Be the friend you want to have

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10 NIV

I’ve gotten it backwards for many years. I’m just shy of 50 years old and I think God has finally gotten through to helping me understand how this whole friendship thing works.

I need to be the friend I want to have.

I’m proceeding in my relationships with a different outlook. I’m trying new things. I’m risking. The risk is the hardest part. Being vulnerable is not enjoyable. Pain hurts. I’ve lived long enough to know I will get hurt – sometimes by those who have the ability to hurt me the most.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” – C.S. Lewis

Somewhere along the way, I concluded that risking heart exposure wasn’t worth the pain and I closed my heart off. I’m learning that risk is not always worth it but it is sometimes worth it. Anything of true value will cost something truly valuable. Being willing to be broken is also being willing to believe in grace and accept its redemption.

The thing with friendship is that we can have a lot of them but they don’t all need to be “BFF’s”. If we follow the model of Jesus, he had a three in his inner circle. He went all in with those guys. As his circles broadened so did the amount of information he shared. Not because he didn’t want to but because those he would be sharing with weren’t equipped or prepared to receive it.

I have come to know the great benefit of similar boundaries in my own relationships. I can love and share my life in a wide circle while keeping my inner circle small. We’ve told our kids over the years that you don’t need to be friends with everyone but you do need to be friendly.

I have “friendly” down. I’m still working on being a friend. My trust threshold is low as is my tolerance for emotional pain. I must trust God enough to put people in my life whom I can trust. Then, once He does, the onus is on me to not squander the gift.

Relationships can be messy. What I’ve learned is that messy=living and living=messy. It’s risky. I’ve gone far too long without really living and then being upset because no one else was helping me live it. That sounds ridiculous, right? I’m tired of not living. Life is so much better for the living of it.

In this world you will have trouble… (John 16:33)

There will be strong and unfriendly winds that will make a mess of our lives. On those blustery days, the kindness, prayers, and simple-but-profound ministry of the presence of dear friends will be the anchor to our unraveling, the rescue to our storm.  – Dr. Leslie Parrott

The types of friends Dr. Parrott mentions are few and far between. I have a few of these friends. They know my mess, love me anyway and would come to my rescue when the blustery winds blow. Some have known my mess and chosen not to love me, but I must see that as their choice, not necessarily my fault. I can’t fix them but I can work on fixing me. I can focus on being the friend I want to have and allow God to take care of the rest.

Remember we were meant to be in community. Don’t isolate yourself. Insulate your heart but don’t isolate your body. – Patsy Clairmont

I’ve considered the difference between insulation and isolation. Risking the opening up of my heart is frightening. Instilling boundaries is effortful.

In these last few years, God has been faithful to show me the way. With a solid balance of risk and boundaries in place, I’ve challenged myself to become more involved in church. I’m purposely asking old friends and new friends to lunch or coffee and letting God take it from there. It’s not easy and not without angst, but it is quite wonderful.

God is lovingly showing me that I need to be the friend I want to have. I’m listening… and living.

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