My friends: this isn't a long post, but I sense it is a long time in coming.
I've been practicing being a good friend for a lot of years now. Connection is a high value to me, but that isn't cheating in friendship--it's provision. In friendship: someone has to go first.
Romans 12:17 in The Passion Translation reads, "Never hold a grudge or try to get even, but plan your life around the noblest way to benefit others. Do your best to live as everybody's friend."
And, yet, in this `noblest pursuit', I keep stumbling across ones who don't really--when probed-- have any.
They don't just have a few: they don't have ANY friends.
They may know some people, but no one they might tell what they tell me.
No one to grieve with them or to really listen to their hearts cry. No one who asks. No one who really appreciates why Love is patient comes first in the progression.
It is a wild and sorrowful motif.
In one of the most haunting lines from Stand By Me, Rob Reiner/Stephen King's tremendous ode to friendship, The Writer, played by the inimitable Richard Dreyfuss says: "I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?"
Can you relate?
Or did you not have too many when you were 12, either? I'm sorry if that's the case. Let's find a remedy.
I met with a young dad some years ago whose wife found out she had breast cancer and I asked him who was going to be there for him and he said "her". And I laughed and said, no, like, your friends.
So I've started asking.
He asked me what I would do if I were him. I said, I'd ask the Holy Spirit to help me see them and I'd start inviting them to hang. I'd ask my pastor who the hungry men were. I'd ask him if he was one. I'd go to every men's group meeting there was early AM. I'd go to Celebrate Recovery--because there are a lot of recovering lonely and genuinely vulnerable people there. I'd start mentoring because spiritual sons and daughters are some of the best friends you can have--because you learn friendship by practicing. I said, I'd be brave and I would start asking people to lunch, breakfast, games, beers, coffee, smoothies, concerts, whatever.
I challenged a young bride to do the same not long ago: within a week she was on the road to discovery, within a year, she was a completely different woman--transformed by friendship's tremendous power--confident, bold: smily.
Compulsivity and nearly every form of addiction have a few things in common--isolation, loneliness and aloneness. The numbing of pain--man going it alone.
I heard a TED talk recently where the speaker was talking about PTSD victims and how breathing (count 4 breathe in hold 7, breathe out 8) is the key to unlock their "internal grief"--and it has turned out to be one of the most powerful anti-anxiety strategies on the planet. One of the quick side effects is weeping. No surprise another word for Spirit is breath in the original language.
But isn't that Friendship? Space to breathe.
My dear friend Brad used to remind me, "there are a lot of unwept tears in this room."
My spiritual Momma and I get together at Panera at least once a month in addition to our spiritual family time once a week--for `the pause that refreshes'. We just catch up and share our hearts.. And when life is pushing back--we make time to do it more. It's understood--like the Bat signal, we drop everything and rush over.
We cannot win the battle alone.
When my friend Jordie died many weeks ago, I lost a ridiculously good friend. Jordie was someone who always took time: for me. He initiated phone calls and lunches and was always curious about whatever was going on--with me. And it was reciprocal and I miss him a lot. If I'm honest, I've avoided posting any blogs since he died, because he was one person who always read them, said kind things about them and followed up with me about them. All of them. I mattered to him and I knew it. I was so grateful that the last lunch we had together a few days before he went to be with Jesus, I gave him a card that told him what he meant to me. It was the last thing I gave him—my words.
And we--each of us--so need that.
And aren't we super-tender when we lose a friend--who is still alive? I've experienced that pain too many times and it is brutal. But we become better friends if we love through loss.
Need a friend, be one.
And get comfortable asking if it would be ok if you took turns sharing--so many are chronically lonely that they don't yet have a lot of bandwidth to one-another, yet--so, Loves, be patient as you grow in friendship. It--like you--is worth it.
This song and story are important re-calibrators. Listen when you have time to really listen.