Monday, June 3, 2013

Drinking from the Cup of Good Friendship

I got to hang out with my best friend today. We had lunch and talked for three hours before we knew what time it was. Tonight I get to hang out with three more best friends over Google Hangouts. I have no doubt that tonight's conversations will be as refreshing as today's lunch. Altogether, friends have made this day just as happy as this past weekend watching two of my friends marry each other. There's just something about friendship, isn't there?

We may not always see each other, or even be able to be in contact--one of my best friends was in another country for months with no internet--but the bond resides. Sometimes you slip out of contact completely for years, but when you bump back into each other, it's like an mature, rich flower has blossomed.

I was thinking about some of the gals who still reside in the same town as I do that I get to call friend and see often. AR always looks fantastic, and since her marriage has stopped wearing as much makeup and yet continues to look stunning. She has a godly heart of pure gold that comes out through generous laughter, and she's always willing to have a deep conversation with anyone. ST, AR's old roommate, shares the craft of writing with me, is a fantastic storyteller, and is always ready to jump up and run after Jesus no matter the risks. She pulls off elegant chic fashion with sporty/outdoorsy personality, proving you don't have to pick one. SG who I ate lunch with has always had the mind and spirit to understand the Scriptures and I still hold in my heart things she's pointed out about God.* She's honest about what's up in her life, keeps herself active and healthy physically, mentally, and spiritually (a balance I can be pretty terrible at!), and looks put-together even if she's in sweatpants and t-shirt with her hair undone.**

And there are so many more who live far away too. My friend who traveled for a while--she's adventurous and daring; authentic; and passionate in her search for meaning, something most people do only half-heartedly. She really is a leader in living out practical eco-friendly schemes. All these girls, too many to all mention, are my friends and, because of that, in a way my heroes. I am friends with them because they inspire me, not as people above me that I seek to emulate, but as people walking beside me in life and sharing their own life with me. We connect. We help each other. We inspire each other. We dream for each other. We challenge each other. This is what friendship is for.

And then I thought of women who I've been intimidated by. Come on, let's admit it. We're all intimidated by people here and there. I am generally self-confident, but sometimes my confidence cracks. Some of the people who initially ruffled me later became my good friends, when I stopped seeing them as "too perfect" in one area but rather as normal people, with ups and downs and hidden, complicated beauty. People are all messy. I wonder if I've cheated myself out of good friendships with people who would impact me for good, or cheated others out of my own impact in their life.

I know I've also had to protect myself from negative influences; there are those people who will suck you dry, and you need to be careful. We can feed off other people, especially ones with problems similar to our own, until we're both starving. That's called facilitating. But we also can't use self-defense as an excuse to close ourselves off and reject intimacy. You have to be open and authentic in order to connect in meaningful friendships, and that incurs a certain amount of risk.

But friendship is such an absolutely vital part of life. Any risk is worth it. We need to be open-hearted and open-minded about who we associate with and be willing to share our lives. Friends are opened up to whatever the other person dishes out to you, good or bad, but friends are the people who dish the good stuff at you--encouragement, strength, understanding; they don't belittle you or manipulate you. Friendship was meant to be two people leaning on each other for mutual support. Mutuality is the air that a friendship needs to breathe in order to survive.

Never force/let yourself to go without good friends, or you will suffer, even without realizing it. There are so many wonderful people out there. Let's stop being jealous, defensive, intimidated, tired, or anything else and be willing to make new friends with new acquaintances. You never know who will change your life. You never even know when your life needs change until someone points it out to you. That's what friends are for.

* The one I remember most clearly is from a women's biblestudy my roommate and I led in 2010-11. SG pointed out the impact of John 4, after Jesus has talked with the woman at the well and his disciples have returned and are urging him to eat. Jesus wants them to get a deeper message out of the idea of food and to really understand hunger. In verse 34 he says, "My food is to do God's will and finish his work." Wow. SG put it in perspective: our food. What we survive off of. God's work is what we need to stay alive. It doesn't just help us, nor is it something we "have to" do. It's a "must" because we need it. When we do God's will, we come alive in the deepest sense. All our being is fulfilled, contented. Ever since that biblestudy, I've had this lingering desire to tatoo "God is my food" on my wrist to remind me (it's the only tatoo I've ever had the urge to get).
** Pretty much all of my girlfriends look stunning in all of their unique styles and bodies. I love them all. I think I have the most beautiful friends.