As many of you already know, I've been helping launch a book by one of my favorite authors, Christine Hoover, from gracecoversme.com :) Messy Beautiful Friendship - Finding and Nurturing Deep and Lasting Relationships has put a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes and I'm only in chapter 4, by golly. By the time I finish this book I'm bound to be a blubbering mess!
Have you, dear one, ever struggled with a friendship?
Have you ever been hurt or wounded by a close friend?
Have you ever hurt a friend yourself and were miserable about it?
Have you ever backed away from a friendship and let it fade away when things got tough?
Have you ever sworn off friendship altogether because it's just too stinkin' hard?
I've been there myself, friend. Many, many, MANY times. Over and over. Too many times to count.
When I read the first two chapters digitally before my book came (which ANYONE can get when they pre-order the book here, along with other goodies like interviews with Christine and her friends and husband on the topic of friendship!) I was in tears realizing I resonated with the words on the pages. My heart was echoing the exact same thoughts and feelings she had... and all these years I thought I WAS THE ONLY ONE WHO STRUGGLED WITH THIS FRIEND THING.
For goodness sake, when in the world did friendship get so complicated? Making and keeping friends as a child was as easy as slurping down a chocolate milkshake. I moved several times in my childhood and each and every time I made friends almost immediately. It came naturally.
Then came college! HOLY MOLY WAS COLLEGE FUN! Our campus was filled with Jesus loving, missions minded, radical Christians who were ready for deep friendship and desired to serve the Lord with passion together. It was my dream come true. All of a sudden I was surrounded by like-minded young people JUST LIKE ME. All my life I'd felt like SUCH the odd ball because I was called to ministry and missions. I was always the Jesus freak doing Jesus freak stuff acting like a Jesus freak. But all of a sudden, at Bible college I was completely entrenched in a sea of Jesus freaks like myself. To my amazement, I wasn't the odd ball anymore. Poof. It was a magical fantasy world of friends and fun and serious spiritual growth all tied up into one big lovely package.
Late nights giggling in our dorm rooms, spontaneous worship nights playing instruments and singing aloud to our Savior, Saturday mornings spent in downtown Minneapolis serving the poor and sharing our faith, classrooms filled with students hungry for Biblical wisdom, coffee shops scattered with homework and theology test study guides (because THEOLOGY, oh my word)... I miss it all to this day.
But like the natural seasons of nature, our lives have seasons that ebb and flow with the changes life brings. College has come and gone, and we were sent out into the world to make disciples of all nations. The memories we shared and the lessons we learned would follow us for a lifetime.
... a lifetime in the real world.
College is not real life.
As fun and amazing as it was, it did not hold the realities that regular adult life entails.
Real life is nervously sending in resumes and praying for job offers.
Real life is applying for an apartment and hoping you find enough roommates to help with rent.
Real life is searching for a church as a visitor where you can be involved and grow spiritually without knowing a soul there.
Real life is getting the call from the doctor that infertility might be your future.
Real life is finding out your husband is getting laid off from his job because of budget cuts.
Real life is locking yourself in the bathroom because your child is clinging to you like dog hair on a new suit and you just need ONE MINUTE TO YOURSELF PLEASE, DEAR LORD.
Real life is looking for the right preschool for your toddler to attend next year and wondering if you
are making the right choice.
Real life is balancing a budget, paying the bills, cleaning a house, folding the laundry, cooking the meals, mowing the grass, washing the car, and trying to find and maintain a thriving social life all without losing your sanity.
Real life is watching your family members wave goodbye as you sob uncontrollably and drive off to your new city for your new job not knowing how you will survive without them nearby.
Real life is tying a bow around the goodbye gift you bought for your best friend who's husband took a job across the country with hot, wet tears streaming down your face.
With all the difficulties and trials and challenges and joys that real adult life holds, who has time to find and nurture deep and lasting relationship?
Because we need each other.
Because we are not islands.
Because God created us for friendship... with Him and with other people on this earth.
Because without friends, we might be missing out on experiencing God in unique and powerful ways.
Christine says in her book, "The goal is to enjoy God together with others and, as we move through life, to sharpen and allow ourselves to be sharpened by friends. We imitate Jesus with one another, willing to face the stark realities and consequences of sin, all the while persevering in our efforts to offer love, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, comfort, and care to one another. In doing so, we display to one another and the world how God loves and, through this, bring him glory."
"But you don't understand, Casey," you might say. "You don't know how this person hurt me. Badly. Deeply. I don't know how we could ever get back what we once had. I don't know if I want to try again with anybody, anytime, ever again."
Listen. I get it. I've been there. I AM there. A lot. But let me be the first to tell you that without friends, we will wither. God did not create us to be islands. A part of us will die of thirst without the watering of a good friend. Sure, some of us may be more introverted than others, but that doesn't mean we are exempt from friendship and what God wants to do IN us and THROUGH us with friendship.
Christine explains, "Sometimes, when the wound is especially deep, our tendency is not just to write the friend off but also to write friendship off. We're hurt so badly that we give ourselves over to cynicism, bitterness, and resentment and we wonder if friendship is worth the risk of wading through the emotions and hurts, attempting reconciliation, and making ourselves vulnerable again."
"Isn't it [friendship] pushing through discomfort and refusing to give up on people even when they disappoint us?"
"... we don't have to be ashamed that we find friendship difficult at times... When we persevere through difficulty in friendship, however, we discover something valuable: God has changed and grown us through our friends and we've been the iron that has sharpened them in return."
"... friends will disappoint us... And guess what? We're going to hurt our friends too. Our friends will fail us, and we'll fail them."
We mustn't give up on friendships, dear ones. Don't write off friendship altogether because you were hurt before. We don't give up on our marriage or our children, so why do we give up on our friends?
(Note: When a friendship has turned toxic, abusive, or is sending up some serious red flags, it may be time to seek out a counselor or wise friend to give advise on when it's time to set up some boundaries. Certain situations require this when the friendship has proven to be no longer safe. That is not the kind of friendship I am addressing here. I am discussing good, freeing, loving friendships that have hit a roadblock and require tender loving care and work as apposed to letting them fade away.)
I personally struggle with letting a friendship fade away if they've wounded me deeply. I retreat, pull back, and decide it's just not worth the pain. But when this happens in my marriage, I do the opposite. I fight for our unity, I open up about pain, I push and prod for my spouse to give me his vulnerability and tell me the truth even when it's hard. I pursue my children in the same way. Why not with my friends? Why am I so afraid of being honest with my friends when they've let me down and letting them be honest with me when I do the same?
I don't want to be this way anymore. I want to fight for my friendships. I want to enjoy God together and look more like Christ because of having them in my life.
Will you join me? Will you venture on this journey with me together as we wade through the murky waters of wounded hearts and shattered dreams and let God heal and restore what we've given up on?
The preorder goodies are available on the MBF book page here: http://bit.ly/2j78yUq
To see a short video of me discussing the book and how it is impacting me so far, watch here!