My dear friend Heather came home this weekend for a visit, bringing her husband of about nine months now. Heather is someone I know because of my participation in an internship; she came and spent a year living in my small hometown and doing ministry along side me. Though we have a lot of different beliefs about things politically and otherwise (for instance, it wasn’t until I met her and her now husband that I had to make a “no guns in my Jetta” rule), but we connected quite a bit while she was living here. I shared things with her that I didn’t say to any other friend in my life. In fact, I’m pretty sure I told her some things that I’ve still never told any of my other friends, things that I’ve only really shared with my counselors.
When she followed God’s call on her life and moved back across the state, I was really sad, because I was going to miss having her be a daily part of my life. She’s thrived since moving away. I’ve never said it, but she had a huge influence on being willing to step out of a comfortable, safe existence and apply for graduate school.
I’ve been in counseling for the last few months, trying to really figure out some of the difficulty I’ve been having with what is really a crisis of faith, and a lot of it has centered around the friendships I have formed through the church. I may or may not choose to flesh this out here a bit more, because I’m still working on things, particularly relationally, but here is a measure of how much I love this particular friend: When I told my counselor about Heather coming to visit, I started crying, I was so happy.
I had the most awesome time spending time with her this weekend, even though for the majority of it, we were cooking for a girls’ night or cleaning some friends’ new house before they moved in. We picked up like no time at all had passed, even though it had. I still felt completely safe talking with her, and giving her very straight answers about how I was feeling and what had gone on while she was absent. We’re not, nor have we ever been best friends, but we’re honest friends. There’s an easy affection between us, and the kind of real sisterhood that I still sometimes feel is missing in my life as a member of the Christian “family.”
We leave marks on each other, we human beings, when we choose to be in relationship with one another. This applies to friendship just as much as to familial or romantic relationships. There is something about friendship that molds us in ways we wouldn’t expect. My best friend from high school and I no longer speak. Even though I now see it as a good thing, something that had to cease in order for us both to continue to grow, the end of that relationship left a gash in my heart. But his friendship also left good marks on me; for instance, without having been as close to him as I was, I never would have figured out what I wanted to actually do with my life. All of my relationships are like this, a mixture of good and bad, sometimes not as in balance as we would like.
I love my friends, but our relationships are never ideal. Though it’s so clichéd I’m almost afraid to quote it, as it is oft read at weddings and almost always though of as meaning romantic love, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, speaks to ideal, true, and honest love.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
I think it applies to friendship just as it should apply otherwise, to Phileo (brotherly love) as well as Eros (Romantic love) and Agape (heavenly, fatherly love). Real friendship is an honest friendship. It’s there because it just is, not because someone decided it had to be. It takes work to maintain, like any relationship…but it starts of it’s own accord, a blessing from God.
One of my favorite books (Will Grayson Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan) says it in a way more eloquent way than I ever could:
He recovers quickly, wiping is eyes with the popped collar of the polo shirt he’s wearing beneath a striped sweater. “When you date someone, you have the markers along the way, right: you kiss, you have The Talk, you say the Three Little Words, you sit on a swing and break up. You can plot the points on a graph. And you check up with each other along the way: Can I do this? If I say this, will you say it back?
“But with friendship, there’s nothing like that. Being in a relationship, that’s something you choose. Being friends, that’s just something you are.”
I didn’t choose to be Heather’s friend; I chose to be kind to her, and to work well with her, and to include her as she lived in a new place…but I didn’t expect to have the kind of amazing friendship wei did. She has left some of the most amazing marks on my soul. My friendship with her has helped shape me into who I am.
I didn’t choose to be friends with any of the people who are so important in my life. But they have all left such important marks on me—good and bad, literal and metaphorical. I’m a firm believer that God places people in my life for a reason…and one of the reasons Heather is in my life is to remind me how beautiful and loving friendship can really be.
All of the good parts are worth all of the bad and hard parts of relationship.
Heather hasn’t actually left town yet, and I already miss her. I already wish I knew how to apparate, or that technology would have figured out teleporters by now. I’m going to be so much better and keeping in touch with her between visits from here on out. I may not have chosen her, but I chose to keep her. If I had to choose, I don’t know if I would have picked Heather, back in 2008, when she fell into my life. But thank God that He was doing the choosing for me. Thank God that my friend was there at the right moment, in the right season of my life.
Remember the marks people leave on you, and the marks you leave on others. We’re so shaped by our relationships. I’ve been so shaped by my friends. And I’m so glad I’ve been reminded not to take that for granted.
I’m improving: only 2.5 months since my last entry! To be fair, while I was working things out with a counselor, it felt almost like cheating to blog about certain things….