s selfish. Real authenticity in friendship comes when everyone can be real. It means having amazing, deep, soul-stirring conversations that grow us and make us feel good as well as having conversations that expose wounds and address them. One of my favorite verses is
“…wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy”
To apply this wisdom to friendships is my sincere goal.