I’ve been thinking about friendship lately. I think about friendship a lot, actually, and I’m probably obsessed with love. Of all things with which I am or have been obsessed, I think love is a good one. God is love, and that’s the love I’m talking about, not Valentine’s Day love or Sweetest Day love (which I’m not sure either Joel or I have ever remembered to celebrate in almost 15 years together). That love (obviously) means very little to me.
It seems like love is most often linked to romance, but I think the love that really matters has more to do with friendship than with romance. My favorite and truest thing I have ever heard about love was preached in a sermon by the same pastor who married Joel and me. “Love is a decision and love is work.” That statement can be backed by 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, in my proverbial book, and it wholly applies to marriage too.
It was easier as a teenager – to have friends, that is, but probably harder to love. Maybe I had more confidence then. Or, at least, I had less to lose. It was easier to trust and to open up to someone when we could spend our weekends and our mad money together catching chick flicks and drinking virgin strawberry daiquiris at Ground Round. That’s a little harder to do with kids in tow. A decade of worrying what everyone thought of me – which pretty well describes my twenties – probably threw a few wrenches into making brand-new, real-life, grown up friends, too. Honestly, I don’t think I really knew how to love a friend back then anyway. I was never going to be okay with other people if I couldn’t be at least mostly okay with myself.
I couldn’t tell you why it changed. Maybe it’s this town – something in the water. It’s freeing, though, and can really only be credited to God, to look back and realize how much more okay I am with myself – glaring weaknesses, flaws, shortcomings, and all – than I was ten years ago, when, I might add, I had significantly fewer gray hairs, wrinkles, and battle wounds. And to be so much more capable of loving, the more I learn to accept His love and perfect orchestration of all creation – His peace really does surpass all understanding.
All I want anymore is the perfectly numbered and measured life God has handmade for me, whatever that will look like in ten years, or ten days, or ten minutes. Seeing other people also living the lives that God handmade for them, and getting to be a part of those lives, increases my joy in ways I had never imagined possible. That joy has changed friendship for me, and friendship has changed the way I love – my husband, my family, the strangers I meet in Wal-Mart. But still, I struggle.
I struggle when I have to remember that I’m not everyone’s “cup of tea.” It follows naturally that I struggle with judgement and with hypocrisy as I remember there are those – though few and far between – that I don’t relate to very well either. I think more than anything, though, I struggle with wanting to be chosen.
All that in spite of the fact that I am chosen – by God and by my amazing life partner, for better or worse, till death do us part. The blessing that any of us should both have and know such favor is beyond comprehension.
But humans want to be chosen by other humans too. Not always to be chosen first, above all others – each of us can only choose one person in that way, so I think it’s fair if we are only chosen that way by one person in return – but to be chosen above most others. To be regarded as special and irreplaceable in the lives of a few special and irreplaceable people. To be loved and treasured above the masses just because we are somehow irresistible to the precious handful of people we are meant to share life with.
I think we’re lucky if we find a few people in life with whom we really “click” – those few people that really get us, or at least some part of us, in ways that no one else does. With logic-defying quickness, someone who was just a really cool person yesterday becomes a part of you (sometimes whether they like it or not). These are the ones that you don’t have to know very long, or very well, to know that you’ve met someone you’re still going to care about even after they’ve hurt your feelings, even after awkward or difficult conversations. They are the ones that you don’t have to see, talk to, or even text for weeks or months to still feel like they are the closest to your heart, even though you can’t quite put your finger on why. I think we’re even luckier if we find people who feel the same way about us. Love first, get acquainted later is probably how it should be. But the most important thing is to keep loving, even when it’s messy.
Even from the beginning love was messy. Even between God and Adam and Eve. Even between us and God. But we can’t stop. We can’t put up protective walls and harden our hearts. Everything in me believes that God our creator – who is three in relationship as one, the God who created mankind to walk with Him, who created woman to be in relationship with man, who assures us that all we can take from this life into His kingdom are other people, who wants us to choose Him, and who created us to be like Him – is a God of relationship. Does anything else even matter?
I guess what I’m saying is this – I am blessed to have had a few of those hard and fast connections in 32 years, whether they are still active in my life or mostly lost to me (which has possibly not ever been by my choosing). I am blessed to have a few of those friends – some related by blood – who have changed, grown, loved, and built with me for years and decades, and have chosen me again and again no matter how ugly and judgmental I’ve sometimes been.
Maybe take a little time to think about those people in your life. It’s good for the soul. Maybe tell some of them what they mean to you. If they happen to thrive on words of affirmation, it might just change their whole outlook on life today. Friendship is, and people are, not something that should ever be taken lightly (bold words from a recovering hermit). I think maybe go ahead and go into it lightly, though. Go into it and love blindly, but never go out of it lightly.
But seriously, what do I know? I know that I am thankful for my friends, for all of you, in whatever capacity you have been my friends. Thank you for allowing God to use you in my life. Thank you for pushing me, testing me, and expanding my capacity to love in new ways. Be certain that you have no idea how thrilling it is to me, and be confident that my heart wants more of your heart. (That sounds creepy.)
I wish my stream of consciousness was making more sense to convey what I wish everyone would experience – what I wish I had experienced years ago by taking the risk to love more fully even though doing so guarantees I will be hurt more fully, and what I wish I could trust myself to continue in without faltering. But to finish on a Word that cannot be wrong and cannot be shaken, let me share one of my current favorite scriptures on love. It is one I am so grateful to know, because while I will often fail in unwavering kindness and patience, and abound in rudeness, selfishness, envy, wrong thinking, conceit, and all things imperfect – while I will often be a terrible friend – this scripture tenderly threatens of the stubbornness and ferocity of God’s love for me. That gives me hope that I might just be doing alright when it’s all I can say for the way I love the people in my life:
[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
-1 Corinthians 13:7, NKJV (brackets added)
Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening].
-1 Corinthians 13:7 (Amplified Bible)
I like to call it ugly love. When I’m a jerk, and maybe you’re a jerk too, but I know I still love you because I said so, and if God says you’re too good to stop loving, then I should probably do the same because He’s usually (always) right.
I love you, my friends (and family/friends). Stubbornly. Ferociously.
So that’s my point, I guess.