I had a dream
about a friend
who broke my heart.
In the dream,
she washed my feet
When she was done
I gave her a hug.
She stood stiff,
arms to her side,
not hugging back.
I’m learning some hard lessons about friendships right now.
I go deep with people, fast. I bring my whole self to the table and I hope they do too. I have beautiful relationships with women built over many miles and years, laughter and tears. Running buddies, coworkers, neighbors, people I’ve met in church and at conferences. It’s a grace to have people who get you, people who love your whole messy self and nudge you to be better.
The risk of intimacy is heartache. I believe the beauty of soul connection is worth the possibility of pain. Emerson said we need not treat friendships “daintily, but with the roughest courage. When they are real, they are not glass threads or frost-work, but the solidest thing we know.”
I know these solid friendships. They are rare, but they are everything to me. Long silences between us don’t come with angst or underlying meaning. We don’t have to text with punctuation. We have our places – places we go for coffee, fish tacos, wine. We share the love of purple and Prince and dislike of cats. Mostly. We’ve got each other’s backs and stand by with our kidneys just in case.
I’m learning through a season of busted up friendships that I haven’t always been the friend my friends deserve. I’ve been distant and selfish and a tad too much. It took this Season of Hard Things to realize I need to do better.
Relationships I thought were deep turned out shallow, unable to withstand the waves of testing, the absence of shared place or shared work. This happens. I get it. I’m not mad or blaming. I know from experience real relationships survive moves and job changes and seasons of life. I’m mourning not what it was, but the idea of what it could have been had it been solid-er.
Unmet expectations are the cause of my chagrin. The feelings I had for people were not reciprocated. I know relationships ebb and flow, seasons change, and people do too. We learn things. We unlearn things, and some of our learning and unlearning put us in opposition to our pals. Sometimes we need to lean into that. Sometimes we need to step away and hope for a rekindling down the road. It’s still a gut punch.
If this is familiar to you, I’m sorry. Let me kindly nudge you to resist the urge to pull away and not invest in new relationships. Yes, our hugs might be met with stiffness. That sucks. We might be tender and tired for a while. It’s okay. But let’s not give up on washing feet. Let’s not grow weary of loving and pursuing new friendships. There are people out there, battered and bruised, tender and tired, who need our hugs.
How are your friendships going? What are you learning about being a friend? Here are a couple of things I’ve come across about friendship you might like:
Rebekah Lyons writing on Ann Voskamp’s blog: https://annvoskamp.com/2019/10/how-to-be-the-friend-you-wish-to-have/
Emily P. Freeman’s podcast on The Practice of Friendship: https://emilypfreeman.com/podcast/the-next-right-thing/95/